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  • Performs in practice not so much in game

    Hello:
    Is it a realistic expectation for a young ballplayer to have a quality at bat 50% of the time? Notice I did not say get a hit but rather put a great swing on the ball and either make good contact or be selective enough to swing at a good pitch?

    I am a bit sad and disappointed for my little who has good skills; arm, fielding, running, hitting ( practice)
    He was in a few situations of pressure and produced nothing other than a weak AB each time.

    At his age 11.5 is it okay demand he put a good swing on the ball like I l know he can?

    What’s going on here- between practice player and game performer. This never really has happened.

    Wife thinks he will finally “get it” and realize he has skills and is talented. That’s her take

    Plus I know I have handled it wrong. He has seen my frustration but I explained to him I was disappointed for him. Im not living through him-been there and done that.

    Reasoned ideas and any help so much needed.

    Thanks
    Dutch
    Last edited by Dutchman123; 07-08-2018, 12:47 PM.

  • #2
    Dutch,

    I don’t think the situation you are describing is that unusual. I went through something similar with my oldest son around 10/11 yrs ... he was a very good hitter for his age (great eye-hand coordination, and pretty good power), but he would play “small” and timid in games. He just didn’t realize what he was capable of, and he didn’t have confidence, despite my constant encouragement.

    I wish I could say I figured out how to help him, but I didn’t ... he gradually got more and more confident, starting around his 12th birthday. He made a travel team and put in more time practicing and hitting. I think the reps helped, but he also started to realize what he could do athletically, and he started getting more comfortable/confident on the field. The transition has been so rewarding to watch ... especially when he steps in the batters box these days.

    I will say that if your son is seeing/sending your frustration, that is likely going to be counterproductive. Again, I was in the same boat and didn’t do any better at the time ... it was only after he made his travel team that I forced myself to let his performance be “his” performance. At 12, I figured he probably knew enough to realize what he needed to work on, and I just made myself available to throw BP when he wanted to get some work in.

    My only instruction to him these days is on attitude and effort ... I try to remind him that if he wants to continue to play the game competitively, it’s going to require work ... no shortcuts.

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    • #3
      The thing about baseball is at every gate the game gets more challenging. At each gate the number that survives gets smaller and smaller. The next gate is the larger field at thirteen. Your son has a year to “get it.”

      My daughter became a significantly better softball player when she grew at fourteen. But she was already a good player playing 16u at fourteen.

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      • #4
        My 8 year old daughter is like this on defense. At the plate she is fine, but in the field she makes about 1/3 of the plays I know she is capable of. Too tentative, almost like she is surprised when it is hit to her half the time even though I have told her a million times to expect every ball to be hit to her. The problem is I can hit her a million ground balls at the park and it isn't going to fix it..something needs to click with her and there is nothing that I as the parent can really do to help..frustrating as he$&. To be honest I have been hitting her a lot of fly balls lately because at some point her "freezing" in the infield is going to get her moved to the OF regardless of how good she looks fielding when she knows the ball is going to be hit to her.
        Last edited by pattar; 07-09-2018, 06:08 AM.

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        • #5
          Dutch,
          I haven't seen him play, so take this with a grain of salt. What do you think it is that keeping practice from transferring to the game? But if I have kids that I am coaching that are having this problem, then I am looking more at my practices to figure out what I am doing wrong especially if this is not isolated to one player. I am not one that blames it on the player, but like Jett said, there is a time when every player reaches the end of their career and this is symptomatic of that. Here are some things I have seen in the past help kids in this regard.

