“Parents and players get consumed with their mechanics. Develop freedom, athleticism and speed first. Refine later. 9 out of 10 videos I get sent to me need bat speed programming above anything.”
“What supplements should I use to get bigger and stronger?!?
Don’t miss a workout for two years and get back to me.”
“You’re a good father. IMO:
-Encourage your son to play multiple sports (don’t force it)
-Read MLB PitchSmart on innings limits
-Stay away from year-round baseball (basically just don’t let him throw year-round)
-Get him into a general physical training program of sorts”
This is a response to this question (for clarity, I was not the person who asked the question):
“Is 9 yrs old to early to be looking into this stuff? My son is a solid baseball player and I just want to do whatever I can to help him train and reach is potential. I also don’t want to be a crazy dad n do too much to burn him out. What do you suggest to train a young athlete?”
The answer to this question depends on the parent(s) willingness to be directly involved in the development and learning of the game. And that statement in no way passes judgment on the parent. It simply means that a parent needs to make an honest assessment of themselves (sometimes not the easiest part) and what is in the best interest of the child.
T-ball – no lessons. Let the Tball coaches work their magic. And I’m going to give a shout out to Tball coaches – God bless them. The Tball field is the loudest field in any youth ball park in America (and for good reason) and those coaches are basically trying to herd cats in the middle of a baseball game. I did it, I’m glad I did – I don’t plan on doing it again. 🙂
From Tball to coach pitch/machine pitch is the level where being able to visually track and hit a moving ball is the first fundamental. For the enterprising parent, the underhand soft toss with a wiffle ball from 10 to 15 feet is great for learning to hit a moving ball. Just tell your child if they think they can hit it, swing fast! At first, there will be swing and misses and falling down. That’s ok! Praise the effort, not the result. The 3 – 5 sessions (about 20 – 30 swings each sessions) keep it simple. Hitting a moving ball with a round bat is not easy, especially for a 6 to 7-year-old. You can also throw the wiffle ball over hand from 20 – 30 feet away. You don’t need a net, they don’t fly very far since it is a wiffle ball. You can make it more challenging with mini wiffle balls or varying the speed you throw or toss the wiffel ball.
If this doesn’t seem like something you want to try to do as a parent, lessons are your best bet. But I encourage you to try. Not because you have this burning desire to coach but similar to playing catch, these are life long memories between a parent and the child. This age goes by fast. In that sense, you really can’t do it “wrong”.
As you get closer to live arm/kid pitch level (9-10 year olds) the more hitting a moving ball with some relative velocity starts to matter more and more. At this point, if your child shows a level of interest and willingness to get better (put extra time in outside of team practice) then most parents need to consider getting in a batting cage. At these ages (if not sooner), standing behind a screen and using real balls needs to be used more than wiffle balls. Here’s an example of underhand soft toss:
If you don’t see yourself (mom or dad) throwing a baseball or softball to your child with relative velocity standing behind a screen in a batting cage, then finding a hitting instructor with whom you feel comfortable with probably should be in your future.
Don’t forget, if you can not find or have access too a good local hitting instructor there are some really good online/remote hitting instructors.
Ask this type of question in youth ball circles and heated opinions are going to be coming in hot. But the issue might be the question doesn’t make sense … because the answer may not be one or the other, but more of a “when”.
In the context of playing in a game or in a team practice, I can promise you a very large percentage of youth coach cares about accuracy. This makes sense because team coaches are concerned about winning a game. In youth ball, making the fewest errors in a game almost alway results in a win. The kids should want to win a game. Moms and dads want their kid to play error free during practices and games. You will never hear me say winning a game shouldn’t matter to a coach, to a player, or to parents.
But let’s not pretend being able to throw a ball relatively fast is a very good thing. In fact, it is a difference maker between youth to high school – from high school to college. Anyone telling you velocity “doesn’t matter” in the big picture is simply wrong. It is true a 12 yr old kid can be successful “just throwing strikes”. It is also true that a very large percentage of those same kids can’t be an effective pitcher a season or two later because of the increase in distance of the mound to the plate. It is also true that a big drop in youth baseball participation occurs when they move up to the “big field”. The main reason for this drop off is not the lack of baseball knowledge or lost love for the game. It is because they can’t throw the ball fast enough or far enough to play effectively on the big field – so they quit.
Good news! Developing the ability to throw faster is profoundly trainable … even for moms and/or dads of a youth player that are willing to put in some assistance. Here are the basics of a 2-3 times a week for 3-5 week throwing process from USA baseball:
- Players should start out throwing at short distances and gradually increase distance and intensity of throws over the course of each session and during the latter weeks of the progression.
- Playing catch or throwing with a purpose to gradually warm up and increase your throws in terms of intensity and distance
- Always gain forward momentum toward target with a crow hop at relatively longer distances
- After reaching that maximum distance at which the player feels comfortable, make ten throws at that distance before gradually moving back toward your target area
- Avoid throwing on consecutive days
This can be done with a throwing partner (mom or dad?) or against a wall, fence, tire hanging from a tree, whatever. Just throw with the intention of throwing “fast” for 20 – 30 throws after warmup throws. Accuracy is not matters most here, throwing with relative intent to throw fast is what matters.
