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What I Know And Remember About Baseball - Teaching

When teaching baseball or any other sport regardless of age, the players in ability to understand what the coach is trying to express is sole responsibility of the coach. Teaching involves respect, clarity, organization, motivation and context.

People learn by example, Coaches who are respectful of children are not just modeling a skill or behavior, they are meeting the emotional needs of those children, and create the conditions for children to respond whole heartedly.

Baseball,coach,teaching,players

When teaching baseball or any other sport regardless of age, the players in ability to understand what the coach is trying to express is sole responsibility of the coach. Teaching involves respect, clarity, organization, motivation and context.

People learn by example, Coaches who are respectful of children are not just modeling a skill or behavior, they are meeting the emotional needs of those children, and create the conditions for children to respond whole heartedly.

Clarity, to effectively communicate using clear ideas, clear goals, clear questions and clear conclusions. This level of interaction is truly age dependant but as a coach you must identify and speak to each players level of clarity. Relate to the age and reference level of your players.

Coaches are not teachers replete with pedagogy that work for every player. Granted, in the High School ranks and beyond this changes, but the majority of players do so through the recreational leagues where Dads, Moms, Uncles, Aunts and Grandparents of all backgrounds volunteer for the joy and frustration of being the coach.

Be prepared for practice with written notes and time schedule. Organization is likely the most critical aspect of any type of teaching. With all that is involved with being the coach, pen can paper can be your greatest allies. Organization is also a quality you can expect from your players.

As the leader, when you present a well formed and organized practice, game or gathering, your players see the success that is gained from organization. It will never be obvious, and you will never have a player come up and thank you for being an organizational icon. But they will learn, and all advances in being personally responsible and organized will always be a benefit.

There are many situations in baseball that can only be taught in situational settings. For regularly successful practices routine is king. For a portion of every practice, set aside time for drills and skills that everyone can perform correctly. This repetitive success is the building block for situational success. Routine drills also bring the team together as a whole as every ones efforts are focused on the singular event.

Cooperative effort may also be a solution for conveying a concept or skill. There are times where having a senior player take a role in teaching a skill to the team. Not only will they be able to communicate on the correct level, but again we provide a superior opportunity to practice leadership and build self esteem.

Skill drills can do a lot for a player. It is an excellent opportunity for the coaches to examine the individual movements of each player and corrections as needed. The downside is that most drills do not involve the context of the game. Within the practice regime it is critical to combine multi skill activities into drills.

Once the skill is placed into the context of the game, players can readily identify the significance of the drill. If someone known to you walked up and told you to walk 2 blocks south then 1 block west, it is likely you would not walk at all. Now if this same person gave you the same instruction with the context, I found a bag of cash and you can keep it, it is highly likely that you would briskly walk the 3 blocks.

A great drill for all ages above t-ball is the practice steal. No batter, with a good lead off first the runner heads for second when the pitcher releases, catcher makes the throw to second where the tag is made.

This drill helps the pitcher get over the worries of a runner stealing, catcher gets a real action throw to second, the catch and tag are evident and your runner under the watchful eye of the coach makes the perfect slide.

Way off the beaten path is having the players perform a skit. Players read from the script as they act out the events on the diamond. Not only does an exercise like this really change things up, but it also provides the opportunity to practice a little public speaking, humm, homework, social skills and baseball at the same time, nice.

Fun, clarity, organization, motivation and context, these are the keys to effective teaching at any level. Be prepared to take it easy on yourself if the plan you created does not seem to work. Allow yourself the grace to make changes on the fly. Enlist the help of others to convey concepts that elude your ability.

 

What I Know And Remember About Baseball- Glove Frustration

In the mid 70’s growing up in East Tacoma, not the best neighborhood and not quite the worst, there was little to do for a boy whose lot in life was to stay at home with his older sister and younger brother while mom was at work. There were no such things as ‘after school activities’ or ‘select leagues’. We had the Boys Club. A mere 8 blocks from home (if you knew the short-cuts, 13 if you followed the streets). The grumpy old man that ran our boys club, Jim, was actually a m...

baseball glove,baseball,hit,run,selection,history

In the mid 70’s growing up in East Tacoma, not the best neighborhood and not quite the worst, there was little to do for a boy whose lot in life was to stay at home with his older sister and younger brother while mom was at work. There were no such things as ‘after school activities’ or ‘select leagues’. We had the Boys Club. A mere 8 blocks from home (if you knew the short-cuts, 13 if you followed the streets). The grumpy old man that ran our boys club, Jim, was actually a monument to commitment. He was still the grumpy old man that ran it when I was in college.

