Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Physical Vs Mental Skills
Ask any baseball fan what it takes to succeed as a baseball player and they usually talk about bat speed, arm strength, foot speed and power. You very rarely ever hear them mention the mental skills required to excel in the game. The important mental techniques include focus, concentration, confidence and composure. That is why it is important to start teaching baseball mental techniques early in a player's development.
Why is having the mental tools so important to making it in the game? All you have to do is look at the minor league farm clubs to see that the vast majority of players there have the physical skills needed to make it to the next level but don't have the cognitive skills to take them there.
How do you go about teaching baseball mental techniques?
There are some tips for developing the mental skills needed to make it to that elite level: teach visualization, use the 10 second rule and overcoming failure.
Visualization Since baseball is a game of adversity and failure is ever present, using visualization techniques help to clear the mind of negative thoughts, avoid distractions and provides a mental road map for the task at hand. Visualization is a very good baseball mental technique.
10 Second Rule
Many young bright baseball stars lack the maturity to control their emotions and it takes them off their game. The 10 second rule is designed to help control the reactive emotional outburst of dissatisfaction. The tip is to count to 10 before you react or speak after a tense situation. This is a great tip when teaching baseball mental techniques.
As I stated before, baseball is a game of constant failure. If you get a hit thirty percent of the time you are considered an above average hitter. If you're a pitcher you are constantly dealing with walks, hits, home runs, past balls and errors committed by your teammates.
Teaching baseball mental techniques is an absolute necessity if you want to make it to the big leagues.
Robert Bulka is a former college baseball pitcher and current coach in the New York Metropolitan area. For more great tips for teaching kids how to play baseball go to http://TeachKidsBaseball.com
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Thursday, September 18, 2008
Playing time is an interesting thing in youth baseball. Somebody is never happy. Players get frustrated if they are not getting field time. Parents become agitated if they are paying money for their son to be on a team but yet he is sitting on the bench more than he is playing. However, when all is said and done, there will always be hitters who sit on the bench. It's a numbers issue since no team can run solely on nine players for an entire season.
Most coaches are fully aware of the playing time issue and do all they can at the younger levels to get all players in the game. But, what is truly frustrating to a head coach or a coaching staff is how most playing time concerns are communicated by players or parents. Because many communication problems spiral out of control and cause more damage to all parties involved, I'd like to explain a few thoughts and guidelines on the topic of communication.
There are essentially three ways to communicate to a coach. The least effective is listed first, and the most effective is listed last.
1. In writing, that is letter format, email, text messaging, instant messaging, etc.
2. Over the phone.
3. In person and face to face.
The reason why written communication is the most insufficient form of communicating emotional concerns is because it's difficult to express emotions in the correct manner. It is tough to make sure that the emotion one felt when writing is read with the same emotion in mind. If an athlete is frustrated when writing the message, it may not be read as a frustrated tone by the coach. He may have interpreted the words as challenging, or argumentative. Therefore, writing should be used (for the most part, not always) when conveying thoughts that are non-emotional.
Phone conversations are much more effective when attempting to communicate issues of emotion. The reason this is the case is because the coach on the other end can hear tones of voice and voice fluctuation. Thoughts and concerns via the phone are far less likely be interpreted incorrectly when compared to written communication.
Lastly, and most effective is face to face communication. While often the most intimidating, talking with a coach in private and without distraction is valuable for a couple reasons. First, a coach can hear tone of voice and read into the emotion being communicated. Secondly, and most important, body language can be displayed. Much of in person communication is performed through body language. Therefore, live conversation is far more effective when issues of emotion at the topic.
In my experience in working with athletes and running baseball teams, many communication problems can be averted if there is open lines of communication between everyone who has a vested interest in the success of the team. Remember, back biting, rumor spreading, and open complaining only does more damage to team chemistry.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nate_Barnett
Monday, September 15, 2008
One of the best ways to force long innings (when you are on offense of course) and to win more games is to put added pressure on the defense. There are multiple ways of doing this, a couple of which are outlined here. Understanding the concerns of a defense and exploiting those concerns are valuable techniques any good coach will insert into his baseball drills.
Pressure Cooker #1 - Run Like the Wind:
Don't skip this part because you, your son, or the team you coach has little speed. You don't need any to understand this concept. The more offensive movement is created on the base paths, the more potential there is for defensive mistakes. Create movement the following ways:
A. Bigger lead offs. Most youth baseball players don't get a proper lead off at any base. Because of this, the defense doesn't feel the perceived threat of the runner. How long is a good lead? A runner should be able to rotate and dive (body fully extended) back to the bag in time if he is watching the right movements from the pitcher. Getting aggressive leads will do two things. First, it will force the pitcher to split concentration between the runner and the hitter. This will help out the hitter as pitch location may improve with the lack of focus from the pitcher. Secondly, the more throws drawn by the runner at first base (primarily) can results in potential overthrows as well as an increased opportunity to utilize a stolen base or a hit and run play.
