Coaching Baseball - Youth to Elite Level Tips:
I believe baseball is one of the most over-coached sports on the planet.
Don't get me wrong, the impact that a coach has on their players is so important it's mindblowing. The bond that can exist between a coach who is using baseball as a tool to develop young players into responsible adults is a sacred bond that should never be taken lightly.
But it still stands - it’s in my opinion that the type of coach that teaches their players how to truly compete, I mean truly compete, and who guide them in refining technique without coaching the athleticism out of them - are few and far in-between.
One of my favorite "coaching baseball" quotes from Steve Springer is “Hey coach, you’re not gonna become the next Tommy Lasorda by winning the 12U Burger King championship. We have to be able to keep things light, and keep things fun”.
He's so right. lol
Characteristics of a Good Baseball Coach
Good coaching changes lives. Period. The benefits grow exponentially for years after players stop playing the game.
Mainly because baseball is a game of failure, and how a player responds to adversity during the game will dictate how they respond to adversity in life.
I think coaches with characterisitcs below are few and far inbetween, but like bat-speed, range of motion, and strenght and flexibility, these are tools that can be practiced.
- Open to feedback
- Earns your respect
- Nurtures your talents
- Willing to ride the storm with you
- Creates a healthy environment
- Pushes you to be better
- Has quick heals for the game
- Continues to learn
- Builds you up before breaking you down & then builds you up again.
If you're a player who has a coach with these attributes, make sure you tell them "thank you".
Baseball Coaching Concepts To Explore
As a hitter you’re only as good as the pitches you swing at - the higher the level a hitter competes at, the more important it will be to become selectively aggressive.
If hitting i about timing, pitching is about upsetting that timing. As hitters are job is to be on time.
Redefine definitions of success by winning the at-bat & be The hitter who wins at-bats - In a game loaded with failure, your biggest challenge is to be confident & stay confident when you’re not getting results.
If the only place you’re drawing confidence is from getting hits, you will always be a slave to your stats.
Instead - you need a plan to win the at-bat.
How good you get at:
- Posting-up & being aggressive up in the zone.
- Keeping your finger on the swing trigger™.
- Attacking the inner-half of the ball.
- Swinging w/ Intent
- Competing your tail off…
…will dictate your performance at the plate.
You can have the most mechanically sound swing on the planet, & all the confidence in the world - but if you don’t have the belief that you can beat the pitcher - none of it matters. You need a plan to Win The At-Bat.
Being a hard-nosed gamer is a full-time job - you can't just "flip the switch" if you want to excel in the game of baseball. How you do one thing is how you do most things. It starts with taking 100% ownership of everything. Instead of transferring blame, ask yourself "what can you do better?".
Learn to be your own hitting coach when in the box - you're not gonna be able to toe in the batter's box with a private hitting insructor in your back pocket. You need to be able to self-talk yourself into the right mindset.
It begins with focusing on the result you want, and ignoring the result you don't.What you focus on, expands.
Winning the day today is a choice - Real progress has a steep price tag. You have to be willing to pay it every day.
Learn to take criticism - If you can't handle a coach being hard on you, correcting you or telling you the truth, then you're going to hate the real world.
Make having integrity a priority - Don’t do what's right because someone is watching. Do it because you’re watching. Your self-esteem is what will hold you up when the results aren’t there. If integrity is what you do when nobody is watching, then self-esteem is the reputation you have with yourself.
In a game loaded with failure, your self-reputation is everything.
Master an efficient swing with a high compete level - Winning the at-bats is predicated on focusing on things we can control. If you need hits to feel successful, you will always be a slave to your stats.
Learn to swing efficiently - Sometimes we make hitting harder than it needs to be. For me - hitting is about minimized head movement, attacking the inner-half of the ball while swinging w/ intent to do damage.
How consistently you can repeat this movement will dictate your hard-hit contact percentage.
Learn to build leverage - A good swing starts from the ground up. We build leverage by getting our hands loaded away from our body so our hips can pull our hands through the zone, balanced & under control w/ intent to do damage.
The more aggressive the swing, the more accurate your hand-eye coordination.
Learn to compete - When you stop making it about you and your stats, and you start make it about winning the at-bat, winning the game, and building up your teammates, the pressure to perform goes away.
To me, competing is freedom. That feeling when you hit the ball so right on the screws, you didn’t feel it come off the bat, that's the best feeling in the world. We achieve that feeling every day by being a great competitor. Swing efficiently. Build leverage. Compete your tail off.
Combine all three, and you’ll Win At-Bats.
Keep a sense of humor - In a game loaded with failure, we have to be able to laugh at ourselves sometimes as hitters. If you don’t learn how to use humor in a game harder than most, get ready for a long career of frustration.
You’ll always be worried about future at-bats. always stuck on past at-bats.
Deal with adversity with a light heart. This game is a privilege that not everyone who wants to, gets to experience.
Enjoy the game, both the ups and downs, while you can.
Learn to love adversity - How a hitter responds to their bad at-bats says more about them and their projection than almost anything else. You wanna really take your hitting to the next level? See each failure as a lesson.
