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.

American Baseball Camps — Five Ways to Build Your Young Slugger Up

Mar 04, 2019

“Do you realize your son is playing the biggest self esteem destroying sport in the world” – Steve Springer

This couldn’t be more true, this game will knock your child down enough. Baseball parents! You have to find a way to build your kids up, trust us we’re active D1 players at big time programs and we STILL need encouragement from our parents! You love your son more than anything, here are 5 ways we think will really give him that confidence he needs to be successful in Baseball.

#5 Snap his slump by shaking things up.

We know from experience that the best way to get out of a slump is by shaking things up. Whether it’s getting him a new bat, his favorite seeds, or batting gloves, or even a new bat grip. Shaking things up always helped us feel fresh on the field. Mix up the way he prepares and practices. Maybe jam to his favorite songs on the way to the game. This also includes shaking up the way you talk to your kid during/after the game, which we cover in (#4).

#4 Adopt a “so what, next pitch” mentality

Never yell at him or show him up on the field. If he makes an error or strikes out in a big situation, the game is already beating him up enough. He doesn’t need you adding to the pressure. Teaching your child to have a short memory and turn the page after a mistake on the field will help him to not carry things over in life. You’re simply saying “so what” and moving on to the next pitch. There is no reason he should take a mistake into the next at bat or make an error in the field because he is thinking about his last strikeout. Teach him to say “so what.” He’s a kid and baseball is just a game. Keep it fun while he is young so you don’t run him out of the game. 

#3 Try focused drills and make them fun

“Be where your feet are” – Nick Saban

Inability to focus can hurt players and give away at bats. So try running drills that teach him to lock in and be in the moment. One of our favorite drills for this growing up was the “errors drill.” If you make an error your out and have to wait for the next game. This teaches focus and helped me lock in for every ground ball. Try fun incentives. If you can hit 3 balls in a row into the back net off of the tee we’ll get ice cream. Keep it fun and light and help him to play focused, and in the moment.

#2 Reward quality at-bats NOT hits

Steve Springer (mental game of baseball coach) is really the guy on this. If you are not following him yet on twitter as a baseball parent you should! We were required to listen to his audiobook at my division 1 program and it was huge for us! The idea of it is your child can’t control if he gets a hit or not, there are simply too many variables. So instead of rewarding hits (which are out of his control), try rewarding quality at-bats. So what does a quality at-bat consist of? Our D1 program considers the following a QUAB (Quality At-Bat).

Single 

Double

Triple

Home Run

Hit by Pitch

Catchers Interference

Walk

8 pitch at-bat 

Hard hit ball

Get him over

Sac Fly

Sac Bunt

RBI

So in a game where you have to stay positive, you can see that by rewarding quality at bats your slugger will be proud of himself MUCH more often! This will pay dividends for his play, trust us! 

#1 Keep the Game fun 

This game can beat you up and make you want to quit. But that didn’t exist in the sandlot/wiffle ball days when kids were just playing because they wanted to have fun and loved the game! Encourage your kid to play wiffle ball with his friends or try having a home run derby at the field he played at 2 years ago with a little shorter fence. Baseball parents have to make baseball fun again if they want their kid to be the best player he can possibly be!

     – Authors: Anonynous 1 & 2 (For NCAA reasons)

American Baseball Camps was created to make baseball fun again! It is ran by Division 1 players who know that having fun will heighten self- esteem and make kids play better on the field. Our camps feature slip n’ slide wiffle ball, pitching dunk tank, and campers’ choice baseball drills! Camp cities are: Wilmington NC, Phoenix, Wichita, KC, OKC, Tahlequah, & Tulsa.

The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

Apr 17, 2019

The Prepared vs. The Unprepared

I was working on hitting with a 6 year old kid the other day. Just as a favor, one of our family friends asked me to work with her boy. This kid plays t-ball in Oklahoma and is a pretty good little player.

But as I was tossing the ball to him he kept swinging and missing. He said with the utmost confidence “I can’t do it”, even though he ended up foul tipping it, and then connecting with one a few tosses later.

It occurred to me that this particular kid, who is a pretty good player, had never attempted to hit a baseball that wasn’t on a tee! In fact, I’m not so sure he had ever practiced outside of baseball practice. This is what we are going to call the under-prepared player, and he is placed in a severe disadvantage.

On my circuit around the state talking with Youth Baseball Coaches about American Baseball Camps, I overheard a certain coach talking to his 7U team. He was cancelling practice for the next day because he didn’t want the kids to get sick with the cold-front (the forecast was 60 degrees).

This encounter helped me realize that the X FACTOR in youth baseball is getting better outside of organized baseball. You cannot rely on your 9 year old kid’s coach to develop him fully as a player. My friends’ kid practices maybe once or twice before the season, and then plays one game a week. I’m telling you, if your kid is only playing baseball when he has his uniform on, and mom is taking pictures, he is going to have a tough time being great.

