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Why can’t my son hit in the game? We hear this all the time in person and online at BRHQ. The swings parents see in games is a shell of the swings parents see in lessons or practice. There are many reasons a player struggles in games, and to be honest, some of them are tough to recognize for most parents. This article is not about a drill to help your son get out of a slump. It is also not a quick fix answer for every hitting issue your son may have right now. What this article is is the truth about youth sports, and sports in general.
Most youth sports are just a race to puberty. The biggest kids with the most muscles and facial hair at 13 tend to be better than the baby faced kid who can’t do a pushup. Look at your son’s middle school teams, what do the best players look like? Remember that kid in little league who hit all the homers and struck everyone out? I bet he was bigger and stronger and faster than almost everyone in the league. Does your son look like that? Is it fair for you, the parent, or the player to have expectations of greatness when he’s a foot shorter than the tallest player on the team?
Kids grow at different ages. The problem is the field and the bat rules change at the same time for everyone. So an 80-pound 7th grader is going to have a tougher time (generally) swinging a 32’’ BBCOR bat than a 13-year-old twice his size. Only in middle school sports can we see size differences like this:
And those differences are impossible to overcome or change. It just takes time to even out. For the record, the smaller player in this picture is one we train and has done very well in his transition to the big field.
Now we’re starting to talk about things you son can work on and change. Every single kid CAN do pushups and situps at home. Every single kid can choose to go outside to swing or throw a ball instead of hours of couch time. Your son doesn’t need an expensive workout program to become physical. He simply needs to make the correct choices in what he eats, how much he eats, and how much exercise he gets on a daily basis. And before you even allow the thought that your son ‘eats all the time and can’t gain weight’ to enter your mind, know that is incorrect and that excuse you’re making for him is part of the problem. I once heard an MLB team nutritionist say this, "If you are saying that you can't gain weight and food is not in your mouth, you're not doing it right."
“You can be anything you want to be as long as you work hard”. Another saying we hear a lot is, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. In actuality, most of the time, talent and physicality win the day. I’m not saying don’t work hard and I’m not saying that players can’t get better. I am saying that if you tell your son he can be the shortstop if he works hard enough, and he throws left-handed and is an awful fielder...it’s just not going to happen. The effort myth sets unfair expectations and all but guarantees future frustration and failure. Baseball is a game of skill and ability. Hard work improves those two qualities, but only when done correctly. Practicing the wrong way over and over doesn't develop your skill.
Look, let’s get this straight, I have no problem with video games. I played them in college, I played them as a young kid too, I even cried when I got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas when I was six-years-old. I also played only about 30 minutes a day and I lived outside on the basketball court, on my bike, or in the woods. If the weather was nice, I was bugging my dad to come to play outside or I was knocking on the older neighbors’ doors to play basketball. Frequently, we ask kids how much time they play video games and they say around three hours, and that’s a DAILY number.
Unless you're @Ninja, the professional video gamer, spending that amount of time on the couch is not going to be the best way to develop your skills. Physicality is huge in all sports. Get outside and become more coordinated and physical!
Many kids, when young, cry when they get out. This is especially common when players younger than 10-years-old strikeout. After about 10-years-old, the crying has to stop. But also, after about 12-years-old, it gets really really hard to hit over .500. That means your son will be getting out over half of the time. Zero hit games are common and dealing with that failure is a huge part of who succeeds in playing baseball for a long time and who doesn’t. If your son strikes out and then takes that K to the field or to the plate with him for the rest of the tournament, it’s going to be hard to do well long term. Being able to compartmentalize hitting struggles or fielding errors and overcome them is a huge stumbling block for many players. Books like “Play Big” can really help teach players a mental strategy for success.