Youth Baseball Advice: How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

Apr 17, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Youth Baseball Advice
How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

 

Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Many talk about how important it is in youth baseball, but few youth baseball players have it! We lay out in this brief blog a few simple things to instill in your kid to give him tremendous confidence at the plate. Sometimes the smallest mental adjustments can make the biggest difference in youth baseball.

 

“The expert in everything was once a beginner.”

 

Step #1: Remember The Good, Forget The Bad

When a kid is hitting well he usually continues to build confidence as he does so. This is why you should reminisce about great at-bats. Remembering yourself being successful can be a great tool as you are on the on-deck circle.

This is one of the best ways to quickly build a kid’s confidence, just remind him of his last great at-bat. On the contrary, bad at-bats can do the same for a kid negatively.

Those are the at-bats you’ll have to encourage him to forget about. That is such an important thing to teach your kid about his at-bats; remember the good ones, and forget the bad ones.

“You have to have a short memory. Learn from your failures, but don’t sit around worrying about them.”  – Derek Jeter



 

Step #2: Walk To The Plate With Your Chest Out

Confidence is something that a kid can control if he really wanted to. One of the best ways to get him to feel that feeling of confidence is to teach him to walk with it. Have him grab the barrel of the bat and walk to the plate like he’s got the biggest chest on the field.

It is scientifically proven that good posture can boost confidence and that being confident can boost confidence. Have him do both every time he walks to the plate and we guarantee you he’ll hit better!

 

Step #3: Be Fearless

No matter how small or skinny your youth baseball player is, you can teach him to be fearless at the plate. There is no reason you should ever give the opposing pitcher any credit when talking to your son.

If your kid is 8, let him know that he can hit any 8-year old in the country. Look at the worst kids in youth sports, they probably all have one thing in common, fear. Fear can kill a young ballplayers mindset and it should be avoided at all costs.

Speak positive things to your young ballplayer, and never give an opposing pitcher too much credit, your kid can hit him if he’s fearless I promise!

 

Step #4: Have A Routine At The Plate

You’ve seen all the big league guys, they do the same things and they have the same rituals every time they step into the batters box. There is a reason they do this, it builds confidence and adds a level of consistency and comfort.

Baseball players play the best and hit the best when things feel routine. Nothing is more routine than doing the same thing every time you step into the box.

So whether your kids’ thing is to spit on his batting gloves or dig into the back corner of the box, encourage him to do the same thing every time. When things become routine, they become easier.



 

Step #5: Visualize Success

This last one is the best because it can be done at any time of day, even outside of baseball. Teach your kid to visualize positive outcomes in his spare time. Your brain can’t distinguish the “imagined home-runs” for example from the “real home-runs.”

What that means is that eventually it can feel like your kid has done it before and the brain tricks the muscles into feeling like they can do it easily. I remember sitting on the bench before an at-bat, visualizing myself hitting a double in the gap, and then going out there and doing it first pitch.

I’ll tell you what, visualizing success in baseball works! I wish I would have known about it when I was 10 or so like many of your kids!

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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How A Young Ballplayer Can Make A Big Jump In His Career

Apr 18, 2019

How to Improve in Baseball

Introduction

From weighted balls to exit velocity, everyone has their gimmick that will get your son to the next level. But they are missing something, an “X-Factor” that current MLB players are recommending as the difference maker in a young ballplayer’s journey to Big League Fame.

A quick backstory. My name is Nick Rotola, I founded American Baseball Camps at age 22 and had to proxy business ownership to my brother because running a baseball camp company while playing Division 1 Baseball is “deemed illegal by the NCAA.” –> Trust me those guys are a little much but that’s a conversation for another day.

While at Oral Roberts University I got my Masters in Business Administration. After that I played my first season of professional baseball as a part of the Wichita Wingnuts, and like many ballplayers I love the game and will play until they tell me I can’t play anymore. Anyways, that’s enough of that, let’s get to what you came for…

Precursor #1: Make The Data Sing

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association releases a report every year showing the rise or decline of participation in each youth sport. Here’s the link to their report but you should know that it costs $600 to purchase so #buyerbeware.

What they found is that Baseball & Softball participation is on a rapid rise due to its popularity within the parents that are as conscious about their children’s health and well-being as any generation of parents to date.



Many parents have their kid in baseball because they feel their use of technology needs to be mitigated, while others are in baseball because its a non-contact sport and concussions are really starting to scare people. (Not to say you can’t get concussions in Baseball).

With that being said, there are more youth ballplayers than ever before. This, as with any rise in competition in business or in baseball, brings an inherent need to stand out. Ballplayers’ parents are shelling out thousands of dollars a year for showcase teams which are shouting: “We’ll help you get your kid to the next level.”

