I’ve been around youth baseball for a long time, and without exception the most advanced players between ages 6 and 12 are the ones take the most reps. There is no big secret here, but I do have a few words of caution:
Make sure it’s player driven.
Keep it fun.
Keep it simple.
Reps are good, but good reps are better.
Read on for a deeper dive and some cool resources at the bottom!
Remember that first baseman that just caught everything when he was 6? He was the only kid on the team that could catch like that. He wasn’t born that way. He had been throwing and catching probably since before he could walk.
The seven year old that makes every head turn when he hits didn’t just show up on day one of practice and do that. Instead of taking 15 swings twice per week at team practice, his dad throws to him for one hour every night.
In most warmer areas of the country, you have another month or two before youth league tryouts and practices start. For those with “travel” ball players, you may be getting closer.
Either way, there’s still plenty of time to set your goals for 2020 and be more prepared than most of the upcoming competition!
It Must be Player Driven
The quickest way to burn out your son is to force them to practice every single day.
We all want our kids to be good at everything they do. But they have to want to get better for this to really work.
This is important because some kids get to this point sooner than others, and as parents we need to recognize that. Sure, we can help guide and encourage them, but we can’t force it.
I’ve watched a transformation in my own son over the last year. Relative to the average 7 year old baseball player, he would be considered good. But compared to some of the kids on his all-star team last year, he just didn’t have the same drive to be the best.
He loves being on the field, but he loves being around his teammates more. That’s what has been most important to him. And I need to be totally okay with that!
Wednesday night he and I were watching a baseball video online. When it was over he said, “Dad, can we hit this Friday night?”
He knew he had a basketball game Thursday evening, and Friday would be the first opportunity we had. The key here though is HE is the one who asked me about practicing.
This doesn’t mean you can’t encourage at-home practice, but the point is the kid must have the desire to be out there first, or you won’t get the results you’re hoping for.
Keep it Fun
Please don’t take your 8 year old outside and make him take 100 swings per night off the tee. Reps are good, but burnout is real.
I have found best results with short sprints of work, moving from drill to drill often.
Take 10 swings off a tee, and then move on to something else. Take a few reps there, and then come back to the tee. Baseball should be fun, and we need to avoid a boring experience!
Keep it Simple
The younger the player, the more simple you need to keep it.
Obviously every kid is different, so this will depend on how advanced your son is.
Generally speaking, I try not to correct or teach more than one thing at a time. Even with “advanced” youth players, this is a good rule.
I hear dads and coaches correcting stance, hands, bat angle, elbow, front shoulder, and stride all at the same time on the same swing. What!?
Not only will this lead to confusion, but it will lead to frustration. And it’s a downward spiral from there.
Reps are Good, but Good Reps are Better
First off, it is important to just get out there and play with your kid. Don’t let the lack of knowledge or experience keep you from spending time with them and having fun!
With that said, we need to reinforce good habits as much as possible.
The best part about developing muscle memory early is that it’s easier! The downside is that once they’ve picked up bad habits, it becomes harder and harder to correct as they get older.
🛑 Also, results at 7 and 8 years old does NOT guarantee results at 9. I see kids who are absolute STUDS right now that have some pretty bad habits or mechanics. These will get exposed in the next couple of years.
🛑 My other word of caution - don’t just hit! Every kid loves to hit, but if you neglect throwing, catching, and defense, you won’t develop a good all around player.
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