Every hitter has had an 0-10. Be a gamer. Refuse to quit.
Never get cheated by the fastball - Good hitters don’t get cheated by the fastball. Like Steve Springer said, ”If I tell you the fastball is coming, and you can’t put a good swing on it, go play soccer.”
0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-1 - these are good counts to be geared up for the fastball.
Be on time. See it well. Do some damage.
Learn to really build yourself up - The moment you step in the batters’ box, the most important thing running through your head is the thought that says, “I have what it takes to beat the pitcher. Period.”
Belief in the box is so important it’s mind-blowing. What you focus on expands. The mental self-talk in your mind, matters. Build yourself up. Choose what to think.
Approach is King - Hands down, the approach is king over mechanics and mentality.
Here’s why. You can have all the confidence in the world, and the sweetest swing on the planet, but if your approach sux, you’re gonna lose your confidence, and your mechanics will break down.
If and when you get in a funk at the plate, check your approach. Often, the right approach will clean your mechanics.
Be ready to pay the price - If playing pro/college ball one day seems too good to be true, you will create a price tag that’s unplayable.
You’ll think - "what’s the point of going the extra mile if most players never play after high school?"
The draft is a crapshoot. Most pro players never make it out of A-Ball.
On the flip side - if your price tag is something that you believe will benefit you beyond baseball, you’ll pay any price.
Here’s a hint. Make the price tag something that helps you to help others. When you stop making the game about you, good things happen.
Stop internalizing negativity - Adjustments on the field get easier when we stop internalizing negativity. No one is out to get you. The ump isn’t trying to take your lunch, and your coach is JUST trying to push you.
Take nothing personally. Take ownership of everything.
Always work on your compete, grit, & gamer ability - Talent is important, but the higher the level you go, it becomes less of a deciding factor.
Everyone is talented in pro ball. It’s compete level, grit level, and gamer ability that sets players apart.
Want proof? If baseball was based just on talent only, every player drafted in the first round would play 10 years in the big leagues. But that’s not what happens, right?
The MLB is chock-full of players who went undrafted out of high school, signed as free agents, played Juco ball, or who sat their first year in college ball.
Talent is very important, but your ability to compete your tail off, showcase grit and be a real gamer - that will be the deciding factor at the next level.
Learn to be consistently good - Wanna be great? Learn to be good, consistently. Often times, it’s not the flashy web-gem, 450-foot home-run, or laser show we put on in batting practice, it’s the consistent routine ground-ball put-outs, hard line-drives, swings on good pitches & a pre-game routine that keeps our butt in the starting 9.
You can’t be great if you’re not playing every day. If you wanna be great. Be good, consistently.
Consider how good do you really want to be - It’s not about how good you are, it’s about:
- how good you want to be.
- the plan to get you to where you wanna be.
- how persistent and committed you are.
I don’t care what you’ve been told. No one, and I mean no one knows how good you’re going to be. There’s never been a better time than now to identify and work on weaknesses.
If you struggle with velocity, move up the plate & work on getting your foot down early while you get to point of contact on time.
If you struggle with the curveball, get access to a CB wiffle ball machine and work loading late & driving balls up the middle.
If you don’t have access to a gym, get in your push up, bridges, plyometrics. There’s so much good training info online it’s mind-blowing.
If you don’t have access to a cage, set aside 5 minutes everyday & work on seeing yourself hit hard line drives in the gap, in your mind.
The reality is - if you wanna get better, you’ll find a way.
Sharpen your strengths so they become weapons. Work on your weaknesses so they don’t become liabilities.
learn how to stand out at the next level by working on skills other than talent - If you’re an idiot, you better be a stud.
It's almost always better to be a player who coaches admire. Doesn’t require talent. Just a little self-awareness.
Here are a few things coaches admire that have nothing to do with talent or ability.
- A sense of humor
- A clean locker
- A killer instinct
- Thick skin
When you learn how to laugh at yourself, rag your teammates while building them up, take care of your equipment responsibility, battle & compete to win while not taking things personally, trust me - you’ll stand out.
Learn how to deal with sitting the bench - Take 100% ownership.
As challenging as it may be, avoid transferring blame, and use the lack of playing time as a tool & teacher.
It’s not the coach's fault. It’s not your parent's fault or the coaches kid.
There are infinite ways to get better while not being part of the starting 9. Study the game. Cheer for your teammates. Show up early. Leave late. Be patient. Shed your entitlement. Humility goes a long way.
Lastly - work towards being so good you can't be ignored.
You’ll get your shot.
If not for this team, the next one.
There are so many programs out there looking for players that can play.
Head up. Stay after it.
Remember that you never know who's watching - You never know who’s watching. When scouts come to see recruits they’re heavy on, they’re not there to see them succeed.
They want to see:
- how they respond to adversity
- Their body language when they fail
- how they interact with teammates
- how they warm-up.
- How they respond to their teammate's success.
Then - they’ll ask the coach about the player's make-up and instincts.
You don’t have to go 4-4 to catch a scout’s attention.