B. Take aggressive turns on the bases. I frequently see many younger players after hitting a baseball, jog down to first base and take a small turn around first. This puts zero pressure on the defense. The first goal on any hit to the outfield is to reach second base. The mentality that every hit is a double will help runners become more aggressive. Obviously I'm not advocating running bases wildly, I'm simply promoting adding some extra heat on the defense to provoke some mistakes.
Pressure Cooker #2 - Have a Pitch Plan
It's quite common to watch hitters all the way through high school swing at pitches quite out of the zone. Most of the time this is caused from a lack of a game plan, or improper teaching during baseball drills. Each hitter should have a specific pitch plan based upon his hitting strengths. Every hitter has a special pitch, or one that is more favorable to hit than others. This needs to be the focus early in the count. No other pitches should be offered at early in the count other than the favorite pitch. The only thing that would change this scenario would be if a coach called some sort of offensive play.
A more selective approach to hitting will put pressure on defensive two different ways:
A. More pitches will be thrown by pitchers which will (hopefully) force a pitching change earlier in the game. Since more relievers in youth baseball are not as good as starters, this is a plus for the offense.
B. Getting better pitches to hit will create more baseballs in play. The more balls hit hard there are, the greater chance there is for a mistake by the defense.
Finally, there is no secret that perceived pressure causes more mistakes. If an offense can manufacture pressure and remain confident in doing so, they will enjoy watching an error filled defense play more timid and give games away.
Nate Barnett is owner of BMI Baseball, a baseball instruction company based out of Washington State. A former professional baseball player, Nate has written a free downloadable ebook on mental baseball drills to overcome failure. Also, come check out a free sample of his video enhanced ebook, Hitting Mechanics 101.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nate_Barnett
Friday, September 12, 2008
#1 The Natural
This is by far one of the best directed/produced baseball movies ever made. Yes at times Redford seems a bit old for the part but this can be overlooked. Randy Newman's musics makes the film. Many lessons in this movie.
#2 Field of Dreams
This was a close 2nd for me. The ending scene "Hey Dad, Wanna have a catch?" I've seen this movie dozens of times and I still tear up everytime Ray says those words. At first I would think of my Dad.. now I think of my son. I love this movie
#3 Bull Durham
Funny, clever, holds my interest everytime I watch it. Lolly Gag scene is my favorite. Kostner plays a great beat up catcher. Not a bad swing either. Not for kids though.. teenagers maybe.
#4 The Rookie
The classic American story of a kid/guy who never gives up his dream.. and this is a true story. Dennis Quaid demonstrates a pretty good pitching motion too. Good lesson movie for kids.
#5 The Final Season
You may not have seen this one but it's a good one. About a small town high school team that goes through trials and tribuations. Based on a true story.. Rent it, you won't regret it.
Eight Men Out deserves an honorable mention, ok let's just call it #6.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
It's important for town leagues to offer this type of sandlot experience for kids. As manager's some of may be going from the highly competitive summer travel season to the laid back fall ball season. It takes some adjustment. Here are a few things to remember when coaching a fall ball team...
Communicate Your Intentions.. Let players and parents know that you intend to promote fun during the fall ball season.
Give Kids A Chance.. Before your first game, ask the kids what positions like to play. Tell them they may have to play others to help the team but you will do your best to give them playing time in the positions they enjoy.
Promote A Team Atmosphere.. Many people see fall ball as just a pick up league or some sort. If it is an organized league with assigned teams it is important to promote the team concept to the kids. This is part of the learning experience.
Try New Things.. Fall ball is a perfect time for players to try things like hitting lefty or playing a position the don't normally play or a new pitch. Explain to your players that they can use these season to add to their baseball skills.
Focus On Development.. Every error or mistake made on a ball field can be a positive lesson. It is important, especially with kids who only play fall ball, to help them learn from these events. Take the kid who needs help throwing aside with his dad or mom and explain a few drills that will help him. I had a dad tell me his son is a great hitter but in games he's afraid of the ball because he got hit a few times last season. I gave him a few drills to work on to help his son learn out to get out of the way of an inside pitch. He worked on this with his son and guess what... he became one of the best hitters on the team after a few weeks.
In summary, remember to keep fall ball fun. Baseball greatness starts with developing a love for the game. Fall ball is the perfect time to develop the love.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I'm sure you have heard the words, "practice makes perfect". Or, "perfect practice makes perfect". And while I enjoy the utopian view that someday I'll get to coach the perfect team, or the perfect player, it's just not going to happen. Especially not in a sport where failure is a common and frequent occurrence. It is vital that our athletes understand failure and be taught how to employ a strategy to use failure as a positive and not as a negative. It takes some rewiring in the minds of athletes, but it's well worth the time spent.