When I was 3 years old, and this can be proven with video, I asked for & hit in a batting cage throwing 36 miles per hour. What kind of a 3 year old asks to do that on his birthday? This is because I grew up around baseball, I watched my brothers play, I watched my dad coach, and I was hungry to play! I played all the time, I threw the ball up to myself, and threw into a net when I didn’t have anyone to play catch with. I was always playing wiffle ball, and watching my brothers’ games. Do you think by the time I was 6 I didn’t believe in myself that I could hit a ball tossed to me? No I was the kid saying “I’m going to smoke this ball.”

The difference in baseball environments between myself and the aforementioned 6 year old is what I believe to be the X FACTOR in Youth Baseball. It is what can set your kid apart from the pack.

To demonstrate this further lets take two kids and you decide which one will be the dominant player on his team.

Player #1

Signs up for t-ball and is excited for his first practice.

Practices a couple times before his first game and spends approximately 1.5 hours a week playing.

Mom leaves his glove and bat in the car until the next game

Player #2

Signs up for t-ball with a comprehensive understanding of the game and how it works. Including an understanding of the force out rule.

Practices almost if-not everyday with friends or family in the backyard with a bat and a ball, or a broomstick and a tennis ball, anything they can get their hands on.

Sleeps with his glove on his nightstand, loves to play catch and have dad hit him ground balls and fly-balls in the backyard

The Highest Probability of Success

What I am saying is not that player #1 will never be successful, or that parents need to drill their kid to be like player #2. My point is that baseball is a sport that requires “reps.” Why do division 1 shortstops take 100 ground balls a day? Because it makes it so easy by the time they get one in the game that it becomes routine. It takes practice to become a great baseball player, you can’t just show up and rely on athleticism.

Baseball is a beautiful sport because it is proven that a kid that gets more reps outside of baseball will be better than a more athletic kid that doesn’t understand or practice the game.

You can’t make a kid love a sport, and you don’t want to be that baseball parent that is resented for trying to force work-ethic. But you can certainly help cultivate a baseball environment at home. Your kid will never be great if he is only doing baseball things at the field twice a week, with a practice every other.

The kids that have a passion for the game have been and always will be the best.

That is the X FACTOR in youth baseball, getting extra baseball reps outside of baseball practice/games.

“Those that fail to prepare are preparing to fail” – Ben Frankin

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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American Baseball Camps — Three Ways Young Players Can Hit With More Power

Apr 04, 2019

Here is our list of 3 ways for young players to drive more baseballs and hit more Home Runs.

#1 Relax your hands

It’s the 2011 home run derby and Robinson Cano hits 12 home runs in his final round! The reporter asks: “what was going through your head in that final round?” As he was effortlessly hitting balls into the upper deck, the reporter wanted to know what his thought process was. He didn’t say I tried my hardest, or I tried to pull the ball to left field. No, what he said is shocking because it goes against natural hitting/human instincts. He said: “I really just tried to relax my hands and throw the hands.” Wow! here is a guy with some of the greatest power in the game and all he is thinking at the plate is “relax your hands.” That’s why if youre a parent with a young slugger, this is our number one piece of advice for you to give him before an at bat, or when you are working in the cage.

#2 Gain Muscle

 

Power = Mass x Acceleration

Building muscle does both of these things, it gives you more muscle “mass” and adds bat speed “acceleration.”

I’m a D1 baseball player at an Anonymous program (for NCAA reasons) and I can’t tell you how many guys I knew growing up that got so much better at baseball when they started building muscle. This doesn’t mean lifting weights, but for those younger kids it is so big that they are doing things to help give them bat-speed. One of the best ways for a young player to gain bat speed is to swing a heavy bat. That means maybe 50 or 100 times a day go out in the back yard with the heaviest bat you can find and swing as hard as you can. Gene Stevens at Wichita State (a great baseball program) used to tell young players to take 100 dry hacks every single day! It seems like a lot but only takes 5 minutes and could set your kid apart from the pack!

Other recommended ways for young baseball players to gain muscle are: adjustable hand grippers, push ups, wall sits, and planks.

#3 Play More Ball

“Practice makes perfect” – Vince Lombardi

Listen to Bryce Harper when he is in High School talk about how many games he played when he was growing up, the number will shock you. This is one of the greatest guys in the game right now, maybe a future Hall of Famer! And he is saying that he got good because of how often he played! WOW.

As a current D1 baseball player I can tell you that you get better every single time you lace up those cleats. Parents, think about how easy it is to brush your teeth in the morning. That is because you have done it so many times that it starts to become “routine.” This concept is huge in baseball! Get him 100 live ground balls in a game and watch how routine he starts to make it look.

This is why we practice for so long in division 1, and why we play so many games during the offseason!

In football, practice makes perfect. But in baseball practice makes routine. And being able to make things routine is how you become a great baseball player. trust me I play with them every single day!

Routine it, play more baseball.

– Authors: Anonynous 1 & 2 (For NCAA reasons)

American Baseball Camps was created to make baseball fun again! It is ran by Division 1 players who know that having fun will heighten self- esteem and make kids play better on the field. Our camps feature slip n’ slide wiffle ball, pitching dunk tank, and campers’ choice baseball drills! Camps are in Tulsa, Wichita, OKC, KC, Tahlequah, Phoenix, Dallas, and Wilmington.

If you will share this blog post and use coupon code: “blog” at checkout, you can receive 20% off your order before June 1st!

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