Friday, January 25, 2013

Baseball For Life - Free Coaches Clinic

For the local Charlotte area folks.....

If you plan to coach a youth baseball team this spring, do yourself a favor and attend the Baseball For Life FREE Coaches Clinic on February 10, 2013 from 1:00-4:00 at Weddington High School. This clinic is for youth coaches of all levels, including ages 8 & under, 9-12 and 13 & over. Topics will include practice planning, drills, arm care and how best to teach fundamentals like throwing mechanics, hitting, pitching and more. There is no cost to attend, but you must register online.

I personally know some of the coaches involved with Baseball For Life and this clinic. They are not only knowledgeable baseball coaches, but they are good men. Led by Ed Walton and Mike Hennessey of Charlotte Country Day School and Mike Shildt of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, among others, Baseball For Life is an organization committed to promoting the game. But more importantly, it is a non-profit mentoring program dedicated to enhancing the lives of young people that need it most. I will share more information regarding that aspect of the organization at a later time. I plan to be involved myself.

For now, check out the Baseball For Life website and register for the Coaches Clinic if you plan to attend. Part of being a good coach is learning. We tell our players to never be satisfied with how good they are and never stop improving. We should do the same. Whether you are a professional or a tee ball coach, the better we all get at teaching the game, the better the game will be.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Selected Reading Material 1-18-13

A Sobering Look at Why I am Barely a Partying Sports Parent by Meagan Frank, Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It  -  Thoughts on the abundance of alcohol being openly consumed by parents on some youth sports trips. I've been there. These trips can be like mini-vacations for the parents, and therefore an excuse to party. Great post. It took guts to write this.

Do You Have the Necessary Coaching Skills? by Jack Perconte, Baseball Coaching Tips  -  Time for a little self evaluation. Not everyone should be coaching young athletes.

Encourage Your Child to Participate in Multiple Sports by Jeffrey Rhoads, Inside Youth Sports  -  The benefits of playing more than just your primary sport. I would add - just don't try to do everything in one season. Some kids are spread too thin.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Importance of the Batting Stance in Youth Baseball

I usually hesitate to change the batting stances of youth players. I figure having a little style at the plate is one of the fun parts of the game. Ball players like to maintain some of their own unique identity. Just ask this guy. And besides - what matters is that everything is in the proper position when the front heel plants. Just ask this guy.

But at some point, an incorrect batting stance can hinder a player's swing, especially a young player. Here are some basic parts of a good batting stance that will help lead to a good swing:

The Feet: I like a wide stance - several inches wider than the shoulders. This helps to eliminate any tendencies to drift forward with the upper body, lunge with the front knee, or step out. The batter can just tap the front foot for timing and stay back. There is no real stride forward. But most importantly, a wide stance gives the knees enough clearance from each other for the back knee to bend 90 degrees. This makes it more possible for the upper body and head to stay back behind the ball at contact on a line with the braced front leg. This positioning allows for a correct, slightly upward swing plane. Young players who

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Q&A: Correcting Common Swing Flaws With Youth Softball (and Baseball) Players

I got the following question from my friend, Anonymous, in the comment section of this post about muscle memory this morning. My answer got so long, I figured I would just make it a separate blog entry.

Hi Brandon. I watched a lot of your hitting swing analysis with your younger players and they all seem to have very good hip rotation and a long follow through with their swings. I coach a travel 16u fastpitch team and experience a lot of girls with: 1. hips not fully rotating, 2. leaning forward after contact, & 3. not fully finishing their swings. Any suggested drill you can recommend for each of the 3 scenarios? Thanks much.

I'm actually not that big on drills. There are a few that I use, but as you can see from the videos, I love using the tee. Hitters can work on swing mechanics and building correct muscle memory without worrying about timing or location. So we do tees at the beginning of each session, analyze videos together, and then go back to the tee to make adjustments. Those videos on my YouTube channel are mostly for the parents so that we are all on the same page. The players have already seen them plenty, so I don't upload all of them.

I also like front side short toss from behind a screen so we can put that adjusted swing to use on a moving, but easily controllable target. There is some overhand stuff, but really not that much. Once the player learns the swing, I just try to focus on one adjustment at a time, using a set of particular key words or phrases corresponding to each issue. Using tees and short-toss lets us work on specific areas over and over.

Now... finally... my thoughts on your 3 issues:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Little League Rule Changes for 2013

Little League Baseball posted it's annual rules and regulations changes over the holidays. This is a big year for the international organization, as its new Intermediate (50-70) Division will begin play in the spring. Here are some other modifications recently announced:

Regulation IV (d) - Pitching:  In the seventh year of its pitch count regulation, Little League has amended it to allow regular season and tournament ("all-star") pitchers to surpass any particular pitch count / days of rest threshold (20, 35, 50, 65 or 85 for age 14 and under) during an opponent's at-bat without incurring additional days of rest. For example, a pitcher may throw his 35th pitch to a particular batter, continue pitching to that batter until his plate appearance has ended, then be removed as a pitcher, and he will only be required to rest the standard one calendar day pertaining to the 35-pitch threshold. Prior to this rule change, pitchers were only allowed to surpass their total allowed threshold (85) in order to finish a batter. While in some extreme cases, this change could create an unhealthy situation for a pitcher's arm, overall I think it's a good decision. This will speed up games by increasing the odds that a team will finish an inning without having to stop the game for a pitching change.

Tournament Eligibility Affidavit:  Language was added requiring a minimum of 12 rostered players on tournament (all-star) teams, unless the local District Administrator deems the league to have a justifiable reason for having fewer. I think this is a good rule. Not only does it mandate that leagues provide the all-star experience to more players.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Selected Reading Material 1-7-13

The Importance of Core Strength for Young Athletes by Jodi Murphy, Outside the Lines / SportsSignup  -  A look at the importance of strengthening the core, a vital part of the kinetic chain.

Travel Teams: The Time Has Come for Some Real Reform by Rick Wolff, Ask Coach Wolff  -  "Why do we even allow travel teams for kids before they’re in middle school?"... "Hasn’t the time finally come to inject some sanity and start to eliminate some of this madness?"

10 New Year's Resolutions for Sports Parents: Time for a Fresh Start by Janis Meredith, JBM Thinks  -  Great advice for 2013. A list to remember.

If This Looks Familiar...

.... sign your kid up for a lesson.