Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact Coach Ballgame!


Irvine, Ca

3239472413

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

Blog

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

Filtering by Category: irvine pony little league

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 Practice Is More Important Than The Game”

James Lowe

I love sitting in the bleachers and watching clients of mine play in their Little League baseball games.  In our private sessions, they are very composed and on point with their skills.  During the games though, the majority of them seem tense and anxious.  Almost without fail, I see it with pitchers.  They rush their tempo and aim the ball.   After a few walks, they look completely lost, and their countenance is quite miserable.  Watching these struggles is great insight for me to see the “game version” of the player.  So why the 180 degree switch?  Here’s my take…

1) Young players tend to treat practice as “Fun Time,” and the game as “Pressure Time.” 

Unfortunately, it should be the other way around.  One of my favorite sayings is, “Over prepare in practice, so you can throw it all away in the game.”  Yes, practice should always be engaging and fun, but it should also be a forum for deep skill development.  This is when a player should think.  This is when a player should set specific goals, and find ways to combat bad tendencies. This is the forum for a player to challenge themselves and in a healthy way, be hard on themselves.  Practice should also be used to give players experiences and emotions similar to that of a game. In the above scenario, I would suggest having the young pitcher face live batters in practice as much as possible.  When he recreates the feel of the “Game” in “Practice,” then he will have more freedom to be his regular self when the umpire says, ‘Play Ball!’  If they treat practice in this way, the actual game should seem slow, easy, and most importantly FUN. 

2) Coaches and Parents tend to fall under the same umbrella. 

Practice is for fun, and the game is a time to stress.  Practice gives the player an opportunity to smile, whereas the game is where too many thoughts fill up their brain, and combust into a cloud of pressure.  Can you imagine a culture where the outcomes in practice take precedent over the outcomes in games?  Furthermore, can you imagine the freedom a Little Leaguer gets from knowing that their parents and coaches could care less if individual success occurs in an upcoming game? 

“You’ve put the work in, now go entertain the crowd,” is one of my all time favorite quotes. 

I’ve seen thousands of scrimmage games in my years of coaching baseball camps.  We never keep score, and personal stats go out the window.  It’s treated as a culmination and a celebration of all the hard work we have put into our preparation. The quality of the game is amazing.  The players are expected to be “kids” and play like they are in the backyard with their friends.  Juxtapose that with the tension felt at League games, and it is night and day. 

To hear more information on how to keep baseball exciting, check out my podcast here.

Why Little League Players are Afraid of the Ball

James Lowe

Numerous Little League players come to me each year with a new found fear of getting hit by a pitch. The first thing I do is congratulate them for being honest with themselves. Half the battle is just being able to communicate this fear in a healthy way to a parent or coach. Secondly, I inform them that they are not alone in this fear. At one point or another every college and/or professional player (including me) has dealt with this shaky feeling when stepping into the batters box. It usually happens the first or second year of kid pitch, and most pros can tell you the exact pitcher that struck fear into them at that ripe age of 7 or 8.  Why is this age so prominent?  The pitchers are fairly new to being on a mound, thus they are wild.  Combine that with the fact that these hitters simply aren't used to facing another human their age, and it's a perfect concoction of "I'm scared and I wanna quit." This is where I hit them with a few facts:

1) Baseball players are mighty warriors. If they weren't, then everybody in the world would be playing baseball.


2) The pitcher is holding a tiny rubber ball wrapped in plastic and thread, while you are holding a mean, lean, fighting machine we call a bat. I'd rather be holding the mean thing as opposed to the puny thing if I'm headed to battle.


3) There is a huge difference between pain and injury. Pain hurts for a few seconds, but you don't have to go to the hospital. An injury means we need to get the ambulance ready. I've been hit hundreds of times, including 55 times in my four years of college, (Brown University School Record btw) and I never suffered an injury.  I've also witnessed thousands of HBP's in my lifetime, all of them causing pain, but not injury.


4) This one tends to get the best response... When you do get hit and you feel that pain, yes it stings, and it hurts, and it is no fun. BUT, as you jog down to first base, guess what's happening? Every player on the opposing team is whispering to their buddy, "Hey, that guy that just got hit, he's tough and I want to be like him." Every player on your own team is saying the exact same thing. The coaches, umpires, and all the fans in the stands all echo in unison, "That kid is tough. I wanna be as brave as that kid. He's a Mighty Warrior!" By the time you've gotten to first base and all those people have said those glorifying words, the pain is pretty much gone, yet you've earned the respect of many.

In closing, The approach of the parent and/or coach makes all the difference. I've seen this happen many times where an aggressive tone towards this issue just fuels the fire of fear.  Make these words challenging, yet relatable and uplifting. This will give the Little League player a good head start. The only true remedy though is experience. The process of simply stepping into the batters box over and over again, looking out at that pitcher, and attempting to be a mighty warrior is paramount. Then a day will come where that fear just simply disappears, and they will noticeably be on the offensive. 

To hear more information on how to keep baseball exciting, check out my podcast here.