Attention Parent-Coaches! How-To Frame Realistic Rebel Hitting Expectations to a Young Impressionable Athlete

Written By: Chas Pippitt

So I’m sitting at I.T.S. Baseball in Hillsborough, NC and I realize that I just recently completed my 9,000th lesson!  That’s a pretty big accomplishment in my life as an instructor to get to that level before my 30th birthday was a pretty exciting and fun experience.  That being said, I took a little time to reflect on my teaching career and I realized there are a few glaring issues with how I frame realistic expectations to my players that I work with and their parents and coaches.

Realistic Rebel Hitting Lesson #1: NOT an Instant Guarantee of Results

First, many people think just coming to a few lessons is a GUARENTEE that your son or daughter will instantly improve, or even worse, be immune to having a few bad games.  This is just not true.  Whenever a new technique or idea is introduced, the player will go through an adjustment period.   Sometimes, there is instant improvement, like when you put a player in a better, more athletic stance or improve the hitters’ vision.

Many times, when you learn a more explosive hip thrust or a deeper wrist snap, the hitter will do GREAT at lessons or off the tee, but isn’t ready to put these new and more difficult movements into game situations.  These delays in taking the practice swings to the game are NORMAL and should be EXPECTED!

Often, I get frantic emails from parents saying things like:

“Oh my God, Johnny struck out twice tonight!  Something is terribly wrong with his swing!  We have to change something now!’ 

Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is PARAMOUNT parents DO NOT hit the panic button and especially not in front of their kids.

Creating the idea a kid should never or rarely get out, and if they do they instantly have a ‘flaw,’ is REALLY DANGEROUS for the player.

Baseball Struggles, My kid can't hit, hitting help for youth players, youth hitting drills

AHHHHHH MY KID IS STRUGGLING!

Did A-Rod change his swing when he struggled in the playoffs?  Did Chase Utley change his swing the year he had a 1 for 25 streak?

NEWS FLASH!!  Your kid WILL:

  • Get out,
  • Make errors, and
  • Get frustrated.  And then…

He or she will look to you for guidance.  If you panic, so will they.

Realistic Rebel Hitting Lesson #2: Remember, Hitting is Difficult

I think often times parents and coaches forget their own struggles to hit, pitch or field in baseball…THE GAME IS HARD!  What other professional sport has level after level of skill before you reach the highest level?  The NBA has the D-League, but let’s be honest….it’s not a realistic route to an NBA career.

The NFL?  Nothing, Arena league and the CFL don’t count.

Pro baseball has Low A, High A, Double A, Triple A, and then the majors!  They even have extended spring training below that!

All the guys above AA are GREAT PLAYERS and most of why they are is their confidence and ability to deal with failure and have realistic expectations week to week, game to game, at bat to at bat and pitch to pitch.

Realistic Rebel Hitting Lesson #3: Make Small Circles

Crazy Baseball Coach, Crazy Baseball Parent, Baseball should be fun, Fun Baseball, Enjoy Baseball Game

Please parents and coaches, have some perspective

Another major problem I run into is most players are not REALLY practicing movements, but they are practicing HITTING.  These are different things.

As players get more athletic and more advanced, so do all their peers.

Hits as a 9 year old are not necessarily hits as a 15 year old.  The field grows, the game speeds up.  All the fielders, pitchers, and other hitters get better as players are weeded out by the skill needed to succeed.   It becomes harder for smaller kids to stand out unless they are totally technically sound.

Parents and coaches can get ‘success drunk’ off kids who are great youth players and those kids ‘hit all day’ and maybe even have batting cages in their yards.

But are they improving their flexibility, their movements?  Are they hitting belt high fastballs off tee’s instead of working on low and away pitches at the knees?

I see it all the time…

Parent walks in for an evaluation with a smallish kid.  I figure the kid is 10 or 11.  I find out he is actually 13 and about to try out for middle school and he’s still swinging the minus-13 bat he’s played little league with.  Kid gets cut and parents are furious.  “But he’s made all-stars every year, we hit every night at the house off our tee.  How did he get cut?”

