Youth Baseball Advice — How To Run A Great Practice

Apr 15, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Uncategorized Youth Baseball Advice

How To Run A Great Practice

On our trek across the country with American Baseball Camps we have learned that many kids aren’t getting any better at their practices. Smart baseball parents are seeking out teams that run legitimate practices where their kid can actually get better, and I don’t blame them.

One of the worst practice stories we heard was in Tahlequah Oklahoma. A dad told me that at his kid’s practices the coach would put everyone in a group in the outfield and hit fly-balls and whoever catches it, catches it. This is similar to a game we used to play as kids called “500” but it certainly isn’t an entire practice!

This how-to guide on running a great practice is based on 20 years of good baseball experience, extensive research, and being a veteran player at one of the top D1 Baseball Programs in the country.

The Warmup

About ten years ago sports scientists realized that there is a more efficient way to warm-up than to just static stretch and count to ten. It is recommended to run kids through a “dynamic warmup” before practice and that “static stretch,” that you may be familiar with, after practice.



Here’s a quick example of a good dynamic warmup, it works best in two lines starting on the outfield foul line:

  • jog 45 feet, jog back
  • shuffle 45 feet, shuffle back
  • karaoke 45 feet, karaoke back
  • high knees 45 feet, high knees back
  • butt kicks 45 feet, butt kicks back
  • walking quad stretch 45 feet, walking quad stretch back
  • leg swings 45 feet, leg swings back
  • skipping leg swings 45 feet, skipping leg swings back
  • lunges, side lunges 45 feet, jog back
  • sprint 45 feet, sprint back

Upper Body Stretch:

  • small arm circles forward, big arm circles forward
  • small arm circles backwards, big arm circles backwards
  • shoulder stretch across
  • tricep stretch
  • arm swings high to behind you (bicep stretch)
  • rotator cuff stretch on the ground (lay on your throwing arm side put arm at 90 degree angle and push hand down towards the ground).

Play Catch

When they play catch remind them to take it seriously. You cannot win in baseball if you can’t play catch. Teach them the catch game to keep them locked in. If you hit them in the chest 3 points, hit them in the face 2 points, hit them in the arms or legs 1 point. Front elbow should be up and pointing towards where you want to throw it when you are playing catch.

*Water break*

On Field BP with the Rest of The Teams Taking Live Reps

BP on the field is a great way to see the results of your batting practice. It also gives the fielders a chance to take live reps off the bat if you do it right. Split your team into 4 groups of 3 (lets say you have 12 for the example). When 1 group hits, the other 9 players are in the field taking live reps off their teammates hitting, or fungos from a coach. Coaches stand adjacent to home plate. The coach on the 3rd base side hits fungos to the first baseman and the shortstop. The coach on the 1st base side hits fungos to the 3rd baseman and 2nd baseman. You need to wait and hit them in between pitches so that kids don’t have to field the fungo and the live grounder at the same time. Mix in some fly balls for the outfielders if they aren’t getting much action live off the bat.



*Water break*

Drill Circuit

Don’t have the whole team running one drill at one time, try to have coaches running simultaneous drills and just have the players rotate. It’s important to be efficient with your practice time. Below we have listed some drills to choose from that we like that we think could make young players a lot better:

  • Rundown drill with a baserunner
  • Pitcher fielding practice
  • Double plays
  • Short hops drill for infielders
  • Quarterback drill (over the shoulder catches)
  • 4 corners drill
  • Around the bucket drill (for infielders to take the right path to the ball)
  • Blocking drill
  • Bare handed ground balls
  • Bare handed receiving practice (catchers)
  • Pickoffs
  • Up the middle drill
  • Soft toss
  • Bunt defense
  • Throwing to second (catcher and middle infielders)
  • ESPN top ten drill
  • Double cuts drill
  • Robbing home runs drill

A good practice is all about getting the player a lot of good reps in a short amount of time. Players will get burnt out if they are out there all day so try to keep a practice around an hour and a half to two hours.

Make everything a game – I was doing a hitting lesson with a kid and was telling him to try to hit the back net of the cage and drive the ball up the middle. He kept pulling everything, he didn’t hit the back net once. Then when I created a game where hitting the L-Screen was 1 point and the back net was 2 points – he took off. Next thing I knew he was saying “I’m gonna get to 20”. Kids respond well to games and challenges, so try to use those to your advantage. If anything they just promote focus and induce competition.

Treat them like studs and they’ll start acting like it – My career took off when I found a coach that treated me like I was better than I really was. You’d be surprised, treat a player like he’s better than he’s playing and he’ll rise to the occasion

Encourage & support – This generation can’t be coached the same way that you were coached growing up. The drill sergeant makes them run till they puke stuff just isn’t needed. These kids are smart and if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with it in return. Every player isn’t created equal — you have to coach to your team. Know your players and coach them accordingly.

– Blog was written by a group of older D1 Baseball Players that have chosen to remain anonymous for NCAA reasons.




