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Does Bubba Watson's career offer any lessons for baseball?

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  • Does Bubba Watson's career offer any lessons for baseball?

    Baseball has made huge strides in teaching the game in the past 10 years or so.

    Bubba Watson's golf career, however, is a reminder that there are limits to the value of instruction.

    From the Wall St. Journal

    As most fans know by now, Watson has never had a golf lesson. He taught himself to play as a kid by hitting whiffle balls in loops around his house. His is a classic, almost mythic American tale of bootstrap success, fueled from the start by a carefree, fun-loving passion for the game.

    The best single take-away from Watson's journey is that no one tried to get technical with him when he first picked up the game.

    Henry Brunton, the former Canadian national golf coach, has studied how elite golfers grew to become as good as they did. One near-universal finding is that from early on, from about age 6 to 12, they were essentially allowed to play and experiment with golf on their own (apart from learning the basic grip and stance, and how to keep from hurting themselves and others with errant swings and balls).

    "When kids at that age are left to their own devices, they usually learn pretty quickly, by instinct, how to make the golf ball do what they want it to," Brunton said. Overteaching at this stage is counterproductive. Kids need to get a feel for the game, not hone their technique.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...=ITP_pageone_4
    Last edited by skipper5; 04-14-2012, 05:19 PM.
    Skip

  • #2
    up until maybe recently, (the last couple of years) most MLB hitters have likely never had a hitting lesson in their life.

    Most people who become scratch golfers do so within a couple years of taking up the game. If it doesnt happen within a couple years it likely will never happen.

    Comment


    • #3
      who says that MLB hitters got no hitting instruction as kids?

      most got no private lessons but they got a lot of instruction by their team coaches. a good team coach also teaches some mechanics and doesn't just let them hit somehow.

      even I got a lot of instruction by my team coaches when I started even if it was mostly "oldschool" instruction like knob to the ball, wait to uncock the wrists till the arms are extended, swing down, keep the backside tall...

      most baseball hitters do get hitting instruction (with me I didn't get it with this instruction since I'm a guy who takes thinks very literally and thus need very exact knowledge of the actual movements which is why I learned to really hit here and by some of other modern "video" instructors-but other kids do well by learning by cues since they on't take it so literally).
      I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't see much correlation. Golf is very much and individual sport, and one can practice every single shot of the myriad of shots required - by themselves on either a driving range, backyard, practice green, or carpet in the house with. Arduous types of balls and REAL clubs. No other individuals are needed to simulate true conditions experienced in competition.

        Not so with baseball.

        Baseball players can hit off tees on their own, and pitch to a hanging tire or other strike zone indicator on their own but
        not much else in the arena of substantial solo practice. Even then, you're taking a large element out of the game practicing this way (the opponent) and although your improvements may seem significant, "Im getting really good!"... when in reality the hitters could crush your pitches or blow them by you when you bat.
        "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

        Comment


        • #5
          2 things stick out to me.

          1) Only the best golfer of this generation (Tiger Woods) spent an ungodly amount of time getting instruction from his Dad and has famouly redesigned his swing with expert instruction from a swing coach. Not only is there no correlation, but this guy just has an opinion that is easily refuteable. The lesson to be learned is that there are natural athletes with good kinetic awareness like Tiger Woods who was killing it by age 5.

          2) Age 12 is when 50% of kids drop out of baseball, as for whatever reason they disliked it, and even more likely, unsuccessful. Completely different opportunity/culture than golf.

          Comment


          • #6
            skip,

            Bubba is quite unusual for golf. The vast majority of guys on the tour have had lessons, and most for many years. The culture between golf and baseball is quite different, with golf instruction at a much higher and better level than most baseball instruction. Most golf pros use video as a matter of course, yet use of video for high school baseball instruction, for example, is virtually non-existent in our area. Golf instruction is valued by most pros, yet in baseball it isn't valued as much. MLB players, for example, don't have dedicated swing coaches to nearly the same degree as professional golfers do. Phil Mickleson not only has a swing coach (Harmon), but also a short game coach (Pelz) and even a dedicated putting coach (Stockton). This is simply not done at the MLB level. It's just not part of the culture.