          1. Practice is way easier than the game. It is easier to make a good pass at the ball when you know the timing and there is no stress. It is not bad to have a stress free batting practice sometimes where you are just grooving your swing, but it could cause the problem you are seeing of practice not transferring to the game. During our batting practices, we will throw harder than they will see in a tournament, we will work off speed, we will work on the holes in their swings. Then right before a tournament, or game we will switch to easy practice and have them get everything tuned up.
          2. In conjunction with that, because he hasn't been stressed in practice he chooses poor pitches to swing at. This really hurts a kid that is good at making contact. He then weakly grounds the ball, pops up etc. With these kids I have worked on telling them that every swing should be a perfect swing. I would rather them swing hard correctly and miss, then they can live to hit the next pitch. Some would slow their bat down, reach, get off balance, etc. I have seen learning this one thing turn a kid around because sometimes at the younger ages the kids think a swing and miss is bad.
          3. He could be allowed too many swings in practice. Trust me in that I am a big believer in swinging the bat a lot and my players swing a lot in a practice. But, if there is always one more swing and the kid doesn't concentrate and treat each swing like the game depends on it then he can get sloppy with his swings. One thing we did in practice with young kids is line them up at the end of practice and we would have a session where they came up to bat and got one pitch. Situation was that the bases were loaded and they had a full count. They got one pitch. It was either a ball and they walked in the winning run, or they had to hit them in, but the deal was that they got that one pitch and went to the back of the line. They did not like waiting for everyone else before they got another chance and it kind of instilled in them the importance of that swing. It was just one way of me bringing the game into practice. There are a lot of coaches on here that are better than I am and I am sure they can chime in with other ways of bringing the game into practice.

          If you are just a dad watching from the sidelines, you have to put this work in with your son outside of what he does with the team.



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          • #6
            Take a video of him in games. A lot of kids get nervous in the box and have happy feet. Mine did. Just a little scoot of the back foot right as the pitcher delivers is IMO enough to throw off everything...

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            • #7
              is he the type to get nervous? with my son, from the time he was just starting out, I downplayed the results of each at bat/field chance/game and concentrated on the quality of the rep in the game. we/I didn't care as much about hits and such but more about quality of contact. It allowed him to focus more on playing the right way instead of getting him hung up on the result of each individual play.

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              • #8
                I’d recommend your son reading:

                Play Big: Mental Toughness Secrets. By Tim Hanson

                my son and I found this really helpful. Lots of other good advice above

                My other recommendation is akin to what was mentioned. Take less swings in practice and focus more on a few quality swings. My son and I play a few innings with TCB hole balls most days in the yard. One of us hits and the other pitches. We call outs and award bases and runs based on the likely outcome. We also do situational hitting this way as well. My son has a very high contact rate which can hurt him at time except for things like hit and run where he can focus on driving to ball to certain fields and worry less about hitting a bomb. Takes some of the pressure off of the hit. Last bit of advice. Practice is where you work on the swing. In games don’t think about it. Just focus on putting the ball in play using your swing. Too much clutter in the mind is a bad thing.

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                • #9
                  Dutch, you used the word "demand" and that won't get it done. It will make a bad situation worse. I might have missed it as to whether you coach him and his team or not but the best way to have a player become accustom to pressure is to include pressure in practice. We do that in a lot of way like everyone hitting off of live BP with a given count, or we create situations like runner on 1st and sacrifice, or we put a hit and run on or ... We do this for both the offense and defense. Sometimes, if we don't get what we want, we recycle the situation to give the player another shot at it. Above all, we try to keep all things positive.
                  Granny said Sonny stick to your guns if you believe in something no matter what. Because it's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you're not.

                  I am an ex expert. I've done this long enough to know that those who think that they know it all, know nothing.

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                  • #10
                    My son was a bit timid from 8 to 10, then literally grew more confident. Just continue to grind and remind him it is about the progress and he will go from cage warrior to field boss soon enough

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                    • #11

                      Some kids this age MIGHT be ready for discussing their plan of attack when they have an at bat.

                      You need to explain that in a normal at bat with no one on base he might see one good pitch that he can really drive.
                      He needs to identify it and hit that pitch really hard.

                      He may be focusing on not striking out when, in most situations, that is NOT the goal.

                      You can also discuss with him hitting behind runners, sacrifices, and the value of seeing lots of pitches.

                      I am assuming that what he does in practice is reflective of what he can do in games.
                      It may not be. Some kids can hit batting practice really well due to speed/repetition/comfort but can't do the same in games.