3 Things To Look For In A Youth Baseball Camp-min

3 Things To Look For In A Youth Baseball Camp

Apr 01, 2019

Kids don’t get better unless they play a lot of baseball. A great source of baseball during the summertime are youth baseball camps.

They break up the monotony of baseball games and practices and they are usually designed to quickly and effectively make your kid a better baseball player. But what makes a great youth baseball camp?

What should you look for when signing your kid up for one? We list our top three things to look for in a youth baseball camp.



#1 Relevancy

The things learned at a baseball camp have to be relevant to a kid’s baseball life.

Camp coaches need to be clear with your kid in how the things learned at camp can actually be applied in a game. If camp coaches are just discussion theories with your kids and tweaking mechanics your kids aren’t going to take anything away from the camp.

A good camp gives a kid tangible adjustments and teaches the kid how to apply them. Find an instructional youth baseball camp that is delivering relevant information!

#2 Fun

Youth Baseball Camps should be mostly about having fun. Why? Baseball players perform best when they are having fun. This doesn’t mean picking daisies and playing with bubbles.

What we are talking about here is finding a camp that the kid’s not going to hate. So many of the youth baseball camps we have researched have the kids bouncing around from drill to drill going through the motions and grinding it out.



This can hurt a kid’s motivation and drive for the game of baseball. Instead, put him in a camp where he is having the time of his life & getting a lot better. Why are MLB guys always joking around and having fun in the dugout?

The game is supposed to be fun, and players perform the best when they are having fun.

#3 Affordable

Youth baseball camps are huge in the development of young ballplayers, but that doesn’t mean you should have to refinance your house to pay for them. Find a quality youth baseball camp that costs around $50-$75 a day.

Anything higher than that and you’re looking at greedy camp coaches/owners. There is no reason to be paying $400 for a 3 day camp just because it’s led by an ex-Major Leaguer. Quality instruction can be found for much less.

Youth baseball camps are about giving back to the next generation of young baseball players, not about profits. So, find a camp that meets all of your baseball camp needs, and is affordable too.

– Blog written by ABC Founder Nick Rotola. American Baseball Camps offers baseball camps all across the US. View their Baseball Camps Page, or visit their American Baseball Camps Home Page.




Tricks of The Trade: Standing Out During the Recruiting Process

Feb 10, 2020

Parents, as your athletes get older and begin separating themselves from their competition, are you aware of the opportunities that they truly have at the next level?

There are roughly 2,000 collegiate teams in the United States looking to fill rosters with the players that best fit and buy into their program’s traditions and beliefs on the baseball field.

Now, do not get overwhelmed, I understand that a lot of coaches talk about the percentage of players that make it to that level, (roughly 6.4% of senior athletes in High School make it to the collegiate level, according to the NCAA ), but do not let that discourage your athlete from giving it their all to play beyond their High School years.

With the new technological advancements in the game of baseball and the use of recruitment based camps and tournaments, there are new and much more accessible ways of getting a head start in the recruiting process.

New social media accounts, and online websites such as FieldLevel, Hudl, Prep Links, and so on, give coaches the ability to watch your player from the convenience and comfort of their current surroundings making recruitment far more elaborate and extensive than ever before.

By creating an online profile describing your athlete; height, weight, class of graduation, and current statistics, it gives coaches a better opportunity to find you earlier, as well as keep tabs on you throughout your high school and summer seasons.

Giving coaches video on performance, or fundamental-based video analysis, along with updated statistics allows coaches to track tendencies as well as get a better wholesome picture of a player as an athlete. With so many technological advances, I believe there is a better opportunity for a true evaluation of a player, for a longer and overall better understanding of a person’s full potential on the field.

Keeping your online profiles updated, as well as accurate, gives you that much more of a head start in the recruiting process.

Along with the advancements in technology, there has been an increase in recruitment based camps and tournaments that have become extremely detrimental in getting the appropriate exposure to recruits.

Through area-based scouting camps, there has been a tremendous increase in collegiate coaching turn-outs, and in turn the number of players that successfully get an opportunity to play college baseball has significantly gone up.

Getting involved in camps, or teams that partake in recruitment based activities gives your athlete an extreme edge over the majority of their competition.

Teaching your child to play with coaches watching, teaches them to slow the game down as well as teaches them the appropriate way to react and play the game of baseball.

Normalizing the pressure leads to both a confidence boost for the athlete, as well as experience at the most competitive level that most children do not get. What you are looking for is an edge, something that makes you stand out from the rest, and in a sport full of failures, the experience is the best thing for understanding and crafting your overall skills.

Outside of the diamond is where the impact is tremendous, teaching athletes at a young age how to correctly communicate and effectively converse with scouts, impact recruitment as much, if not more than the skills you attribute to the field.

The most asked question by coaches at the next level is, “What is he like as a person? What are his grades like? Is he coachable?”.

