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Irvine, Ca

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Irvine Little League Baseball Coach offering private baseball lessons, baseball camps, and coaches clinics.

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Coach Ballgame (Irvine, Ca) provides tips and advice for those struggling with coaching their little league teams.

Filtering by Tag: baseball swing

A Bad Picture

James Lowe

One of my most talented players has decided to quit baseball.  He’s seven years old.  WHY?

A five year old attended my Summer Camp in a last ditch effort to find the joy in baseball.  WHY?

              A nine year old was so anxious, he couldn’t sleep the last three nights in anticipation of a new PE class.                                                   

                                                                                          WHY?!

I know why.  A bad picture gets painted in a young person’s brain MUCH clearer than a good picture.  In all three examples, these kids had been scarred by a prior experience with a coach.  When I asked these children specifics of their bad pictures, here were some quotes:  “I felt a lot of pressure.”  “The Coach was always negative.” “My Coach argued a lot, and got kicked out of games.” “I was afraid to make any mistakes.”  “I wasn’t having fun.” 

Now let’s push pause for a second.  I know I’m in the minority here, but I personally fed off getting yelled at.  I thrived when I was pressured to succeed.  I even got fired up when my coach stuck up for his players and got kicked out of a game.  But I was 18 years old.  I was a grown man.   Prior to that, I wasn’t able to embrace that coaching style in a healthy way.  Picture an eight year old version of Coach Ballgame crying his eyes out in a dugout because he made three errors at third base.  I remember it well.

In my humble opinion, the atmosphere of coaching high schoolers and  coaching our youth must be apples and oranges.  At a mature age, one can compartmentalize the pressures bestowed upon them.  One can even see through the semantics and understand exactly what the coach is trying to do.  And by that age, you’re dealing with adults who’ve been in love with that sport for many years.   Conversely, with youth sports, you’ve gotta be in the business of “giving the bug.”   My proudest moments come when a parent informs me of their child’s newfound obsession with baseball.  “My kid is exchanging baseball cards with their friends, and we are going to our first ever Angels Game!”  They’ve got the bug baby!  As a youth coach, I did my job. 

In all three examples at the top, I actually believe the coach meant well, and was simply teaching the way they were taught.  I definitely started coaching Little Leaguers that way, and it led to neither of us having any fun at all.  As I began to look at the big picture of youth sports, a blaring theme became clear.  These kids shouldn’t need to know they are learning skills.  These kids shouldn’t realize they are being challenged.  I can actually build their character, and sharpen their skills, all while they are having the time of their life.    Their sole realization is they are engaged. Unfortunately, this task hasn’t  gotten any easier.  We’re up against a fierce enemy: The INCREDIBLY ENGAGING WORLD OF VIDEO GAMES.  So what do we do about it?  We paint ten really fun, memorable pictures of youth baseball in their brain at an early age, and you hope that outweighs the one Bad Picture they are bound to have.  Young kids need to feel as excited about playing baseball as they would at a Fortnite themed birthday party.

In closing, this is not a negative rant on bad youth coaching.  I’m too optimistic to believe a parent who takes time off work to coach their kids, and in turn paints a bad picture in the right fielder’s brain was malicious.  They simply fell into the same traps I did as a young coach.  I stick by the idea that we all mean well.  But the time has come to execute well also.  Kids need sports.  Kids are actually yearning for sports.  So let's help them paint some beautiful pictures and create a lifetime love for sports.

To hear more information on how to keep your kid in love with baseball, check out my podcast here.

           

 

           

 

           

The Top Two Keys to Hitting Fast Pitching

James Lowe

Culture shock sets in for a hitter when they begin to face faster pitching. The thought of not being able to catch up to the heat causes them to press, which leads to bad habits such as lunging, squeezing the bat tight, and moving their head around like a dolphin out of water. It's not an easy transition for a hitter, but with lots of reps, it is very doable. The key here has to do with the timing of their load, and their bat path.

THE LOAD: When facing slow to medium paced pitching, a hitter can get away with loading their hands and hips while the pitch is flying in their direction.  Against faster pitching, the hitter needs to get his hands and hips prepared prior to the release of the ball from the pitcher's hand. This will give them some much needed 'extra time' to recognize the pitch, before going at it. 

THE BAT PATH: Secondly, from the loaded position, the hitter must take their hands forward. This seems to be foreign for most, as hitters are born with this innate urge to make a long swing.  

A “Big Swing" is not a good swing. 

Once the pitch is released, the barrel of the bat can't go backwards or down. I call those areas "burger land," and we don't have time to go get a burger. The barrel has to quickly get out in front of the hitters’ body if they wish to hit the ball hard.

The most consistent hitters usually have the simplest swings. They sacrifice the big stride for a simple coil and uncoil of the hips. Take Daniel Murphy and Kris Bryant for instance. Their swing is very "A to B", quiet yet quick.  They use their core muscles, instead of their flimsy arms and feet.  They were the best two hitters in the National League last year, AND they had power. 

I know from experience, turning a long swing into a quick swing is no walk in the park.  It takes lots of work in the cage.  But as a wise man once said, "Champions are made in the batting cage."

For more information on how to teach the skills of baseball to kids, check out my online coaching course here.