5 New Habits to Dominate Summer Ball
By Chas Pippitt
Your spring season is coming to an end. School is out soon. Summer is here! If you’re like thousands of kids across the country that means one thing: SUMMER BASEBALL! Make sure you don’t just go through the motions this summer. If you want to dominate on the field, be named tournament MVP, and be named Baseball Youth Player to Watch, start doing these five things so you can dominate summer ball <or whatever the title is>!
Swing Early in the Count
— Board Man Gets Paid (@cjzero) August 7, 2018
Nothing frustrates players (and parents) more than ‘bad calls’ from the umpire. In summer ball, there’s going to be bad calls. If you’re hot, the umpire is even hotter; so they’ll be a certain point in the game where the ump wants to speed up everything and widens his strike zone a little bit. That being said, a bad call almost never is the reason a hitter strikes out or struggles with weak contact. Most often, those players afflicted with ‘bad-call-itus’ are the same ones who are TAKING STRIKES early in the count or fouling balls off that are crushable pitches. Pitchers of all ages want to work AHEAD in the count, so make sure you’re ready for that first or second pitch fastball strike and punish it! Nothing makes a pitcher work like backing up the bases and watching the scoreboard for the hitting team light up. A few extra pitches thrown won’t chase a pitcher as fast as a few doubles or homers in an inning will.
Get Some Work In Outside of Practice
Want to be a great infielder? Put down your iPhone & grab a tennis ball! The Wall Ball Drill is a simple drill that can be done to help cover multiple hop variations. It also allows young infielders to get themselves into a good fielding position while trusting their glove hand pic.twitter.com/LNDDA8MDFt
— Baseball Rebellion (@BRrebellion) March 6, 2018
Many players are relying on their coaches to give them the practice they need in a team setting. Unfortunately, there is simply not enough time to get all the individual work you need within a team setting, where there are often 15 players who need to hit. From a defensive perspective, a tennis ball and a wall are all you really need to get pretty handy with the glove. Hitting wise, grab a tee, but make sure you are working on quality, not quantity. 10-15 minutes a day, if you’re doing the right movements, will be enough. Team practice has tons of value. BUT, from an individual development perspective, you must be willing to work while no one else is…that’s a fact. To be great, you need to gain ground on those who are more naturally gifted than you and keep the distance between you and those who are coming for your spot from behind. If you develop this work ethic and mindset from a young age, while keeping the game fun, your going to have a great baseball experience!
But…Practice Smarter, Not Harder
Often times, after a bad game, a hitter will head to the cages. An hour later, bloody hands and sweated through gloves in tow, the hitter heads back to the car no closer to solving whatever ‘problem’ caused the bad day at the ball field. These type of marathon hitting sessions can, in some cases, have a good purpose. However, the lion’s share of these types of sessions just erode the body and the mind and bring more negative thoughts and negative swing movements. Ditch the 300 swings post-game after an 0-4 game and get in some low-intensity mirror work on your stride. Get your tempo right and your mind relaxed so the next game you’re working towards success instead of still recovering from the blisters and frustration of the long session postgame.
Eat, Sleep, Repeat
Up all night playing Fortnite or Madden the night before a game? Eating fast-food between a weekend tournament double header? How you recover and fuel your body is everything to an athlete, no matter what age you are. Make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition and water intake needed to keep you in prime physical condition when it comes time to play. On game day you have your protein bars, sunflower seeds, and water bottle to make sure you aren’t running on empty by the time the second inning comes around.
Kids during the summer have a ton to do: playing with friends, taking part in multiple sports, and and sleepovers. Sleeping well (and enough) is hard for some kids because of all the excitement that is taking place during the summer. But if you want to take summer ball seriously and play well, sleep is as important as practicing right and eating right. Make sure you’ve gotten a good night sleep (8-9 hours) before games!
Glass Half-Full Mentality
Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. Be positive not only with yourself but also with your teammates. Look for ways you can help the team that doesn’t just involve going 3 for 5 with a few doubles or making 3 diving catches in the outfield. Are you picking up the other team’s signs? Are you figuring out patterns in how the other team is pitching your top players or you? How about how long the pitcher holds the ball with runners on first base or 2nd base? After a K or an error, are you taking that back out to the field or into your next at-bat? If you’re positive with your self-talk and trust your preparation, you can take an 0-2 and turn it around! Get your mind on a positive wavelength and prepare for your next chance for success!
Parents, this goes for your as well. Be positive when cheering on your child. If you can’t help being a “coach” from the stands, make sure you are giving them positive (and correct) cues. After the game, don’t get down on them for a bad play or a bad game, instead try to point out the positives!
At the end of the day, summer ball is supposed to fun. That being said, it is a lot more fun, for everyone involved, if you play well. As you can see, a lot of what it takes to play well doesn’t necessarily happen on the field. The good news? It is all in your control. So go out, have an awesome summer, and dominate on the field!