Oh, you prefer a more full-blown researched process with examples of exercises and distances thrown? And you want a demonstrated result that an increase in velocity can be trained as compared to a controlled group that just “grew into velocity”? Oh, and you want that for free? Here ya go:
What if we worked on increasing velocity during the off-season? What if we did this during the 3 – 4 month minimum break from playing youth baseball games as recommended by USA Baseball and recommended by college and professional coaches as well? Food for thought.
Now, what if after increasing the speed a player throws after training for 4-6 weeks you then shift over to more traditional “accuracy” type throws? Like just play catch for a week or two. Maybe aim for a spot at varying distances? Do you think that maybe a player could increase their throwing velocity AND accuracy over a period of 2 – 3 months? Hint – this kind of result happens more than most think and it occurs at all levels if you train accordingly.
So maybe developing a player to throw faster and accurate is possible but it’s gonna take more time than a weekend, a single lesson, or one drill.
Stay thirsty my friend.
An idiom for sure but the goal of getting better as a hitter can be found using something other than your favorite bat.
Changing the size, length, and/or weight of what is being swung, used as a rotational aide, or help training a feel does impact the bodies learning curve. It causes your brain and central nervous system to adjust and adapt to the tool or device being used. This is not theory. There is historical anecdotal evidence (informal) as well as scientific research. Want proof? Cool – Both the anecdotal/historical and scientific evidence can be found with a simple Google search using some of the words used in this post (and just watch the videos below). An example of scientific research can be found HERE. If reading scientific research is not your thing, here is a quote from its abstract:
“All three groups showed significant increase in bat swing velocity during the study (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the differences between pre- and posttest scores (delta scores) were significant between BP and control, between DS and control, and between BP and DS (p < 0.05). It is suggested that training with variable weighted implements will significantly increase bat swing velocity, and that the use of loads specific to the target activity but with sufficient variation about the standard load will induce further training adaptations.”
The point is it works. Like anything else, it takes a bit of judgment on how to use it – especially as it relates to each individual. Let’s press on.
PVC – yea, that plastic plumbing pipe at your local home improvement center. We had hardware stores back in the day kids, sorry old dude moment 🙂 It’s cheap, easy to cut to length, can add tape/weight, comes in variety of sizes and thickness. Some examples of use:
There are plenty of products/programs you can purchase from baseball training websites that can used to help improve a player. I am not saying you shouldn’t use, check into, or buy a more formal product/program. I encourage you to look into them. The end game here is to benefit the player. The point of this post is to make you aware that using something other than your game bat can be a real difference maker in any player – youth or otherwise.
Next, we will touch on weighted bat training. In simplest terms, these are bats that vary the targeted game bat weight by roughly 20% – heavier and lighter. Can be purchased as a set of bats or an individually adjustable bat – either way, they can help improve your hitting. With a little leg work and independent thought you can make your own:
For those with an analytical mind and want to know more about the “why” or “how” weighted bats work, here is an excerpt from Chad Longworth Online LINK TO FULL PAGE
“All human movement is governed by the central nervous system (CNS) of the human body. It acts as the command center for our movements and is responsible for all voluntary movement. It is very adaptable and responds quickly to changes in our environment to accomplish required tasks.
During movement, our body is heavily reliant on sensory information to create a roadmap of our surroundings. This helps us orient ourselves, and create a motor plan to solve the movement task in front of us. Take riding a bike as an example. In the beginning, the task is challenging. Learning to keep the bike balanced as you pedal seems like an impossible task (which is why the most complex movements are determined from a young age, stubborn persistence). But the more acclimated your body becomes to the task, “creating a roadmap,” the more the CNS will develop an autopilot for the task to accomplish the outcome.
Now to hit a baseball. It’s the most difficult skill in sports, and achieving it requires more than just simple “mechanics.” At the beginning aiming a round bat at a round ball and making square contact in fractions of a second seems like an impossible feat. But the more time you spend, the better and easier the task of hitting the baseball becomes. This is the CNS adapting quickly how to do the task. As this process becomes easier, the hitter’s CNS can stop making changes because the body has developed a roadmap for the execution of the movement. This roadmap then becomes a permanent fixture in the player’s brain and thus, efficient or not; it is there unless a new challenge is presented to the system.
The new challenge becomes a different weighted bat. This wakes up the brain and forces the CNS to stop using “autopilot” so that new, better roadmaps are created within the brain to accommodate the change. Think of your practice process as a hitter; you go to the cage, hit some balls off the tee, do some front toss, maybe take some BP, and call it a day. Not only is this boring to you, but it is also boring to your CNS not evening registering as a slight breeze to a flag on its flagpole (yawn). Now do that same process using weighted bat implements. You now have new sensory information because you are using a heavy (end or knob) and/or a light bat. The CNS must go into overdrive to account for the new variables, and a new, better movement roadmap is created. Effectively you are taking what used to be a two lane somewhat curvy road that your movement plan traveled upon and are turning it into an eight lane super highway. Because the challenge of the weighted bats is new, and the body realizes it’s new, additional movement compensations must be made to accomplish the task.”
As a player progresses up the levels of baseball, hitting becomes much harder. The best on the planet fail about 2 out of 3 times. The training window starts to close faster than most think. In closing, great hitters at any level have at least one thing in common – they can pick up pretty much any bat in the dugout and still be a dangerous hitter. Listen to exhibit A:
“Helping build power, confidence and consistency on the mound”
The impact of technology on player development and providing opportunities is real. It is filtering its way through all levels of the sport. Some may not like it but the impact is undeniable.