            What conclusions to draw from Bubba? Certainly one is that one can make it without instruction. Instruction is not a pre-requisite for success, for either golf or baseball. On the other hand, good instruction helps reduce the time it takes to get a high level swing in either sport. To do it Bubba's way means a lot of experimentation on your own, which may lead to success like Bubba, but can also lead to "local optimization" where eventually the body compensates for the swing flaws with other flaws which leads to a workable but not necessarily optimal swing.

            In the end, perfect mechanics does not ensure a player makes it to the PGA tour or MLB. All it does is maximize the ability one has. Instruction is almost always the easiest way of getting good mechanics, but is not the only way.

            -JJA
            The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play

            Comment


            • #7
              I'm big time anti-lessons. Group stuff, camps/clinics - fine. Personal, one on one? Wouldn't have had my son take them if they were free. What's really important is the player understanding what they are doing and why. I'd like to see more kids own their mechanics and what works for them - and develop them. Basically be their own expert.

              My son's a cross fire pitcher. It's different. The immediate reaction is that since we don't see every other kid pitch like that - you must be doing something wrong. Yet, you look at college and pros and you see a lot of pitchers that do this to some degree. I could almost guarantee that if he saw an instructor, they'd want to clone-ify him and get him to be more "conventional" rather than offer any advice that he isn't already aware of and working on.
              There are two kinds of losers.....Those that don't do what they are told, and those that do only what they are told.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by shake-n-bake View Post
                I'm big time anti-lessons. Group stuff, camps/clinics - fine. Personal, one on one? Wouldn't have had my son take them if they were free. What's really important is the player understanding what they are doing and why. I'd like to see more kids own their mechanics and what works for them - and develop them. Basically be their own expert.
                Ah yes. The ol' kids just figure it out themselves argument. That's why so many of them drop out between 12/13. Because they figured it out. ex- My kid is a mostly A student who struggles in Composition. The teacher has a lot of students. I'd like him to own his compositions, so therefore he can continue to struggle or I can send him to a tutor for one-on-one work, so that he can have a better understanding of what he's doing right, what he's doing wrong and how to correct it. Also the tutor can provide a few simple tips he may never hear by a particular teacher at his class. My personal opinion is that the key to good instruction is that the instructor is helping the hitter learn how to be their own expert.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Uncoach View Post

                  1) Only the best golfer of this generation (Tiger Woods) spent an ungodly amount of time getting instruction from his Dad.
                  What??

                  Thousands of good players, college players (myself included) Publinks players, Club champions etc... Learned from their fathers. Take it to the next level... These names had both a father and a son on the PGA Tour.

                  Nicklaus
                  Stadler
                  Haas
                  Geilberger
                  Stockton
                  Baird
                  Boros

                  And that's just off the top of my head.
                  "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Uncoach View Post
                    Ah yes. The ol' kids just figure it out themselves argument. That's why so many of them drop out between 12/13. Because they figured it out. ex- My kid is a mostly A student who struggles in Composition. The teacher has a lot of students. I'd like him to own his compositions, so therefore he can continue to struggle or I can send him to a tutor for one-on-one work, so that he can have a better understanding of what he's doing right, what he's doing wrong and how to correct it. Also the tutor can provide a few simple tips he may never hear by a particular teacher at his class. My personal opinion is that the key to good instruction is that the instructor is helping the hitter learn how to be their own expert.
                    I agree with that. good instruction is good. you need to learn it the correct way.

                    still I think most kids would even drop out with good instruction. the problem usually is not lack of fundamentals but lack of athleticsm.
                    you can teach mechanics but you cannot teach explosivity, quickness and reflexes. once the pitching gets faster only the kids with good reflexes and quickness can stay in the game.
                    there are some kids though who are limited by bad fundamentals but I think most just reach their genetic limit.
                    I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by The Uncoach View Post
                      Ah yes. The ol' kids just figure it out themselves argument. That's why so many of them drop out between 12/13. Because they figured it out. ex- My kid is a mostly A student who struggles in Composition. The teacher has a lot of students. I'd like him to own his compositions, so therefore he can continue to struggle or I can send him to a tutor for one-on-one work, so that he can have a better understanding of what he's doing right, what he's doing wrong and how to correct it. Also the tutor can provide a few simple tips he may never hear by a particular teacher at his class. My personal opinion is that the key to good instruction is that the instructor is helping the hitter learn how to be their own expert.
                      I'll use your example about writing composition as it actually fits really well with what I'm talking about. Let's say your kid is very passionate about his writing and has definite ideas about what sort of style he wants to come out. Would you want him to find his way with maybe some generic sort of guidance on grammar rules and spelling, but he develops this style he envisions? Or, would you prefer that the tutor teach him to write with the same standard paragraph and idea structure that everyone is taught?