Is it fair that a 5 foot tall, 100 pound kid can’t mis-hit homeruns in little league, like the 5’10’’ 190 pound 12 year old little league kid on a small field?

Nope.

Is it true?

Yes.

And in 3 years, those kids might be totally different, and the 250 foot fly balls the big kid still hits are now outs while the smaller kid has grown into his body and has drastically improved.

Solution in Conclusion…

I’m writing this article to clear up these 2 main issues I feel permeates baseball at the youth level.

KIDS:

You MUST have a plan when you practice and you must work on REAL SKILLS like vision, hip thrust, deep snap…whatever.  Not on HITTING THE BALL.  Also, you MUST UNDERSTAND you WILL GET OUT in baseball, no matter how good you think you are or how good your coach is.  Dealing with failure well and having realistic and fair expectations are the main reasons some kids do well in baseball and some kids are weeded out.

Bad Attitude Baseball, Youth Baseball Expectations, Youth Baseball Fun Drills, Youth Baseball Coaching, Youth Baseball Parent

Waaaaaaaaaa! I struck out and I should never strike out…wait…I’m not a professional who is PAID TO PERFORM…I’m in Little League and I Pay to Play…

PARENTS AND COACHES:

Remember, YOUR clean-up hitter is just a ‘kid’!  He or she will get out from time to time.  And, they only get out MORE OFTEN the better they and those around them get.  Now, if they’re really working on stuff and constantly focused, you can be a little concerned…until YOU remember they’re NOT Professionals!

Again, remember…

This is the most important thing in your life and its basically going to determine the success or failure of you as a person if you don’t pay attention and WIN WIN WIN!

This is the most important thing in your life and its basically going to determine the success or failure of you as a person if you don’t pay attention and WIN WIN WIN!

Kids lose focus.  Kids feel sick.  Kids sometimes aren’t in it all the way or woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

So do you! So do I!  So does every human on this planet.

Let me ask some questions to Coach and/or Dad:

How high did you play?

Even if you made it to the MLB and were and MVP, don’t you remember getting out 70% of the time?

Don’t you remember playing 2 years of JV ball?

Don’t you remember hitting 8th on your travel team/little league team, or the big error you made that cost your team that game?

How about the bunt you didn’t get down or the ‘bad call’ on that strikeout that ended your team’s season?

I’m not putting this part in to say if you weren’t good as a player you can’t make a kid better because you CAN improve kids if your knowledge is good.

I’m just REMINDING YOU of your own experience with failure in sports.  Failure rate ends every career injury doesn’t.  Let me repeat that…

Failure rate ends every career injury doesn’t.

Meaning even the best players get old and their skills erode…decreasing their own success levels.

Final Closing Thoughts…

PLEASE, be fair to yourselves as players and be fair to your sons and daughters as coaches and parents.  Youth Baseball and Softball are GAMES, we can work to get better at them, but in the light of day, PLEASE keep your perspective and allow your child to have fun and love the game like everyone who  writes and reads this blog does.

Posted in:

12
Leave a Reply

avatar
8 Comment threads
4 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
9 Comment authors
Charles SherrillMark VI JapanMelissa MChas Pippitt Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Sue C
Guest
Sue C

Great article! Every honest parent can relate and learn from this! Great REALITY CHECK! I would love to share this with all the parents of players on my son’s travel team & the coach, but some haven’t even given in to hiring for lessons. Some are still at the point that they know it all “it is only 10 year old baseball”. Although the fact is they DON’T have the KNOWLEDGE, maybe the desire and correct intention but not KNOWLEDGE.
Keep all this great info coming I love it!

jmyers
Guest
jmyers

Sue!! I know, I thought the same thing when Chas sent me the article to look over the other day. I love doing it, but sometimes I feel more like a guidance counselor than an instructor 😉 It’s good for both parents and instructors to be up front about what we can all expect. Thanks for the comment Sue!

