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Baseball Parenting the Wrong Way

What’s wrong with the picture above?  Looks like a fun 9 or 10 year-old baseball game here in Phoenix, right?

Check out the dad behind the screen.  Do I see that correctly?  Is he really holding a radar gun?

I’m absolutely sickened by this image.

There are just so many things wrong here.  Please pass this post on to everyone you know in the baseball community.  I’ll attempt to break down just a few of the disasters here – and try not to rant too long.

The Radar Gun

First of all, with all of the things we now know about young pitchers and arm injuries, the last thing any young pitcher needs to be concerned with is radar gun velocity.

Dr. James Andrews is arguably the world’s most famous and best orthopedic surgeon, and he has saved the pitching arms of some of the greatest professional baseball players on the planet.  To the right is an image of what actually takes place when doctors have to rebuild the joint and the ligament.

So when he has a request for the game he loves the most, we should be wise and listen to his request — especially at the youth and high school level.

“I think they should outlaw the radar gun,” he said. “Young pitchers, coaches, scouts and parents put so much emphasis now on throwing hard that these kids are hurting their elbows and their shoulders because they’re trying to throw 90 mph.”

The radar gun, Andrews says, is one of many injury risks at the youth and high school level in an age of baseball that is seeing more and more teenage athletes on the operating table instead of the pitching mound.

You should read more from Dr. Andrews here…

You should read more from Major League Baseball and PitchSmart here….

The Complete Lack of Perspective on Youth Baseball

What in the world is this dad thinking?  How does measuring the velocity of a 9-year old pitcher have anything to do with what is important in a 9-year old baseball game?

Baseball is one of the most difficult games ever invented – it’s a self-esteem destroyer on it’s own.  We need to be encouraging our kids at the youth level, not measuring the exit velocity of the fastball, for crying out loud.

The goal at the end of every 9 year-old baseball game is that the kid wants to come back and do it again.

I’ve got to turn it over to Steve Springer here so you can see his video on what’s important….a must watch for all baseball parents.  Like Spring says, take the kid out for ice cream after the ballgame.  Tell him how much you love him and how much fun you had watching him.

Also, see Brian Regan’s comedic take on youth baseball that will give you some insight on how many kids view the game.

The Singular Lack of Perspective on Pitching

Youth pitching is completely about having fun and learning to handle yourself on the mound.  And that, by the way, isn’t easy.  It’s also about learning proper pitching mechanics and throwing strikes. Period.

There is absolutely no way that any kid’s baseball future can be determined by how hard he throws or how effective he is when he’s 9.

With that said, there’s absolutely no way you can determine a kid’s baseball future in any way when he is 9 years of age.

The Absolute Unawareness of His Position in the Stands

Dude.  Assuming that your son is the pitcher, he really needs to be concentrating on the catcher’s glove.

Not you right behind home plate holding that radar gun. I bet you give him the thumbs up when he throws a good pitch, too.

You know and I know (and I’m sure his coaches do, too) that he’s looking at you half of the time – and that’s not at all how it should be. 

Secondly, you are more than likely blocking the view of other parents, grandparents, other family members, and friends at that ball game.  You are taking up prime viewing real estate to get the 51 MPH reading, man.  I’m also sure they are really impressed that he’s breaking 50 MPH from 46 feet.

Well, that’s what I’ve got for now – I can’t take this much longer.  Please, please parents, encourage your youngsters.  They need someone there for them after they fail – and they will in this game.  Again, I ask that you share this post with anyone you know in the baseball community – let’s make sure we are encouraging and protecting our young players and pitchers.

 

Baseball Pre-Season Workouts

The high school baseball season is less than 6 weeks away here in Arizona – and there’s still time to make sure that your body is ready for the season.

I know I talk more frequently on the mental side of the game, but your body must be ready to handle the ups-and-downs of the condensed 20 game season.

I’ve compiled a number of links that the baseball minded will find worthwhile and I highly recommend that you check them out.


The first is a piece with accompanying video from Stack.com regarding a 6-week pre-season program. Their program utilizes medicine balls to build baseball specific strength.