But, as someone that’s recently been to the next level – and as a ballplayer that has “actually read a book once” as Bull Durham depicts – I feel that I may have some insights that could save a lot of Ballplayer Parents a lot of time and money over the duration of their kid’s career.

Precursor #2: Let Him Play As Much As He Wants

Every parent should understand this one because it is the case in every single profession in the world, it takes repetition to become an expert. In fact, it takes a person 30,000 hours of doing something to be considered an “expert” in their field. This lines up nicely with the 27-30-year-old “prime” that they tag on ballplayers.

With this in mind, we learn two things for your young ballplayer.

The first is that the more he plays the better he will become. It’s not saying that he’ll get better from a benchmarking perspective so don’t go comparing your son to the coaches’ son Shortstop just yet. It means that every time he puts on his cleats, in theory, he’ll be a better ballplayer than the time before.

The second thing we learn from the expert analogy is that your son won’t be in his prime for a long time. Stop fussing if he went 1 for 4 and he should have went 2 for 4, its baseball, you have to be process oriented not results oriented.

Precursor #3: Don’t Be That Parent

Limit Screentime. Kids are on their screens an average of 6.5 hours per day, time that does almost nothing for them in their baseball career, and probably pumps enough endorphins in their bodies that they have a tough time appreciating and loving the game of baseball like they could.

Set Goals. It wasn’t until I saw a Division 1 Baseball game that I decided in my head as an 8th grader that I could do it. This is what it took me to reach “success,” and you can inspire the same goals in your kid. Whether it’s going to the High School he’d go to, or the College you’d love him to go to, get him to see with his eyes and imagine himself there.

Don’t Bring The Game Up On The Car Ride Home. No one likes that pushy salesman in life, and your kid doesn’t want it in his baseball career.

No Instant Gratification. Parents of top athletes exhibit positive emotions with their kid(s). In baseball, that means highlighting the positive and forgetting the negative. In baseball those great days don’t come that often, and if they do, they probably haven’t started throwing your kid sliders yet.



 

The X Factor: Confidence


You don’t have to pay for it, it’s not a gimmick or an Instagram Ad promising improvement, it’s just confidence. When you ask an MLB player what he would recommend to a young player he says “play with confidence.” When you talk to a sports psychologist like Brian Cain about how to perform better at the plate they’ll say “walk to the plate with confidence.”

Confidence is the key, and there are many things that you can implement as a parent to achieve tremendous confidence in your ballplayer over time.

To illustrate to parents how you can get your kid to make a big jump in his young career by improving his confidence, I’m going to yield to a staple in Management Theory’s “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.”

How Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs works, is that you have to solve the first layer before you can move on to the next, then the second before the third, and so on. So if you want your kid to increase in confidence let’s map out a plan to solve those bottom three layers.

1st Layer: Physiological Needs

We already talked about playing as much baseball as possible this contributes to his physical and psychological needs as well. Now let’s look a litter deeper at getting your kid prepared from a physiological perspective.

Brian Cain one of the worlds’ leading baseball psychologists recommends 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep every night – not just the nights of competition. Studies show that increased sleep relates to better reaction times, more accurate reactions, and better able to handle stress.

Studies also show that its not only the length of sleep but the quality of sleep that leads to better athletic performance. Did you know that the blue light emitted from that screen that your kid is staring at for 6.5 hours per day watching YouTube videos could be ruining his quality of sleep and in turn his baseball performance? It does, and it is, and it needs to be reduced if you want this layer of the period to be met.

With regards to nutrition: studies say that an ounce of water for every pound of weight for people and then about 1.5 for every pound for athletes. Remove sugary drinks and add more water and you are off to a great start in helping him gain confidence. His mood will be better, skin, sleep, everything.

 

2nd Layer: Safety

The game has changed, you can’t coach kids like you as a parent were coached. Negative reinforcement has officially been trumped by positive reinforcement. If you want more on this from a big-time coach -> Listen to Head Coach Chad Holbrook of the University of South Carolina talk about safety and positive talk while playing.

How would you feel if your kid came into your workplace and was shouting at you telling you what to do as you were trying to do your job? Would you produce? Probably not.

This is an exaggerated example, but I believe it accurately describes how difficult it is to hit a baseball when you can hear your dad or mom shouting instructions from the stands. Cut it out, and allow your kid to play.

 

3rd Layer: Love/Belongingness

As noted earlier, don’t talk about the game on the drive home. Your kid needs to feel that he is loved and that he belongs in your family apart from his baseball success. It’s hard to believe that this is a big confidence factor but it absolutely is.

One of my best friends had a dad that only loved his son when he was playing baseball and playing well and I’m telling you from first-hand experience that it is a confidence destroyer.