Remember, one day will be your last day - One day, it’ll be your last day to the ballpark as a player. Your cleats will have to hang, and all that will be left are the life-lessons, and friendships.
Take time to enjoy your teammates. Smile, laugh, and don’t take things too seriously. Embrace the lite-ragging. Don’t take things too personally. Take every chance to build up your teammates. These memories will influence every positive decision you make in the future.
Strive to leave a legacy - As a player, you will have three choices to make that dictate the type of player you become.
You can choose to become a:
"Bare Minimum Guy"- only attends mandatory practice. Does minimum to keep his uniform. Always ready with an excuse.
"Common guy” - Gets extra work when he feels good”, but only works hard at things he enjoys.
“Uncommon” guy - works hard and gets extra work at everything, even things he doesn’t like. Understands the price to reach potential. Totally invested.
“Legacy guy" - same as uncommon guy but brings other guys with him and demands they get better too.
Be ready & want the ball - 12,386,344. That's how many possible plays each ball game has, and your only job is to be the best competitor on the field.
How your swing looks. Who’s in the stands. Day game or night game. None of it matters. What matters is the next play, and your compete level.
Make sure your compete level stays above your ability level.
Practice summoning confidence - How to summon confidence.
Your ability to rehearse success & make adjustments is everything.
Here’s a simple trick to help develop that skill. Imagine facing an MLB all-star on the mound.
Now imagine hitting a hard line drive right back up the middle.
Now imagine staying back and hitting a double in the opposite field gap.
Now imagine hitting a bomb dead center.
The trick is this. Make it vivid. See it in detail. Immerse yourself in the environment.
What do you hear, smell, feel, or taste. How does the bat feel in your hands?
How good you get at visualizing & rehearsing success, will be in direct proportion to your ability to summon confidence.
90% of hitting is how you feel while walking up to the plate.
When you visualize, the mind doesn’t know the body is not doing it.
Be patient - On occasion, while working on something in batting practice, it’s tempting to want to see results appear immediately.
Sometimes the change comes quickly after a small tweak.
Sometimes the change comes suddenly a few days later when we’ve let go of outcome. The trick is to let go. Good things happen when we get out of our own way.
When you remember to have fun, the things you work on appear, and the adjustments get made.
Learn how to REALLY focus - Hey, guess what, that space between your ears...that’s yours. Be strict with what goes in and what comes out.
As hitters, we have to get great at focusing on the results we want while ignoring the result we don’t.
You can start by controlling what you think, and controlling your mental chatter.
Instead of "Don’t strike out."
Think: "Attack the inner half & hit something up the middle."
Instead of "I hope I get a hit."
Think: "I know I’m gonna hit a hard line-drive right back up the middle.
Instead of: I suck!
Think: "I’m failing, but learning.”
How great you get at controlling what you focus on, and the mental chatter in your head will dictate how far you make it in this game.
What you focus on expands.
Understand the mentality for driving the ball for power - Think: "hit the ball hard instead of hitting the ball far."
Take fastball swings on off-speed pitches.
Swing with intent to do serious damage.
Look for mistake pitches up in the zone, and when you get it, don’t miss.
Be aggressive early.
Align your baseball goals with core values - Here’s how you can overcome performance anxiety, build confidence while guaranteeing continual progress. Align goals with core values.
You have a goal. Let’s say that the goal is to play college or pro ball. Or maybe it’s to hit .380 or to lead your team in hits.
Admirable goals, but your chances of accomplishing them quadruple when you take that goal and you connect it to a commitment to learning, being a great teammate, being mentally tough, learning how to be a leader, developing discipline, or a pursuit of excellence or purpose.
Having goals are important, but aligning them with a core value will make those goals worth going through hell to achieve them.
Learn to rehearse success in your mind - one way pro guys build confidence is by rehearsing success with a repeatable routine.
Let's call it a daily attainable goal.
Here are some ways you can rehearse success with daily attainable goals.
Imagine hitting a pitch right on the screws. A line drive up the middle. See yourself taking a hard aggressive turn around first base and then turning back to give your first base coach a fist bump.
Make it so real in your mind that you start to believe it already happened.
You can succeed in what you choose to think and see in your mind.
1. Use a ritual - perform the same repeatable routine in the on-deck circle. Dig in the box the same exact way every time.
Have the same mental checklist before the pitcher starts their delivery. You can succeed in your preparation.
2. Model the successful - see how other players are getting the job done. Ask them what they were thinking when they were locked-in. Then imagine yourself doing it.
When you watch a big league game, imagine it’s you dominating in the box.
Success leaves clues.
So much of this game is beyond our control. we can't control getting a hit because we can hit the ball perfectly but we then get robbed.
Finds things you can control, and then execute them. This is how you will build confidence.
Baseball Coaching Concepts In Closing
These are a few youth to elite baseball coachng concepts that I've learned and have been tought over the years.
I'll probably add some more further down the road. If you liked these, please follow me on Instagram where I share concepts on a daily basis.
You can find me at @appliedvisionbaseball.
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