How To Capture The Attention of Youth Baseball Players In The "Digital Age"
If you're coaching a youth or high school baseball team, you're already aware that the kids growing up today are living a very different childhood than the one we grew up in.
The statistics back this up.
- 40% of kids use iPads before they can even speak!
- Households with kids aged 4-14 own, on average, 11 consumer electronic devices!
- And my favorite - More kids can work smartphones than can tie their own shoes!
With the internet at their fingertips, they are, in some ways, more mature because they have faster and better access to information and learning.
But when it comes to coaching baseball, there are some serious challenges with today's "digital-age" youngsters.
They have short attention spans, and a VERY low threshold for boredom. They're used to constant stimulation, and get distracted easily. If what you're teaching doesn't grab their attention right away, they'll tune you out.
With all the colorful and stimulating activities technology brings, a ball and bat can seem dull. That's why it's so important to understand the way your players' brains work.
Every person has a "dominant" learning style - their preferred way of processing information and learning new skills.
6.2% of kids are TACTILE learners.
They figure out new skills by actually trying for themselves and getting a feel for what works.
24.9 % of kids are AUDITORY learners
They pick things up best by listening to detailed verbal explanations and cues.
68.9% of kids are VISUAL learners
They’re best at collecting information with their eyes, which could be visual images or reading text.
The mistake that most coaches make is focusing too much on auditory learning.
They stand in front of the team and try to lecture, not realizing that most of the kids have already tuned them out!
Once you recognize the three learning styles, you can customize your coaching approach for each of the different kids on your team, and make sure ALL of them stay focused and engaged.
Here's an example of how to put this into action.
Say you're teaching pitching mechanics to a small group. You would start with a visual-focused strategy, since the majority of the kids will respond to this best.
Here's a suggested teaching progression:
- Allow pitchers to experiment with different grips, release points and arm position (overhand vs 3/4 overhand) to see what feels most comfortable
- Teach them the basic pitching grips (four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, changeup). Then have them close their eyes, place the ball in their hand and have them find the grip using just the feel of the seams in their hand
- Try physically placing their hands, arms and legs in the correct position for each of the pitching phases, then ask them to replicate those frozen positions one at a time
- Provide specific verbal coaching cues such as rocker step, controlled fall to home plate, T-position etc.
- Repeat the important points and use lots of positive encouragement. Be aware of your tone of voice - it can be even more important than the words you say
- Have the athlete "self-talk" his way through each phase of the pitching delivery, repeating back to himself all the important coaching cues.
- Avoid background noise, which can be distracting
- Record their pitching motion on your camera phone, then play it back for them. Pause the video during each pitching phase and point out where the mechanics are correct and where they need improvement
- Compare their pitching mechanics to the "ideal" pitching mechanics demonstrated in your instructional video
- Provide a written, step by step pitching mechanics checklist, which lists all of the phases of the pitching motion.
- Use "picturesque" language to explain. (ie. "T-position")
The same approach could be used for any type of skill - pitching, hitting, fielding, baserunning, throwing or catching.
Try it out in your next practice and you'll see a dramatic improvement in your team's engagement level. They'll pay more attention to your instruction, pick up new skills faster, and perform better on the field!
The Youth Baseball Success System is jam-packed with 71 game-tested drills to rapidly improve your youth baseball team. You'll find all plenty of techniques to capture the attention of your visual, auditory, and tactile learners!
Here's a small sample of what's included...
- How to develop flawless hitting mechanics - from the ground up
- Fun and effective drills for baserunning, sliding and leading off
- An A-B-C formula for developing proper pitching mechanics
- Daily development drills for catchers, infielders, outfielders and pitchers
- 11 pre-designed practice plans to save you HOURS of time and energy
- 13 baseball coaching "cheat sheets to manage your team like a pro