Love on your ballplayer, regardless of the results. You are doing your part already by getting him to the 100 games a year, making sure he sleeps and eats right, and that your talk is positive. Now make him feel like you love him and that he belongs despite his success on the field. It’s hard to believe but many parents send this message of “we love you, but we love and praise you if you win.” It’s awful, get rid of it.

In conclusion… Kids are flooding into baseball like never before. If you want your kid’s next season to be his best season we’ve laid out tons of good tips on how you can do that. Here is our summary:

  1. Take care of his physiological needs first. Research says that parents of elite athletes limit screen time. We know that excess screentime can limit sleep and quality of sleep, we know that limiting screentime is easier said than done but trust us – it’s a great start. On top of that, replace water with tons of sugary drinks and you should be good to go for this one.
  2. Safety through positive talk. Be steadfast as a baseball parent! Kids will perform better if you can act as a positive safety net in a very tough game.
  3. Let him know that his success, and the way you treat and love him, are not related. Many parents have a tough time separating their kid’s success on the field from how they treat him, don’t do it, it’s only going to make the problem worse!

 

Thanks for reading! If you need any youth baseball advice we are always available to help at americanbaseballcamps@gmail.com, and we’ll do our best to respond quickly.

If your kid wants more baseball – we’ve got great low-cost camp options in many US cities. For Winter 2018 we have camps from Wichita KS to West Covina CA. Next summer we will have camps in many US Cities –> All camp registration is done online, you can find out more about our camps on our camps page.

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

Shop Upcoming Youth Baseball Camps (Ages 6-12)

American Baseball Camps Home Page

 

This blog was written by Nick Rotola of the American Baseball Camps team. Nick owns and operates Harvest Marketing Company, a digital marketing company offering Website, SEO, Google & Facebook Ad services. 




Nick Rotola
Camp Instructor

A College Players’ View Of The Mental Game Of Baseball

Nov 07, 2019

 

“BASEBALL IS 90% MENTAL AND THE REST IS PHYSICAL!” – Yogi Berra

 

These wise words from the great Yogi Berra are trying to explain that the game we all know and love is mainly mental. Yes, you play the game with your body as in swinging the bat and throwing the ball. Meanwhile, the mental aspect is that you have to make the right decisions each and every play.

Baseball is a game of unconsciousness, this is the reason so much effort is accounted for within the little things. If you focus on the little things, you will find that making the unconscious decision is much easier.

In Baseball, being confident is very important. Confidence stretches further than being competitive, you have to believe that you are the best player on the field day in and day out.

As a pitcher or hitter, you must have self-confidence in order to fail less, and succeed more.

Another key part to the mental game of baseball is Imagery.

This usually means visualization, but if you use Sensory Imagery, your visualization skills will become more
powerful.



A good simple equation for this is

I x V = R (Imagery times Visualization equals reality).

This equation is basically saying that if you take a memory or vivid image and relive it, you will get real results.

For example hitting your first home run or throwing a no hitter, if you relive these memories and apply that feeling to what you are doing, you will become more successful.

Another good mental note to take and use in baseball is being aggressive.

Coaches may sometimes say “close the door”, “bury them”, this means go out there and don’t actually bury them 6 feet underground, but end the game pitch and hit with aggression so there is no chance of them coming back and winning the game.




How To Steal 2nd Base In Baseball

How To Steal 2nd Base in Baseball – A 10 Step Guide!

Nov 21, 2019

The Major League game is moving toward home runs, but the youth, high school, and the college game is still centered around small ball. This how-to guide is to help you as a player steal bases, and its to help parents teach their kids the proper way to steal bases. Hint: It’s more mental than you think!

 

#1 Have Confidence in Stealing Bases

Your chance of stealing bases goes way up if you have confidence in what you are doing. There is nothing worse (I’ve been there), than second-guessing yourself when trying to steal bases.

So, if you are a player wanting to steal more bases, or a parent wanting to help their kid, start with having confidence as soon as you reach 1st or 2nd base and think about taking the next bag!

 

#2 Get a Base-Stealing Lead

You should never tip that you are trying to steal a base by getting a larger than normal lead, so, if you want to get a good lead to steal – you need to do it every time you take a lead.

Length – Your base stealing lead should be 10-12 feet at first base, and 14-16 feet at second base for HS and College. (Youth Coaches, please adjust accordingly, I’m a Minor Leaguer so I teach what I know).

Again, if you want to steal bases, there should be no difference between your normal lead and your base-stealing lead, so take a big league all the time if you want to steal bases.



 

#3 Think The Right Thoughts

So, you’ve got a big lead, now what? When you aren’t planning on stealing you should be staring at the pitcher and thinking – back. 

You don’t want your weight to be shifted heavily, that should be centered – just think back. When you are planning on stealing, your thoughts should be different for a righty vs. a lefty pitcher.

 

Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Righty

If the pitcher is right-handed you need to have a soft focus at his feet. If his right foot moves, you have to dive back into the base because he’s picking off. 

