It’s Spring; always a great time of year for everybody! Our customers on East Coast and Mid-West are thrilled because long winter is finally coming to an end. For rest of us, we get to be excited because baseball season is starting. While I always try to be positive, especially with Spring Training going strong and all youth leagues kicking off their seasons, for this newsletter I’d like to add a twist and focus on 10 things I hope NOT to hear this season.
You’ll hear this at every park you go to watch baseball or softball: “Swing Level”. However, it’s not possible to swing level. Think about baseball swing for a moment. Your hands are held high, close to your head. The ball, if it’s a strike, is thrown between your knees and letters. So, how can a swing be level? Well, it can’t be. A correct baseball swing is elliptical; it has a downward motion through contact to create backspin on ball and a high follow through. Great hitters may each have different planes they swing on, but none of them are ever going to be “level”. Let’s stop creating this incorrect mental image for kids.
2.Just Throw Strikes
“Ok Johnny, just throw strikes now; all you have to do is throw strikes.” Any kid who’s pitching is doing his or her best to throw strikes. Especially when a kid is struggling to get ball over dish, you can bet anything they’re not trying to “paint black” or “blow it past” hitters. All they’re trying to do is “throw strikes”. Pitching is greatest pressure cooker in all of youth sports. When a kid is on bump, he’s all alone and entire team is depending on them to throw strikes. When a pitcher is struggling, they may have a basic mechanical flaw or they might be nervous. Stating obvious and telling them that sky is blue isn’t going to help them throw strikes. What it will do is make them stop “pitching”, change their mechanics even more, and try to “aim” ball.
3.Practice Makes Perfect
We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth emphasizing again. Ask any kid what practice makes and they’ll tell you: “Practice Makes Perfect!” Of course, practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes PERMANENT! Repetition creates muscle memory. If you practice wrong motion over and over again, what kind of motion are you creating? Breaking a bad habit is very, very hard. It’s crucial that parents and coaches spot flaws quickly so that they aren’t repeated. Of course, that means that a parent or coach needs to know right way to do things. Please, get some instructional books and tapes (LINK TO INSTRUCTION SECTION). If you’re going to volunteer to coach, make sure that you’re not passing along same bad habits that you learned. It takes about 1,500 repetitions to turn a bad habit into a repeatable good habit. It’s a lot easier to just do it right in first place.
Sportsmanship is something that every kid, parent and coach should be always be aware of. In our baseball league, we’ve instituted a new Code of Conduct that requires good sportsmanship and enforces penalties, including suspensions and expulsion, for violations. After game, each kid should congratulate each person on other team. Even in jest, nobody should ever tell another kid: “Bad Game”. As a coach or a parent, if you hear it, please stop it.
5.Keep Your Back Elbow Up
Keeping your back elbow up is neither right nor is it wrong. The batting stance is one of most over coached aspects of hitting. Think about some of unique stances you’ve seen. Jeff Bagwell, Bobby Tolen, Joe Morgan, Eric Davis, Steve Garvey, Frank Thomas, Don Mattingly and every other player each has their own unique stance. What all great hitters do have in common is not their stance before pitch comes, but getting into proper position when pitch is on way. That means having their hands back, wrists cocked, balanced and ready to swing down through ball. So, focus on getting kids into this position and stop picking on them for everything before pitch. 6.Throw From Your Ear