My favorite photos from July 4 baseball. They occurred just seconds apart.
I’ll miss seeing Coach George McRae at Dixie Youth baseball games. Although our visits were typically brief, he always seemed to be in a pleasant mood and was just happy to be able to watch his grand children play baseball. I will always wonder what if? What if Coach McRae had stayed at West Columbus and been my high school coach my final three years? I’m sure I would have benefitted from his knowledge of pitching.
And speaking of time spent at youth baseball games, I have done my share over the last few weeks. @@%%$&%&$ Now try to focus (&(%$#& on what I am writing. ((&$65(6 It isn’t easy is it? I have a small fan I sometimes run in my cubicle here at the News Reporter. Sometimes I do it to move the air, more often to make noise. In our arrangement, it is easy to hear other reporter’s conversations. I have found it easier to concentrate when there is nothing (other conversations) to take away from my focus. The constant drone of the fan helps block out the “noise”
What does this have to do with youth baseball? First, one important note, I am not in any way criticizing any coach! I personally applaud the volunteers that head up these teams for the willingness to sacrifice their time to coach and put themselves in a position for others to criticize.
Here is something to think about. I have observed a constant stream of instructions for the proper techniques of hitting, pitching, fielding and base running during a game. It is all well intentioned, but I believe somewhat ineffective and in some ways harmful. Baseball is a game where swings and pitching and fielding mechanics are developed over weeks, even months of practice. Once the game begins you must focus on the baseball. You can’t have the split-second reaction time needed for success if your head is cluttered with thoughts of “Am I holding the bat right?” or “Did I step with the correct foot?” Just let the player focus on what good form he/she has developed in practice and hit, catch or throw the ball.
Limit the distractions to help with the focus. Another suggestion is to limit the signs. I may be the only hitter that the coach would give the take sign after I got two strikes!
I also wonder just how much of the terminology coaches use is understood by younger players. “Let the ball travel” is something you hear on MLB broadcasts. It has found its way to youth baseball. How many youth league players understand the concept? “Get on top of the ball.” “Hit it backside.” These are also popular, but do the majority of youth players understand what they mean?
NCHSAA Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Tillman told this story about a player he recruited to punt early in his coaching career. Tillman’s team was weak at the punting position so he held an open tryout. Tillman ended up selecting a youngster with no previous football experience, but a strong kicking leg. In an early season game, Tillman’s team had advanced the ball to the opponent’s 40-yard line, but faced fourth and long. Tillman called for the punter and told him to punt the football out of bounds. The ball was snapped, the punter received it, turned towards the home sideline and to Tillman’s horror, boomed the ball over the bleachers. Tillman accosted the player as he came off the field to find out why he didn’t try to kick the ball out of bounds inside the opponent’s 20. The player’s reply was simple. “You told me to kick it out of bounds, you didn’t say where.”
My point and the moral to Coach Tillman’s story, make sure all your players understand the terms used to explain concepts. Don’t overload them with too much to think about. Let them react and have the good habits instilled during practice take over. Otherwise, THANK YOU for the great service to the youth you are working with and the communities you are representing.