012: A Good Off-Season is Critical to In-Season Success
Happy New Year!
2021 is here, and the Spring baseball season is right around the corner.
How have you handled the off-season?
Do you have a plan for your son or team for the next couple of months?
If not, it’s not too late!
Click the button below to listen 🎧 or read below 📝!
First, some housekeeping. Everyone’s schedule is crazy towards the end of the year, so in case you’ve had other things on your mind, here’s a few updates:
⚾ If you missed my last podcast with 11-year MLB veteran turned youth baseball coach and dad, Shawn Kelley, you’ve got to go back and listen. I can’t wait for part 2!
⚾ As you prepare for the upcoming season, I’d like you to revisit one of my favorite posts - Focusing on Winning is a Race to the Bottom.
The off-season has always been important, but it’s more critical than ever now that young kids are playing organized baseball 9 and 10 months out of the year.
As we approach the end of 2020, there is still time to take advantage of the off-season, and get ready to show up healthy, refreshed, and improved for 2021.
A successful (and healthy) off-season includes three key components:
Time Off / Rest
Developing a Plan
Accountability (Sticking to the Plan)
Young guys are playing longer than they ever have before. Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons run together, and arms are being overused everywhere and at all ages - but especially the younger ages!
While it can be tempting to continue to throw into the winter months, it’s extremely important to take some time off and let the body rest - specifically the arm.
It’s also important to do other things. Clear the mind of baseball and get another hobby, spend family time together, learn something new. Enjoy it!
Common myths, or excuses, I hear from parents who continue to work without rest often include:
“My kid just loves it so much. He wants to be out there throwing every single day.”
I understand this, however you are the parent and adult. Rest is important, and taking weeks (even months) off from throwing is healthy and needed.
Your child also loves playing XBox but you don’t let him do it all day and all night without a break. I’m sure he’d eat snacks and candy for dinner if you’d let him. But you don’t because you’re the parent and you know what’s healthy.
There’s no difference in baseball when it comes to arm health.
“You don’t understand. To stay competitive we have to keep working. We only do a lesson or two indoors each week.”
No, I do understand. The fear of missing out (FOMO) or getting behind is real for you, but not for the kid. Put the baseball gear up for a couple of months and go play basketball, flag football, or indoor soccer. They’ll become a better overall athlete, I promise.
Go back and listen to my last podcast with big league veteran Shawn Kelley. We discussed the importance of taking time off and playing other sports, and he specifically talked about how most of the guys he played with at the highest level played other sports during other seasons growing up.
Playing non-stop with no break and without getting involved in other activities leads to tying your son’s identity to baseball. And at some point, he will not be able to continue at that level (maybe in middle school, high school, or beyond). And when it happens, he’ll have nothing else.
“Our coach makes our team continue to workout indoors during the winter months.”
Maybe it’s time to find a new team. Working out during the off-season is fine (and encouraged), but only once 6-8 weeks of rest has been given. Again, see above, you won’t get left behind at the age of 10.
You and your team also won’t get behind. I’d argue the opposite. Let those 10 or 12 kids go have fun doing something else for two months. When they come back, they’ll be fired up and ready to get focused on baseball!
Developing / Having a Plan
Taking a break should definitely be part of the plan, but once the break is over, there should be goals and a plan to help you achieve those goals.
Even if your team has an off-season plan, it needs to be specific to each player. While everyone may need to go through the same overall throwing or hitting program, each player has their own needs and opportunities for improvement.
Your son and team’s plan should include at least the following:
The goals should be team and individual specific. They should include basic preparation for the upcoming season as well as address opportunities for improvement.
Some kids need to fix their swing. Others may need to correct throwing mechanics. All of them should learn something new and be mentally prepared for the season.
Sticking to the Plan
This is definitely the hardest part! There’s a reason why most new year’s resolutions fail. It’s hard to STICK TO IT!
This is going to be no different for the youth baseball player.
School, other activities, and just life in general can easily get in the way. Not only do you have to hold yourself accountable as the parent, but you’ve got to keep your son focused as well.
I’m a big proponent of making “at-home” work kid-driven. If your son feels like it’s a job or a punishment, they won’t do it.
Start by explaining the benefits of the plan. Go over the opportunities and the goals. Talk about how it’s going to look. Put something in place to hold you and them accountable, and to measure results.
For something like the throwing program mentioned above, print out a monthly calendar and mark the days you’re supposed to work on something. As those days come and your son puts in the work, let THEM mark that day off. Keep the calendar visible so they can see the progress!
If you’re a coach, share the plan with the parents on your team. If you’re a parent, find another parent on the team who can be an accountability partner.
Kids like to play with other kids, so even partnering up with a teammate can help energize them for the work, and then hold them accountable.
Either way, stick to it. Getting ready for the new season is like an oven not a microwave. Ease into it. Slowly warm up. Understand (and be okay with it) it’s going to be a slower process that will take some time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Now, what’s next? You tell me. I’d love to hear your plans for the off-season! Send me a note directly to kevinburke2 (at) gmail (dot) com or connect with me on the Elbow Up Youth Baseball Facebook page.
Also, share this with other parents and coaches. You all need to be on the same page going into the new season!