Work Skills at Practice & Allow the Games to be Fun – Lesson #3 – Lessons from Coaching Youth Baseball

August 13, 2009

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Hitting a baseball is considered by many as the most challenging skill in sports. It is merciless because even the most accomplished baseball player, fails most of the time. That’s why it is vital to let the kids play and allow the game be fun. In the course of a game there might be an opportunity to teach the mental aspects of the game. Mechanics, though, should be taught and corrected at practice (unless, of course, there are safety concerns). We’ll cover pre-game, soft-toss, and cage work, which should be considered an extension of practice, in future lessons. When it’s game time, let the players focus on what they have learned and try to put them in a position to succeed. Praise them on “keeping their head in the game”, attitude, hustle, and determination. Don’t be engrossed in the mistakes. Help the players get past the mistakes; help the players have a “short memory”. Most mistakes in baseball are obvious to the players and the fans. As a coach, create a mental note of the mistakes and work on the solutions in practice. Every player knows when they have made an error or struck-out. Pitchers don’t need to be ordered to throw strikes. All pitchers want to throw strikes; that’s what they are trying to do on every pitch.

Baseball relies heavily on the concept of muscle memory. The more mechanics are practiced, the more they become second nature. They become a part of the player’s muscle memory. Baseball players use repetition to hone their mechanics. Things happen quickly in baseball and a player will revert back to whatever mechanics are set in their muscle memory. That is why it is critical to save mechanics for practice and fun for the games. The entirely worst time to be coaching mechanics is when a player is up to bat during a game. At that point, muscle memory is going to take over. If a parent or coach tries to correct mechanics, it only distracts the player and destroys their concentration. I have had to keep many a parent under control when they tried to change mechanics while their son or daughter was at the plate during a game. I only try to communicate positive expressions while a player is at the plate. My favorite saying is “it only takes one”. It means that out of a possibility of six, or more, pitches, it only takes one pitch to make contact and get a hit.

Players beat themselves up sufficiently after making a mistake on the field or at the plate. It is the coach’s job to keep a positive attitude. It is a coach’s duty to let them know that strike-outs and errors happen in baseball and all players have to have a short memory. Coaches need to understand that baseball is very much a game of momentum. Excellent hitting and excellent fielding are contagious; mistakes are also contagious. The more a player dwells on past mistakes, the more they will be affected on future plays. It is critical to let the players play and have fun; if players are playing play not to make mistakes, then mistakes will happen and the fun will disappear.

This is the third lesson, of many, contained within the article “Lessons from a Youth Baseball Coach”. Upcoming lessons will include planning, choosing the right glove and bat, fielding, base running, philosophy, and a myriad of baseball subjects. All of the lessons can be found at Baseball Armory – “The Baseball Blog”. Baseball Armory sponsors Baseball Armory – “The Baseball Blog”. Baseball Armory is an online store that contains quality Akadema baseball and softball gear. Akadema produces high quality softball and baseball equipment, including outfield and infield gloves, catcher’s mitts, metal and wood bats, cleats, turf shoes, batting gloves, sunglasses, apparel, equipment bags, glove care products, and miscellaneous baseball and softball accessories.


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