Thus, learning how to properly communicate with coaches is extremely important, so getting them used to these types of conversations at a younger age, gives them a head start come their junior and senior year when they start talking with coaches more frequently.

The best thing you can do is get exposure for your athlete, actually, in my opinion, there is no such thing as too much exposure, thus I would suggest going above and beyond if this truly is what your child wants to do.

Alongside recruitment camps, come competitive Select baseball. These are normally summer and winter teams that are separate from the high-school team. These teams can be extremely beneficial in getting recruited and playing at the highest level.

Find your athlete a team that partakes in recruitment based activities. Whether that being camps, or playing in tournaments that are sponsored by, or represented by college teams. These events give players direct contact and exposure to Collegiate coaches, as well as gives them a more personable experience when meeting and talking with these coaches.

By normalizing the conversations between your athlete and collegiate coaches, as well as exposing coaches to your athletes in person, it creates more opportunity for your athlete as a whole.

Remember, college baseball is a passion, but finding a home away from home is also important in finding the perfect fit for each athlete.

Using the new technological resources, as well as exposing your kids to the highest caliber of competition and pressure from playing in front of recruiters, it will best set them up for success to get seen and talked to.

Putting yourself in front of those that you are trying to impress is the best way of getting picked up and brought aboard a collegiate team, and if you successfully use the newly available resources it will increase the likelihood of being talked too, as well as finding your athletes dream school to settle down and pursue the rest of their lives.

 

 

Youth Baseball Tips — How To Bargain Shop Baseball Gear

Apr 17, 2019

Baseball is expensive, put more of your money into tournaments and camps that will make your kid better and less into gear with these savvy baseball shopping tips.

#1 Dick’s Sporting Goods — Online Clearance Opportunities

In 2016 Dick’s Sporting Goods announced its plan to build additional distribution centers across the US. They’re doing this because sporting goods like baseball equipment only sell in season. When they’re not selling particularly well (like right now for baseball) they are just burning holes in their distrubution center shelves as they are hoping to fill them with more in-season gear (like football right now). They need to get this baseball stuff out, that is why their clearance selection is so large right now during “baseball limbo.”

Here is a screen shot of some of their top bats on clearance:

Here is a direct link to shop Dick’s Clearance Bat Selection

The first one, the Easton Mako Torq for $199, that bat was $399 at one point. I’m telling you buy them clearance.



*Here’s another tip* – The college guys, we get to test these new bats, we velocity test them, bat speed, the whole nine yards. What do we learn? THERE IS NOTHING BETTER ABOUT THE BRAND NEW MODEL. In fact, many of the 3 year old bats have more pop because they’re broken in. If you watch the CWS (which is the best players in the world still swinging medal bats), many of them are using models from 2 and 3 years ago. They aren’t improving year to year, just new branding. So buy one that’s a couple years older, and let him use it for a couple of years so it fully breaks in.

#2 Baseball Savings — A Great Option For Gloves

First of all, don’t get your kid a new glove if he’s comfortable with the one he’s got right now. There’s a famous story about Dustin Pedroia (2nd Baseman for the Red Sox) when he was at Arizona State. Glove company Wilson came in and gave everyone on the team a brand new glove with their name on it and everything with only one stipulation, you had to wear it in games. Dustin wouldn’t do it. He was ASU’s starting SS and he had been using the same glove since he was 11 years old. ASU’s glove contract with Wilson survived, but it tells us something interesting about gloves. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY ONE EVERY YEAR. In fact, if you look at the best fielders on your kids’ team, they’re probably all using gloves they feel really comfortable with. Comfort is everything with gloves. Most of the time that means finding one that you like, and sticking with it for a long time.

Below we have selected a cheap an expensive glove option from Baseball Savings. I think they’ll both work great and hopefully your kid sticks with them for 4 or 5 years. After the 2 year mark is when you really fall in love with a glove. If you notice, both of these gloves are Rawlings. We think its the best leather, and if you look at the big league infielders, most of them use Rawlings. The big difference between these two great gloves is the leather. The cheap option here is a nice “I-Web” glove that is going to be good for a long time. The expensive option here is the “Pro Preferred” model and its a “Trapeze-Web”. This is one of the most famous shortstop gloves of all time. A lot of pros like this glove. Both of these gloves are 11.5 inch which is for a shortstop or second baseman. Third baseman traditionally use an 11.75 inch glove, and outfielders a 12.75 inch glove.

Cheap Option                                                                                        Expensive Option

                                                 

Link to this option                                                                               Link to this option



#3 Get New Balance Cleats — Most Comfortable & Last The Longest

Many of the College teams are switching over to New Balance cleats because the players are asking for them. These things are crazy comfortable and they last a long time. Cleats may be something you have to buy every year depending on your kids’ playing style, but these have the best chance to last you 2 or 3 years. Here is a screenshot of a good, low, molded cleat.

Link to these cleats

 

These recommendation were based on several hours of research and years of experience at the D1 level.

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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