Tim Mitchell
Guest
Tim Mitchell

Terrific post Chas, I can totally relate to the need to keep a proper perspective on things. My oldest is six, he’ll be seven on the 23rd of this month. He is now in his second season playing in the Farm division of Little League. He has shown a natural aptitude and an uncanny desire for a six year old to want to practice and to excel. He is as good as or better than the majority of eight year olds in his age division or on his own team. He very often in practice or games does things that… Read more »

jmyers
Guest
jmyers

Gosh Tim, I LOVE to hear comments like that. You’re promoting a healthy atmosphere for your little one to succeed. Keep up the good work bud, and keep letting your boy fan his own flame to play 😀

Lone Ranger
Guest
Lone Ranger

Just what I needed to hear. I was really concerned because my son struck out four times straight in his double header scrimmage this weekend. This is Chicken Soup for the Soul.

chas
Member

Response from this article has been overwhelming.

I have gotten dozens of emails and comments in my building about it already.

I’m glad I wrote it and I hope you all read it, pass it on to others and help us at BHR help set the bar on how hitting/baseball should be understood and approached from the youth level to the big leagues.

Chas–

Melissa M
Guest
Melissa M

Thanks for the great article. We have a small 10 year old who shows a lot of natural ability but his smallness causes him to have not have a lot of confidence. So we stress fundamentals and encourage him that if he will learn the proper way to do things that when his size catches up to others he will be ahead of them. He is great at pitching but while he is small right now his margin of error is smaller than those who are bigger right now and can throw harder – yet his technique and delivery is… Read more »

I Japan
Guest
I Japan

Thanks guys for the article. I have always been an “ALL IN” type of person and work my playersstudents Athletes work hard all year. During the early parts of the Hitting Rebellion we had a video lesson from with Chas and he said something that my son that made both of us calm down “ you made an error (bad swing on soft toss).. good.. stay relaxed.. smile.. Have fun, it’s a game” We continue with the hard work and reduce the pressure on my 9 year old. So we now study, practice, discuss and then we Play! Now when… Read more »

jmyers
Guest
jmyers

Glad to hear IM! Stay the course, I know it’s hard because most coaches don’t understand this “Rebellious” type of swing. I’m having the same conflicting attitude with the coaches of my players. Like you’re doing, the best thing is to have a mature humble relationship with the coaches and have them be “your” eyes 🙂 Keep up the good work!

Mark V
Guest
Mark V

Great article by Chas on realistic hitting expectations! I was listening to sports radio the other day and one of the veteran players, I think it was Jim Thome of the Philadelphia Phillies, was talking about what shaped his success in the major leagues. His success wasn’t the result of what happened one day, but what he learned on a day after day basis. He said everyday, over the course of his career, he learned something new about baseball or life. He drops what he has learned into a bucket as if he were filling it with water, drop by… Read more »

jmyers
Guest
jmyers

Funny huh Mark V. how this topic is getting discussed at length nowadays?! A good friend and ex-teammate of mine from Fresno State, Ben Fritz who was a 1st round draft pick after his Jr. season to the A’s, posted an article to his Facebook echoing the same sentiments. Mike Matheny wrote the piece as a “letter to the parents,” please check it out: http://www.mac-n-seitz.com/teams/mike-matheny-letter.html?ref=nf

Charles Sherrill
Guest
Charles Sherrill

My son started down the baseball road ten years ago and what a wonderful journey its been for both him and the family. The trick to baseball is not becoming so focused on the destination that you miss out on the journey, which is really the best part. Baseball has provides many wonderful surprises and life lessons to both players and parents, but you have to be patient and really open your heart to the game. If you constantly compare your players to others or obsess over goals that are not entirely (or even mostly) within your player’s control, you’ll… Read more »