“Developing stronger baseball-specific movement patterns comes with a bonus: it helps to prevent injuries. By improving often-hurt areas like shoulder and back muscles before camp starts, you’ll reduce your chance of breaking down over the course of a long season.”

http://www.stack.com/a/6-week-baseball-workout

From the HSBaseball web – they talk specifics about particular muscle groups that get used more than others. During pitching and batting, it’s the chest and shoulders, particularly the rotator cuffs, pecs and triceps. Players also need good torso strength, i.e., a strong back and abdomen – and leg power will get you going with those bursts of speed needed to run bases.

Jeff Holt, a fitness trainer and owner of Personal Health and Fitness Inc. in Hendersonville, says a training regimen for softball should focus on improving overall strength and flexibility.

http://www.hsbaseballweb.com/pre_season.htm

Here’s a great PDF from WPA Baseball for both players and parents.

Youth baseball has become increasingly competitive over recent years, joining other sports in which athletes are frequently exposing themselves to overuse injuries.

They state that pre-season conditioning should start 8-12 weeks prior to the start of your season and give a great outline of what that training program should look like.

http://www.wpabaseball.com/files/SportsPerfArticles/Conditioning(1).pdf

Finally, here’s a great Sports Illustrated article on Evan Longoria that highlights his specific pre-season workout regimen.

“It’s taken a lot of years for me to understand what my body needs,” says Longoria. “I don’t want to put 500 pounds on my back and squat because it doesn’t translate for me on the field. My workout program is tailored to being baseball strong.”

It goes into very specific detail that is eye-opening for those who think baseball players aren’t in great shape!

http://www.si.com/edge/2015/03/18/training-evan-longoria-workout-rays-third-baseman

The views expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of American Financial Network, Inc

Playing Baseball and Mental Preparation

arrieta

We all have been there at one time or another – when you are playing with confidence and playing “free”, even when you are exhausted.  The game seems slower, in a good way – you see the seams on the ball more clearly and it doesn’t seem to be moving as fast. You can’t wait for your next at-bat or the ball to be hit to you or to throw that next pitch.  Really, it’s all about mental preparation and being ready in that particular moment.

“My ability to fully focus on what I had to do on a daily basis was what made me the successful player I was. Sure I had some natural ability, but that only gets you so far. I think I learned how to focus; it wasn’t something that I was necessarily born with.”

Hank Aaron

How do you get there?

I’d highly recommend that you first check out this video/interview with Evan Longoria about how he made the decision to really work on his mental preparation. Click on the image below to play:

longoria

As Tom Hanson and Ken Ravissa write, “working on the mental game is not a substitute for hard physical work. Regardless of how good your mental game is, if you are not putting in the effort on your physical body….you will not find out how good you can be.”  Hanson and Ravissa have co-written Heads-Up Baseball: Playing the Game One Pitch at a Time.

I’d invite you to take a look at their book, here:

It’s the mental side of the game that makes the difference in getting to that “zone”.  Most athletes leave their thinking to chance.  If they are playing well, they are easy going and loose – but when things are not going well for them, they can’t heads-up-coverget out of their own way.

I’m a big fan of both authors – and I hope you become one, too.  I love the fact that these guys want players to embrace being uncomfortable in practice – so that they will be better prepared when the game is on the line.  They encourage players to have a mental plan of letting the uncontrollables go and moving on to the next pitch or play.

I’d also highly recommend that you take a look at a variety of other “mental coaches” and read what they have to say.  Here’s a list to start:

If you are a parent, take the time to sit down with your player and watch the Longoria video.  And make sure to check out the links listed above.  Take heart – you never know when your physical tools will catch up to your mental side to take you to that next level!

Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Hit-and-Run Success is No Accident

The hit-and-run is much maligned as a small-ball tactic, but it’s a surprisingly successful strategy.

Source: Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Hit-and-Run Success is No Accident

Bosox coachThe hit-and-run play is not highly regarded by the analytical crowd. It is considered a one-run play and, like the sacrifice bunt attempt, it garners derision from people who hate small-ball tactics.

If you are a baseball insider, do check out this analysis – this is a real in-depth study!