                      We found a cat last weekend that happened to belong to a family where the guy was an ex-MLB pitcher. So, they come to pick up the cat and we're standing around outside talking. Of course mom says her kid's a pitcher too (like its the same thing). The guy made him show him his mechanics. Like I said, he cross fires. The guy sort of laughed and said, good luck. Said he looked great, but every coach and instructor that he ever has is going to try to change him. Said he was speaking from experience being a sidearmer. My son's plenty conversant and they talked for awhile, but the long and short of it was he should stick to his guns and do what works for him.
                      There are two kinds of losers.....Those that don't do what they are told, and those that do only what they are told.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Switch_Hitter_29 View Post
                        up until maybe recently, (the last couple of years) most MLB hitters have likely never had a hitting lesson in their life.

                        Most people who become scratch golfers do so within a couple years of taking up the game. If it doesnt happen within a couple years it likely will never happen.
                        You can't be serious. I'm guessing you've never played golf.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Switch_Hitter_29 View Post
                          Most people who become scratch golfers do so within a couple years of taking up the game. If it doesnt happen within a couple years it likely will never happen.
                          My lowest handicap was about a 3. After playing frequently and competitively for a LONG time. I'm willing to bet that less than 5% of all scratch players accomplished that feat less than FIVE years after their first swing.

                          I played four years of varsity HS golf and finished 12th in Indianapolis as a Senior before plaing as a walk on in college I've played against hundreds of good players. NONE of them ever said "I started less than two years ago." NONE of us were scratch yet. How many are? Less than 1% of all golfers? If that.

                          I worked on the PGA Tour for two seasons. Never heard anyone out there make the claim either. Not about a Tour Player, a caddie who was a scratch player (or even a very good one), etc.
                          "Herman Franks to Sal Yvars to Bobby Thomson. Ralph Branca to Bobby Thomson to Helen Rita... cue Russ Hodges."

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by StanTheMan View Post
                            My lowest handicap was about a 3. After playing frequently and competitively for a LONG time. I'm willing to bet that less than 5% of all scratch players accomplished that feat less than FIVE years after their first swing.

                            I played four years of varsity HS golf and finished 12th in Indianapolis as a Senior before plaing as a walk on in college I've played against hundreds of good players. NONE of them ever said "I started less than two years ago." NONE of us were scratch yet. How many are? Less than 1% of all golfers? If that.

                            I worked on the PGA Tour for two seasons. Never heard anyone out there make the claim either. Not about a Tour Player, a caddie who was a scratch player (or even a very good one), etc.
                            I would recommend the book Outliers....

                            I feel that, like baseball, it is difficult to understand whether or not you are going to be an outlier until you invest those 10,000 hours... Also, like baseball, it is difficult to know whether or not you are going to make it until after puberty...

                            I am also a long time golfer (my lowest HC = 6 now about 10/11). Scratch golfers are very few and far between.... and very, very few scratch golfers can compete at the very best levels.
                            "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
                            - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
                            Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jake Patterson View Post
                              I would recommend the book Outliers....

                              I feel that, like baseball, it is difficult to understand whether or not you are going to be an outlier until you invest those 10,000 hours... Also, like baseball, it is difficult to know whether or not you are going to make it until after puberty...

                              I am also a long time golfer (my lowest HC = 6 now about 10/11). Scratch golfers are very few and far between.... and very, very few scratch golfers can compete at the very best levels.
                              Outliers is garbage. He used an arbitrary number (10,000 hours) and used statistically insignificant data to reach his conclusions.

                              The research that spawned this number was performed on 40 violinists and was seeking to find some common experiences and habits among some of the best of them. Those violinists who had achieved the highest levels of skill had accumulated about seven thousand hours of practice by age 18 and about ten thousand hours of practice by age 20.

                              These data were common among a very small group of musicians from among a small group of subjects. Data on practice time was self-reported. From this article, came our famous misinterpretation by Gladwell who took it upon himself to recognize “experts” in retrospect by attributing ten thousand hours of practice to individuals and groups.

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