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                      • #12
                        The mental part of baseball is huge and if neglected it can lead to poor performance under pressure. Make sure of two things:

                        A. Have a pre At Bat routine. He should actually practice this routine until it becomes second nature. If you notice, most MLB hitters use the same routine (watch Dustin Pedroia). Make sure the routine includes deep breathing in order to relieve tension. If you notice, a lot of MLB players will "clean" the box with their feet, dig their back foot in the box, look at a small area on their bat (for focus), take a deep breath then put their front foot in the box. Develop something like this and it should start from the time he approaches the plate if not sooner. Make sure he takes his time approaching the plate (if he speeds up he will not have a good AB). I can normally tell if my kids will have a good AB just by watching their pre AB actions. Slow, deliberate and confident looking = good AB, rushed and not organized = bad AB.

                        B. Make sure he has a well thought out and consistent plan of attack.He should think of it in terms of the number of strikes he has. With no strikes look for a pitch in a particular (favorite) zone. With one strike widen that zone and with two strikes expand the complete strike zone.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by fly996 View Post
                          The mental part of baseball is huge and if neglected it can lead to poor performance under pressure. Make sure of two things:

                          A. Have a pre At Bat routine. He should actually practice this routine until it becomes second nature. If you notice, most MLB hitters use the same routine (watch Dustin Pedroia). Make sure the routine includes deep breathing in order to relieve tension. If you notice, a lot of MLB players will "clean" the box with their feet, dig their back foot in the box, look at a small area on their bat (for focus), take a deep breath then put their front foot in the box. Develop something like this and it should start from the time he approaches the plate if not sooner. Make sure he takes his time approaching the plate (if he speeds up he will not have a good AB). I can normally tell if my kids will have a good AB just by watching their pre AB actions. Slow, deliberate and confident looking = good AB, rushed and not organized = bad AB.

                          B. Make sure he has a well thought out and consistent plan of attack.He should think of it in terms of the number of strikes he has. With no strikes look for a pitch in a particular (favorite) zone. With one strike widen that zone and with two strikes expand the complete strike zone.
                          Great stuff. Son wants to hit tonight and I want to work on quality BP reps over quantity. Will talk to him about working on some of this stuff tonight.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Each reply I am sincerely thankful for. I recently mentioned a simple 1-2-3 pre ab approached. Breathe in and out, set your feet- focus point on bat. I was a dad coach. I gave minimal game input- kept it short- “ swing at a good pitch” “trust the process” - we go over the process before the game. I remind him not to think outcome- like “I need to get a hit” or “I dont want to strike out” but rather the swing basics which he has in muscle memory. He gets mad at me sometimes when I give suggestions. I am backing off. He will read the mental toughness book.

                            I had no input with practice design. However, I agree that some pressure situations are needed. As a side note 5 dads were allowed to help coach our All Star Team. I found this was counter productive and gave those 5 a false sense of ownership. And when coach tried to demand pressure- most kids didnt get it.

                            I am hoping he is selected to a travel team. I think this will be an eye opener for him. He will see what better competition is about.

                            I reminded him an AB in a game is not like a video game where you get multiple chances. Also, I have reinforced the idea that we do sets of 3 swings - 3 balls. After a set of 3 he stops and critiques each swing.

                            I do believe its a process.

                            FWIW: He used a 31” 23 oz wood bat all season. Little League.

                            He found a 29” 23oz SamBat I use for grounders. He did a bp session. He was hitting. He is 5’4” 110lbs. I have read the bat/ age/ height chart. So- whatever

                            Thank you all

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                            • #15
                              Good post fly!

                              One thing to remember, kids will typically get better at the approach/plan the older they get and the further they go in the game (the game forces them to). Working on the approach at 11 it isn't going to be perfect all the time, but AN approach is better than NO approach, just keep working on it until it clicks.
                              Ty Cobb-"Every great batter works on the theory that the pitcher is more afraid of him than he is of the pitcher."

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