Backspin Tee | Chad Longworth

In Little League fields and high school fields by and large all across America, the message of simple is delivered on a daily basis.  Show up at any practice and you will probably hear; Don’t stride, get the foot down early, don’t move your hands so much, don’t move your body so much, be short to the ball, take the knob to the ball, stop flying open, stay inside the ball and on and on and on. Does everything have to be simple because simple is better right? We trade short-term output for long-term development. The act of hitting a baseball is a dynamic, athletic movement built around the natural rhythm and timing of the individual player. So is it possible or even useful to simplify these complex movements and still be to expect players to be able to make and coordinate the movement pattern to maximize their output?

I preach this almost daily "you don't get off the island by walking or hitting ground balls." Dominican/Carribean players have big, long, powerful swings filled with movement that American coaches would call "wrong." There is little dispute that per capita the Dominican/Carribean players achieve higher levels of success than American Players. But why? I believe it is because they are given freedom to explore their natural rhythm, timing that develops explosive movement patterns from a young age.

Be an Athlete First

Coaches that take away or try to limit athleticism are bad coaches; it's really that simple. We have reached a point of information overload where coaching players "mechanics" makes them mechanical creating non-athletic movements and coaching athleticism out of players. While simplification and step by step processes may win you a travel ball tournament on the weekend because you just sucked less that the other team, it kills any long term opportunities the individual player might or might not have.

Young players are better off going out to the local sandlot every day (which is what they used to do) staying until dark swinging out of their shoes, throwing as hard as they can and running as fast as they can. This is how we used to develop our players; now we have an entire industry hell bent on cloning mechanical travel/showcase baseball robots. Instead of getting poor coaching players are better off with no coaching at all and in the long term I guarantee they will create athleticism and better results as opposed to the over-coached, oversimplified, Americanized mechanics.  Intention begets action.  Everything develops once a player develops the right intent.

Beware of the "development" teams and programs out there that are only concerned with developing their simplified methods to help pad their win totals and fill their trophy cases. They will dazzle you with their mechanics, while all the while coaching the athleticism right out from under you. While they may be few and far between, there are certainly programs out there that actually develop kids in a way that will allow them to reach their maximum potential. They will sacrifice short term success for long term gains and they will help players develop the actual tools and the mindset that will allow them to become the best version of themselves.

Do you think Javy Baez grew up trying to hit ground balls to the second baseman? I seriously doubt it.

  1. Rick 6 years ago

    Great article! I have a developmental team because I got tired of kids that come for baseball training play for bad teams. Teams that teach their team to field and hit like a robot, and use unathletic movements. These are the same teams that try to teach speed & agility training to their players. I’m from the “hood” so black kids don’t play baseball anymore because its boring and they don’t get to use their “natural” athletic movements. In my neighborhood growing up, we had great players in a 10 mile radius, who I played with, or against: David Justice, Tuffy Rhodes, Darryl Boston (currently 1B Coach for the White Sox), Barry Larkin, and many more who got drafted. I like watching the Dominican players and the “swag” they have. Young kids today are scared to even talk on the field, and have fun playing the game…its sad! Also they don’t understand the game of baseball, because they don’t get outside on the playground and play pick-up games.

    I tell parents, if kids went to their neighborhood baseball field, they wouldn’t have to come to me for: hitting and pitching lessons. They would get all their hitting and pitching playing against each other. Anyway, I’m getting off base here and what you are saying about hitting is so true!

    Keep up the good work and visit MD&I Baseball Academy on Facebook.

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