Games were on Saturday and the turnout was usually light. Some Dads, some Moms, some Grand-pa’s. There was always 2 or more Dads with new shiners they received the night before; proud of how they mixed it up. Some of the Moms were a little more quiet. Covered with scarf’s and over-sized sunglasses or just a little extra make-up if the swelling wasn’t so bad.

Grand-pa’s were always the regulars. Chewing on smoldering stogies and arguing about something from the moment the left the parking lot. If they weren’t arguing with each other they stood shoulder to shoulder nagging the umpire about his vision. Which I thought was funny as I could only imagine what these seniors could actually see through the pop bottle bottoms they wore for glasses. Morning games always had lighter attendance. Afternoon ones a few more. Standing at the end of the fence were the Dad’s sipping out of a paper bag.

The Club provided the shirts, hats, bats, catchers gear and the standard GI issue duffle bag to lug it all around in. We provided our own gloves. Pants and shoes were the run what ya brung variety. Gear was predominately purchased at the B&I. With its own celebrity, Ivan the Gorilla, we all went there, we all wore the $4 jeans, we all sported various versions of what was offered, but we never talked about it.

For myself, Rawlings was the brand. 12” glove, genuine leather with a deep well pocket. I used this glove from 1972 to 1983. At a team practice or game. I could identify, on the run, every glove on our team; who it belonged to, what position they played. The balance of the team could do so as well. We didn’t have much, be there was a lot of pride in our gloves. How they helped us make the impossible plays. Catch the un-catchable ball. Just like the pro’s whose named adorned them. Even after moving to rural Puyallup in 77, players were the same, gloves of greater variety but still everyone know who’s was who’s.

Not so with current players. Gloves seem to be designed to last 1 season. $50 - $75 of annual parent frustration. The love of the glove is not the same. Disposable tool for a generation proclaiming recycling. Its just beyond my consideration.

As a parent, finances are substantially different then when I was growing up. I tend to save my money and buy the best of what I need. This goes for my kids as well. I have no qualms about getting the better end of what is available to meet their needs. My oldest on a whim decided to try out for a select baseball team and playing up a year. To my amazement they took him, but the backyard glove I’d taught him with would not be sufficient for the rigors he was to encounter. So, no problem, just find a good glove for a left hand thrower. WHAT A JOKE! I went to over a dozen stores and looked through hundreds of gloves.

I soon discovered that gloves go on sale in January when the shipments come in and the best selection is available. May is for good sales on what is already left over from the current year. Add to this that all sporting goods buyers believe that less than 1% of all players are left handed and 100% need a glove 12” or larger and you are hard pressed to get something age appropriate. Finally, not all gloves available for right hand throws are available for left hand throws. Seems the makers also feel that left hand throwers only need the larger gloves as well.

As market conditions have virtually wiped out the mom and pop sporting goods dealers in my area, box stores that have taken over have little to no ability to special order anything. If you do, its full MSRP + shipping + handling, +, +, annoying. The final selection seemed to have all the credentials, good brand name, endorsed by the Little League king himself, a little large, but small enough hand pocket to keep it in place, $60. Game ready and good pocket.

Within 6 weeks I was tightening up the laces, after 14 weeks, the outside finger area had broken down. Glove performance was poor and frustration was gaining speed. My player was loosing faith in his gloves ability to protect himself from the ball. My faith in this selection for him was also lost.

Off to the internet. Find a suitable replacement that I don’t need to re-purchase every year. East Bay, Just Gloves and Sports Diamond dominate the google and yahoo searches. All styles of the 3 majors (Rawlings, Wilson, Louisville) are there plus some of the up and comers (Nokoma, SSK, Nike, Reebok, etc ) but how do you justify a $89 glove to a $350 one.

How does one determine the upper youth model will give more than 1 season. Back to the internet to search owner comments and the individual pieces that make up a glove. Steerhide, that’s the ticket. Its generally thicker and denser than the run of the mill cowhide. The majors only use it in there most premium gloves. Even the up and comers reserve Steerhide for their top of the line gear.And when you find ads that tout their special process is "just like steerhide", well that tells a solid story.