If his left foot moves – you go – I know, simple!

 

Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Lefty

Go first move. If the pitcher is a lefty you need to go first move. It’s a debate, I know, but I’ve played for 22 years now and I’ve never met a base stealer that didn’t go 1st move most of the time (first move means you go as soon as he lifts his right leg).

You need to have a soft focus at his entire lower half. If his left foot steps back, dive back into the base. When you aren’t stealing and he lifts his right foot you take a hard step back. I’m going to call this a jab step, it’s a hard step back toward first base with your left leg.

When he sees you do this a couple of times as soon as he lifts his right leg, he’ll forget about picking off. I like to even jab back with my left foot when I do steal, I just do it before he lifts his leg altogether.

Remember Pavlov’s Dog? You train a lefty pitcher 2 or 3 times that you jab hard back toward 1st base every time he lifts his right leg, he won’t think you’re doing much base-stealing at all. Then, when you’re ready, you jab early and go when he lifts his leg.

This makes it the same jump you just got off the righty, maybe even a little better because lefties don’t usually slide step.



 

#4 Properly Position Your Feet

Your left foot should be even with the bag, some like to angle it towards second, but I think that makes you too slow getting back to the base on a pick-off.

Your right foot is a big deal when you steal. The best method I’ve learned is to line your right toes up with the middle of your left foot, this opens your hips a little toward second.

Once your hips are positioned, position your foot. Your right foot should be pointing 45 degrees toward 2nd base. 

This opening up method should be used if you’re running a 60 as well for you older players.

 

#5 U.C.L.A.

This is a beautiful timing tactic first formed at UCLA, hence the name. They led D1 the year they developed this, in steals.

How it works is most pitchers come set for 1-4 seconds before they go home. 

We want to know if it’s 1 second, if its 2, or if its 4, on average.

So, when the pitcher comes set, you start your timer: U – C – L – A. Say it in a way where each letter takes about a second. If he’s going on L every time, that’s his tendency, if he goes on C, then you know that too. This helps with timing and anticipation, and with leaning into the steal.

 

#6 Lean Into The Steal

This is an extremely subtle tactic which helps a ton. We talked about your mindset and how we want your weight to be centered so you aren’t suspicious and so you can get back.

An advanced tactic, is to time the pitcher using the U.C.L.A. method above, and then when he is about to go based on his tendancies, start a subtle lean toward 2nd base. This little momentum could save you .2 seconds which could be the difference between out and safe.

 

#7 Take A Big Crossover Step

The first step in stealing a base is crucial. The good news is, you don’t have to run 100-meter sprints to practice it, you only need to sprint about 5 steps to practice your first step.

It starts with your arms, pull your right arm down hard and bring your left knee and arm forward as fast as you can. Your first step should be fast and should gain a lot of ground.

 

#8 Peak-In On Your Third Step

On the third step of stealing the base you need to peak in to see if the batter hits the ball. 

If he misses on a swing, or doesn’t swing, you keep going. 

If he hits the ball on the ground, you keep going.

If he hits the ball on a line, you keep going (not enough time to get back anyway).

If he hits the ball in the air, you freeze, assess whether it can be caught, and get back if it can.

If he hits a base hit, you round the base and pick up the 3rd base coach.

 

#9 Slide Head First

This one is an opinion that certainly has pros and cons. I’ve just been thrown out too many times sliding feet first to ever do it again. Here are the pros and cons for you to decide yourself.

 

Pros

  • It’s proven to be faster (Sports Science – look it up)
  • It’s easier to avoid a tag
  • You get more safe calls on average (umpire perception)

Cons

  • You can hurt your finger sliding in if your fingers are pointed toward the base (see #10)
  • It can be a bit scary for younger kids to get used to
  • If you’re on turf, and it’s really wet, you can easily slide way past the base.



 

#10 Slide With Fingers To Sky And Stay On The Bag

As mentioned in cons above on sliding head first, you can break your fingers if they are pointing straight forward and you slide into a bag. 

This is why it’s important to practice at a young age to slide head first with palms up/fingers up.

At our baseball camps we practice this with a slip n’ slide into a pool, pretty fun way of learning to slide correctly.

Once you’ve slid into the base, and you were safe because you followed all of our steps, you need to stay on the bag.

Smart middle infielders will keep the tag on you for a long time in case you come off the bag for a split second. If you need to shake some dirt off or tie your shoe, call time before you do it.

 

 

We hope you liked our blog helping baseball players and parents on the complexity of stealing 2nd base. We believe that this is the most helpful information you can digest concerning stealing 2nd base in baseball. If you thought this blog was helpful, check out others, or if you’d like to check out our camps – click on your state in the map below!




Nick Rotola
Camp Instructor

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