The conclusion reads like this: The hit-and-run is far from the worst play in baseball. For a small-ball tactic, it has been quite successful over the past nine seasons, increasing scoring by .06 runs per attempt on average. The value of the hole in the infield defense is real, adding about 27 points to the batting average of the hitter. The double plays avoided by executing the hit-and-run offset the runners caught stealing on the play, and the extra bases gained by the runner when the ball is put in play are enough to move the play into the plus column overall.

Overcoming Performance Fears and Blocks – Baseball | Mental Toughness

Youth Baseball-pitcher-bp6316What REALLY causes slumps, throwing problems and other, seemingly mysterious performance difficulties on the field and the BREAKTHROUGH techniques that can get you unstuck and back on track!

Source from Dr. Alan Golberg: Overcoming Performance Fears and Blocks – Baseball | Competitive Advantage: Mental Toughness

The Problem

Repetitive Sports Performance Problems or RSPPs, a very common performance issue that lays waste to the careers of many talented ball players across all levels of the game. Occasionally an athlete will successfully work through this kind of problem by himself. More often than not, however, these problems will continually sabotage an self-confidence and ultimately drive him right out of the sport.

The Causes

These repetitive performance problems are most often caused by past physically or emotionally upsetting events. For example, a physical injury like a collision, concussion, torn ligaments, pulled muscle, getting hit by a pitch or breaking a bone, or the upset can be emotional like committing an error that costs your team an important game, choking away a big performance opportunity, getting cut from the team or being screamed at and humiliated by your coach in front of your teammates and fans.Second Game 6-26-12106

The Results

These upsetting events end up getting memorized and held in the athlete’s mind and body, long after the experience has been forgotten. If they’re in any way reminded of these upsets or the athlete is under pressure, then components from the original experience end up bubbling up into awareness.

What the athlete becomes aware of at that point is a loss of confidence or feeeling of danger inside. This sense of inner danger then triggers that athlete’s nervous system to automatically respond with self-protective motor programs, i.e. fight/flight. Suddenly the athlete can’t get himself to do what he knows how to do. He loses his velocity on the mound and can’t get the bat off of his shoulders!

The long history of baseball’s most glorious fashion accessory: The stirrup sock

stirrup“Baseball uniforms are a unique beast. The shirts have buttons (though, for some reason, they don’t count as “formal wear” at weddings), the pants have belts and the players need to wear hats to keep the sun out of their eyes. But nothing is as unique to baseball as the stirrup sock.”

Source: The long history of baseball’s most glorious fashion accessory: The stirrup sock

Baseball uniforms are very interesting, but nothing is as unique to baseball as the stirruShil on moundp sock.

The tradition can be traced back to 1868, when the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team to expose their socked legs.

“The stirrup has become part of the visual signature of baseball as no other sport used it. For a certain generation, myself included, it was kind of a key moment when you got your first Little League uniform and got to pull up those stirrups. I remember how official that felt.”

Stirrups give a player the ability to show off his unique style and pizazz . As one old-time announcer said, “I definitely do notice when guys on the other team wear them and they look sharp. There’s a lot of good looks out there.”

Off-Season Workouts – What Young Players Can Learn

Chicago Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber had a down year in 2017 – he even spent some time in the minors after having struggled during the summer.

After the season, Schwarber decided that he would do whatever he could during the off-season to prepare for the 2018 season – and it began by getting his body in the best shape possible.

His mornings begin in the gym and end with him swinging a bat. In between, his diet has morphed into the most healthy of his career.

I’d highly recommend you check out each video on the ESPN site here…..

The video/article gives perfect examples of specific drills that Schwarber does to get himself ready for the 2018 season.

Of course, Kyle is a professional athlete and has the time and resources to make this happen (and I completely understand that most youth and high-school players do not) – but don’t miss the point here.

Schwarber has a detailed plan and sticks to it months prior to the season.  He’s set goals for himself and will not be denied.

It’s this mindset and willingness to plan ahead that will put him in the best position to succeed next season.

Do you have a plan to get ready for 2018?  Strengthening, conditioning, flexibility, as well as skill related work?