What I would like to explore here is how failure can be utilized during youth baseball drills and during practice in order to create more fundamentally solid baseball players.
For many youth today failure is terrifying. Afraid of messing up a speech in class, afraid of getting an "F" on a exam, afraid of striking out, and afraid of being rejected in this or that. Failure is everywhere and and it is an integral part of our daily lives. The problem I have with the focus on failure is that it tends to paralyze many from attempting to achieve. Let me be clear when I say that I am not trying to do away with things that cause failure, or to shelter youth from experiencing it, I'm simply stating the lens in which we view failure needs to be cleaned.
Facilitating a new angle on failure during youth baseball drills and practice time is actually quite simple. I'll provide one solid example on one aspect of the game of baseball and let you apply the principle to the rest.
A Tangible Example: Batting Practice
When working with hitters, I will watch closely how they approach batting practice. During BP, all hitters want to do well, and why not, it's their time to shine. However, it usually only takes a few missed pitches, a few ground outs, or a few fly outs before the hitter begins to be frustrated and lose focus. This just compounds the problem.
The problem is not the missed pitches or the poor results, the problem is the perceived meaning of the missed pitches. In other words, the hitter sees the missed opportunities as a sign of inferiority. This feeling compounded upon will create a belief that the athlete himself has failed.
Good hitters approach batting practice mistakes far differently. A few missed pitches, repeated ground outs or fly outs simply communicate to a quality athlete that there is something not quite right with his swing. Instead of focusing on the feeling of personal inferiority, a non-emotional response is used and the mistake is not personalized. Upon completion of batting practice, this same athlete can be found in the batting cage or off to the side working on the specific problem.
The key differences with the above examples is how each hitter dealt with failure. In the first example the hitter allowed the mistakes to be an end result. Personal inferiority. The mentally successful hitter viewed the mistake as simply a PART of his offensive game that needed some help. Two drastically different view points.
I would highly encourage during your youth baseball drills to teach and cultivate the following ideas:
1. Failure is just an indicator of something that needs to change.
2. Failure should never be allowed to be related to the person of the athlete.
Nate Barnett is owner of BMI Baseball http://bmibaseball.com and is based out of Washington State. His expertise is in the area of hitting, pitching, and mental training. Coach Barnett's passion is working with youth in helping expand their vision for their baseball future. After finishing a professional career in the Seattle Mariners Organization, Nate pursued his coaching and motivational training career. His instructional blog is located at http://bmibaseball.com/blog
His new FREE ebook, Toxic Baseball: Are you polluting your game? can be found on the main BMI Baseball website.
Hitting 101, an ebook on complete hitting mechanics will be released by June 1st, 2008. Features include numerous illustrations, video clips, and a special offer to discuss your hitting questions over live on the phone strategy sessions.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Nate_Barnett
Monday, September 1, 2008
Just today i got an e-mail from a mother that had a bad experience with her son's 8 year old team.
She had noticed that the coaches were singling our her son when he made errors in the field. The coaches have sons on the team that when they made errors nothing was said. Upon her confronting the guy about this situation he immediately launched into a profanity based tirade.
What's wrong with this picture? Listen up coaches even if we live in a so-called _P-C world this kind of behavior in my opinion was never acceptable, 5 years 10 years 30 years ago. Just like when i was growing up in the 50s we got whipped by our dads. Even though that was the norm it shouldn't have been allowed and it was not acceptable.
My point is this: this is a game that is supposed to be fun for the players and it should be for the coaches. If you can't deal with 8 year olds and for that matter older players making mistakes then you need to get out of coaching. I don't care what your excuse is there is no excuse period for this kind of behavior.
What you should do is talk to the player on the side not in front of everyone in and not demeaning tone. Explain what they should have done on the play and keep it short and sweet. Give a pat on the back and get back to the game. You definitely shouldn't be favoring your own son's and then blast other players!
This goes back to an article i wrote the other day. Do your homework in practice with the players and then on game day kick back and let the players play and have fun. Hey coaches this should be the best part of your day especially dealing with adults all day in the work place. Have fun with your players, they will play better if their relaxed and not stressing about what is going to happen if they make an error.
Lets chill out and relax a little. Like I said have fun man!
Stephen K Reynolds is publisher of the LSR Unlimted "Free" newsletter which focuses on helping newcomers & seasoned pros learn the secrets to marketing in the ever changing world of the internet! He is also a youth baseball coach in Western Montana For more information on this e-mail email@example.com
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