Do I recommend handing a $350+ glove to a 9yr old, no.

Can I justify $120, well, compared to the prospect of spending $60 each year, if I get 2 years out of $120 it’s a break even. If he can keep it all through high school, then all the better.

Where did I find a steerhide glove that met all my criteria? http://nw.kelleyusa.com. These guys have just what you need for the price that is extremely right. They are a small company that offers direct pricing and distributorship.

Shrewd as I can be, I bought a distributorship and the mandatory inventory. I rationalized this by the fact I can get their best stuff at an even better price and at the very worst, give it away to the players we have in the family. I was very pleased with all the gloves they sent. Everything delivered as promised.

The recurring proof for me is when I attend shows and young teenagers arrive at my table with their Dads and attest “this is just as good as the (brand x) we have been looking at and half the price!”. That seals it for me. These young players spend hundreds if not thousands of hours reading, examining, touching gloves from every source they can find. To see so much enthusiasm just moments after introduction, it truly re-enforces my belief in these gloves.

Overall, better gloves solve several problems;

1) they last longer, period!
2) you only have to break them in once.
3) annualized return on dollars spent is greater.
4) you get a lifetime of baseball memories attached to one very personal glove.

So, is $120 a good price to pay? I say yes!

Copyright 2007 reprinted in whole with permission.

 

What I Know And Remember About Baseball- The Sweet Spot

The spot on the baseball bat where you can smack the ball as hard as you like and all you feel is the rush of the swing and the sound through your ears. There has been a lot said about exactly where this spot lies on the bat. But truth be known, it’s a different location on every bat. Variations between wood, metal and composites can shift the spot dramatically. Width of the spot can also change. Manufactured materials seem to have a better consistence in the spot where wood ...

baseball softball,gloves,youth,mit,hit,run,score,success,coaching,training

The spot on the baseball bat where you can smack the ball as hard as you like and all you feel is the rush of the swing and the sound through your ears. There has been a lot said about exactly where this spot lies on the bat. But truth be known, it’s a different location on every bat. Variations between wood, metal and composites can shift the spot dramatically. Width of the spot can also change. Manufactured materials seem to have a better consistence in the spot where wood can vary wildly from bat to bat; even when turned on the same lath from the same stock.

So much thought has gone into the location and exploitation of the spot that even hard core physics gurus continue to study it. http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~cross/baseball.html is just one place where they publish some pretty interesting things. I particularly like the graph of what a bat does during the process of the swing and contact. If you really want to spend a few weeks brushing up on the bio-mechanics of baseball http://webusers.npl.uiuc.edu/~a-nathan/pob/ has a bevy of links and references to keep your eyes blood shot for days. Albeit these may be too much for the casual athlete or even seasoned coach, they are still a good reference to have on had when you need additional credentials.

Back to the matter at hand. How do you find the sweet spot on your baseball bat. T work. Set up a T at a nice level for a comfortable swing. Ditch the batting gloves and with a gentle swing, enough to knock the ball to 2nd or so, start hitting and concentrate on the ‘feel’ in your hands. It should not take too many strikes to figure out where the zone lies. Striking the ball on the inside or outside of the sweet spot will send vibration down the bat and into your hands. Search for the zone that sends the least vibration to your hands.

Next, mark from the inside to the outside of the spot with wide masking tape. Take a few more knocks to confirm you have the spot. Now, with batting gloves on take full stride and swing at the ball. Take 5 or so then check the tape. Getting the picture. You have already determined where the spot is, now you are confirming what your swing is doing. Are the marks inside, outside or not even scaring the tape at all.

Not only does locating the sweet spot on your bat give you good information on what part of the bat you should be making contact with, but you now have solid information on what is happening when you swing at the perfect pitch.

Proof positive feedback on what the swing is doing allows the batter to determine what portion of the movement is incorrect and make the adjustment. Practicing a swing 100 times does damage where practicing a perfect swing 20 times helps.

Affirmation of a correct swing goes miles in the confidence and overall skill development of the player. Coaches and Parents can talk for hours and still not deliver the reinforcement a few swings marring a piece of tape will do.

You can also mark this spot with a permanent marker for later tape application. Remove the tape after each T session. Having glue build up on the baseball bat does nothing but make a mess and you don’t want to inadvertently alarm an umpire to thinking something is up.




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