There are plenty of options online to help you get started – you can click here for my Lending Coach site under the “Baseball” category to find more training related articles and blog posts.

 

Mental Toughness For Pitchers

“The pitcher with a winning mental approach will appear to rise to the occasion in big games, when in reality he is the one who successfully keeps his head while others around him are distracted by the moment.”

“Mental toughness allows the pitcher to remain focused on these things regardless of all the chaos going on around him.”

“The mentally tough pitcher can focus on the things he can control and not let the things out of his control distract him.”

So says legendary college baseball coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland. McFarland coached 38 years at the college level – 18 at James Madison University. Equally impressive, he coached 55 players on their way to the big leagues (including Kevin Brown of the Los Angeles Dodgers).

His book, Coaching Pitchers, is a great read – and I’d encourage you to purchase it here.

The following is an excerpt from that book…

Many say that mental toughness is an ability that is born into a pitcher, but with some work and effort all pitchers can create a winning mental approach. In this chapter we will look at identifying problems and then offer advice, drills, and practice ideas to help pitchers create a winning mental approach.

Factors the Pitcher Can’t Control

The first step to becoming mentally tough is to figure out the factors you can control as a pitcher and those things that are out of your control. The list of things out of your control is much longer than the list of things within your control. First you determine those factors out of your control and then you learn to deal with them.

  • Weather conditions – these include wind, rain, sun, cold, and heat. You can dress appropriately, but you cannot do anything to control the weather.
  • Field conditions – these include wet field, dry field, poor field, dimensions of the field, poor lighting, and the height and condition of the mound.
  • Teammates – a pitcher cannot control his teammates and their play. They may score 0 runs when you pitch; they may score 10 runs. This is true of errors too. Your team may field great when you pitch or they may make several errors. You can’t do anything about errors or run support.
  • Umpires – as umpires determine their own strike zone,  the pitcher will need to adjust to that zone for the day. A pitcher can’t control whether or not the umpire makes all the correct calls during a ball game.
  • Unruly fans and bench talk – fans or opponents will try to disrupt a pitcher by verbally abusing him. You can’t control fans; when you acknowledge their remarks, it gets even worse. Sometimes opposing teams will try to get a pitcher out of his game by bench talk.
  • The batter – once the baseball leaves a pitcher’s hand, the batter has the control. The batter decides to swing or take. The batter will determine whether to hit the ball hard by his swing.

The pitcher may affect some of the factors with his performance, but he cannot control them. So he should not worry about them. A pitcher cannot focus on or spend time and energy on things out of his control.

Factors the Pitcher Can Control

A pitcher with a winning mental approach knows that there is only one thing a pitcher has complete control over, and that is himself. Mental toughness starts with the realization of this concept.

Be concerned with those things and only those things that a pitcher can control: himself and his actions. A pitcher must first learn to be responsible for himself and his actions.

  • A pitcher cannot control the weather, but he can pitch accordingly and give himself a better opportunity to be successful.
  • A pitcher cannot control the condition of the field, but he can pitch accordingly and give himself a better opportunity to be successful.
  • A pitcher cannot control the play of his teammates, but he can help himself by playing good defense and being positive in the dugout; he can pitch accordingly to ensure his own success.
  • A pitcher cannot control umpire decisions; but he can make adjustments to different strike zones, affect umpiring decisions by his actions, and pitch accordingly to ensure his own success.
  • A pitcher cannot control what is being said about him or to him from opposing teams or fans, but he can choose whether to let them affect his game.
  • A pitcher cannot dictate what the batter will do with a certain pitch; but by studying hitters and learning weaknesses, he can pitch accordingly and ensure his own success.

Instead of focusing on things out of his control, a pitcher must take each set of circumstances and pitch or act accordingly to make himself succeed.

Each pitch and each situation involve a new set of circumstances. How he reacts to each new set of circumstances or situations is within his control, and this is where he can start to make a difference.

Assess the situation, make the appropriate decisions, make the appropriate pitch or play accordingly, and then accept responsibility for the result. Understand that the pitcher starts and affects the action of the game with each pitch more than any other single event in the game; this is crucial for a winning mental approach.

