BC Baseball on Player Development
Sometimes we lose sight of why we coach Baseball. We focus on the result, winning or losing. And we forget the real reason kids play the game. Sure they want to have fun and they like to win. But more importantly, they want to get better. Baseball is really all about two words: “Player Development”
That is our mantra at BC Baseball. With more than 17,000 players in our program, our main goal is developing skills. When a young player graduates from the College Prep or 18U Baseball divisions they should be able to look back and know they’ve come a long way.
This all starts at the 11U and 13U level.
It is crucial to have as much practice time as possible. Games are great and we want players to compete. But without training they are playing with one hand tied behind their back. You don’t develop skills in games. You develop them on the practice field. And you should have at least one practice for every game you play.
Basketball players have three main skills. Dribbling, Passing, Shooting. And as every hoop coach knows, if a player can rebound and shut down the other team’s top scorer, he or she does not even need to shoot, dribble or pass.
By comparison baseball is as complex as The Theory of Relativity, a Wikipedia of skills, so many that it is almost impossible to cover them all. The mechanics of pitching and hitting are almost infinite. Toss in base running, infield and outfield fundamentals, cuts and relays, bunting and bunt defence, first and third, and on and on. Think about this. There are at least 18 double play feeds alone.
We don’t expect volunteer coaches to absorb all this information. However we suggest that they should attend clinics and read and watch and learn enough to stay ahead of their players resulting in bringing something new to every workout.
Practice is the key.
As an example, batting practice should never be one player hitting while 11 teammates shag and watch. BP should be at least three stations and four or five, if possible. For example:
1) Four players hitting and running the bases on their fifth swing.
2) Four players in the field reacting to the ball off the bat.
3) Four more hitting wiffle balls or off the tee in the right field corner.
4) And a final quartet doing strengthening and conditioning exercises.
This is a productive BP. It includes swings, base running, fielding, hand-eye, mechanics, and getting stronger.
Training gurus like Eric Cressey and Alwyn Cosgrove are adamant that kids should have fun playing the game, they should be gaining skills all the time, they should play several sports to develop athleticism, and they should limit the amount of showcase games.
It is also crucial that coaches protect the arms of their players. Jeff Passan wrote an exceptional book called The Arm. He deplored the way many young players are treated. “I found a wasteland of ignorance, greed, and scars on the elbows of children,” he says. “There are showcases 11 months of the year and out of control pitch counts for arms simply too young to handle the workload.”
Obviously, we are not against playing games. They are the finish line. But development is key of practice time. And that’s the goal of BC Baseball.
Ten years from now no one will remember that you won a game on May 22nd. But a young man who is playing Junior College baseball will have fond memories of the skills he or she learned in practice and how valuable they have been.
That’s the legacy of any great coach.