The pitcher is the only player on the field who has the power to act. All other players on both teams only have the power to react. Use this power and act accordingly to each new set of circumstances and each new situation to help ensure your own success.

The key to a winning mental approach is not to focus on the things a pitcher cannot control but to be consumed by the things a pitcher can control.

Telling a pitcher not to worry about the fan in the fourth row who is riding him hard or not to worry about the umpire whose strike zone appears to be on wheels and is moving around is as effective as telling someone not to think about an elephant that’s standing in the room.

Instead, create a pitcher who is consumed with the next pitch and is focused on what he can do in the next set of circumstances, no matter the current situation.

Some Sage Hitting Advice – The Best Laid Plans

Coach Paul Petricca is the former hitting coach for the Wheaton College softball team is a true student of hitting – both baseball and softball.

His website is one of my favorites and I highly recommend that you check it out.

As a matter of fact, he’s just written a book on the subject – and I’d encourage you to purchase it here !

One of Paul’s latest posts is called “The Best Laid Plans” – and you can find it here – The Best Laid Plans

Some key takeaways….

Flawed Mechanics

“Poor hitting performance is usually an indication of weak hitting mechanics. At least that’s a good place to start. Mechanical issues can range from a weak set-up position, hands that are too forward, an ineffective load (leg lift and initial weight transfer), poor extension at the point of impact with the ball, and an abbreviated or awkward finish.”

Too Many Voices and Too Much Noise

“Hitters with cluttered minds in the batter’s box focus on the last few failed at-bats, a recent error in the field, history with the opposing pitcher, expectations of friends or family members in the stands, or any other negative thoughts. A mind that is filled with loads of non-hitting information can negatively affect the physical swing by causing hitters to be tentative, tense, and guess too much before the pitch is thrown.”

“Another common reason for poor hitting performance is confusing hitting advice from multiple sources. In the post “One Voice”  http://wp.me/p3zdlH-S5, I emphasized the importance of finding the right hitting instructor and remaining loyal to his or her voice. Loyalty means having faith in the primary hitting mechanics and overall philosophy of the instructor [or coach].”

In Closing

“I like to tell my hitters when they are struggling that baseball and softball are games of second chances. A hitter can strike out the first three times in a game and then hit the game-winning home run. Hitters also have the opportunity to follow-up a challenging season with a great one by working hard on the right mechanics with the right hitting coach with a positive attitude.”

Great advice from a great coach!

Six Killer Mistakes That Hitters Make

One of my favorite mental coaches is Dr. Patrick Cohn of Peak Sports Performance. Dr. Cohn is a sports psychologist out of Orlando Florida. He’s always preaching mental toughness – and the techniques athletes can use to grasp it.

An at-bat routine helps you plan, prepare, and program your body to see the pitch well and react to the right pitch.

He’s put together a free online e-book that can be found here: http://www.peaksports.com/baseball-softball-confidence-report/

If you are a player, or parent of a player, I’d recommend that you download it and get to know the contents!

Dr. Cohn states that great hitters use an at-bat routine to help them focus and prepare mentally.

“From our experience,” he states, “many hitters do not have an effective at-bat routine because they have way too many doubts, negative thoughts, or distractions in the batters box.”

Similarly to Steve Springer’s “Quality At-Bat” teaching, Cohn goes into detail about when your at bat actually starts:

“Your at-bat routine does not start when you step foot in the batter’s box, as you might think…..the routine actually begins when you analyze the pitcher, predict what pitches you might expect….well before you step into the box.”

His “Top 6 Mistakes”

In his e-book, Dr. Cohn examines in detail, the top mistakes hitters make…

  • Failing to Have a Specific Plan
  • Lack of Full Commitment to the Plan
  • Worrying About not Getting a Hit
  • Lack of a Positive Image or Thought
  • Over Analysis or ‘Trying too Hard’
  • Lack of Trust in Your Skills

Again, here’s the link to find out more: http://www.peaksports.com/baseball-softball-confidence-report/

Go download it and take it all in – you will become a better player if you do!

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