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Take 30-minutes To Get Started With Becoming A “Sticky” Super Coach…You’ll Be Happy You Did!

 

This is Part-1 to the Facebook LIVE conversation I recently had with Bill Masullo, who is the Co-Owner and Senior Baseball Instructor at the Ultimate Edge @ Goodsports.  The subject of this interview is complimentary to a recent post I did titled, “Why Fortnite May Be Dangerous To Building Hitters Who Crush”HEADS UP: there’s some unwanted mic feedback to Bill’s audio when he speaks, should be fixed for the next go-round, our apologies.

Below are some highlighted notes I took for you…

  • At the 3:00 mark, address the question of delayed v. instant gratification, in Fortnite you “earn” levels – you can’t “buy” your way to the next level (this is a plus of the game), best athletes or any other successful people in the world are better at delayed gratification.
  • At the 6:20 mark, mentioned Bryan Eisenberg’s book, Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It, talked about the Stanford Marshmallow Study, talked about the University of Rochester twist to the Stanford Mashmallow Study adding in a credible v. not-credible source.
  • At the 11:15 mark, should we “ban” Fortnite, video game aggression studies in the book Pre-Suasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini, aggression ONLY comes out on 1-on-1 video game play – not on team game play, “earning” success in Fortnite is great, but success can happen so fast in a video game whereas the physical part of learning a motor skill can take more time, above v. below v. average learn-ability, the difference between doing the right things (being effective) and doing those things right (being efficient), working 4-days per week for at least 5-mins per day.
  • At the 17:45 mark, understand the “reward” is that the movement is correct, difference in feedback we give to a younger hitter versus an older more seasoned hitter, mentioned Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code, Goldilock’s Golden Rule to giving feedback to hitters, mentioned Don’t Shoot The Dog by Karen Pryor, positive v. negative behavioral conditioning, when learning something new start with more feedback when they do the movement semi-correctly, and as they get cleaner with the movement, back off the feedback (still give it), but sprinkle in, move to rewarding the BEST movement executions.
  • At the 27:47 mark, Bill was teasing Part-2 of this interview about the effect playing video games and being on the mobile has on the young athlete’s posture and how that in turn effects their swing, “sitting” is the next “smoking”, and lastly WHY should we as coaches care about this.

Stay tuned for Part-2, and before I let you go…

If You Can Train Two Pigeons To Play Ping-Pong, Then YES You Can Train “Normal” Young Athletes To Step Sideways & Hit A Moving Ball

This is a follow up to the post I recently published titled,  “WHY ‘Squishing The Bug’ Is So Dumb”.

I had a couple coaches reach out over email and social media,

Saying although they agreed with not teaching older hitters to ‘squish the bug’, they disagreed that it’s okay to teach younger hitters.

Let me be clear, I don’t typically get into weight transfer with hitters less than 7-years-old.  HOWEVER, it can be done, and that’s what this post is all about.

So, is it the young hitter that’s incapable of learning how to do what the best do?

OR…

2 Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Two pigeons were taught to play ping-pong using primary and secondary reinforcers. Photo courtesy: LiveLeak.com

Is the instructor incapable of teaching what the best do?

The answer will become clear in following.

We’ll discuss:

  • What science of learning says, and
  • Regression to progression models for teaching.

 

What Science of Learning Says…

One Facebook reader shared that he has 12-years in the child development field, in addition to having 8-years of coaching at different levels.

He agreed with the aforementioned ‘squishing bugs is dumb’ post, but said what he’s seen in child development research is that the majority of 6-year-olds are incapable of shifting their weight and hitting a pitched ball.  He added that only the top 1% of kids can.

He also referenced a kid with what he called “no athletic” ability as an example.

This is an interesting comment coming from someone with his professional background.  And I asked myself, okay, what am I missing because my experience has been much different.

First of all, to reference the bottom 1% of kids in “train-ability” throws up a yellow flag for me (“train-ability” was referenced in the book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science Of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein in the Heritage Study).

Since this gentleman is convinced “normal” 6yos can’t be taught to weight shift and hit a ball (exclude mutants and bottom 1% from the equation), then…

I asked if he’d read The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Made.  It’s Grown.  Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle.  And what his thoughts were on Daniel Coyle’s findings of the following athletic “hotbeds”:

  • 3yo females learning gymnastics in China?
  • 3yo females learning tennis in Russia?
  • Young females learning golf in Korea?
  • Young boys learning baseball in Curacao?
  • Young boys learning soccer in Brazil?

He responded with, well it’s different in Russia because they’re more disciplined.

Wa??!

I said oh, so if the kids practice, then it’s possible for “normal” athletes?

No response from him on that.

I then went on to talk about how the International Youth & Conditioning Association, which I am a certified member of, shared their own child development research that children between the ages of two to five years old should developmentally be able to run, hop, jump, forward skip, and sideways skip.

Weight shifting, like in a stride, is very similar to side skipping.  Think about throwing a Frisbee as far as you can.  And, Pitchers do this all the time, in addition to first baseman when stretching to receive a throw from an infielder (okay, this is more of a front step, but you get the idea).

This gentleman said although this may be true, normal kids cannot side step AND hit a moving pitch.

We’ll get into the progression I used with my own boy when he was 2-years-old, at the end of this post.  But hey, maybe he’s part of the top 1%…I dunno 😛 lol  You be the judge.

Back to the child development expert, I mentioned the following book to him Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training, by Karen Pryor, which is about using positive and negative reinforcers in behavioral conditioning.  Basically, it’s a dog training book (worst title ever by the way!!), but the info is just as applicable to humans, horses, dolphins, and any other thing that has flippers, 2-4 legs, and breathes air.  Also, this is what was used to train the two ping-pong pigeons in the video above.

PIGEONS!  I’ve also read somewhere, might have been in the Don’t Shoot The Dog book, that a scientist once taught a chicken to turn the pages of a book…a CHICKEN!!!

Let that sink in for a moment…

Here’s what I took away from the conversation with Mr. Child Development Expert…

The brain and eyes have a contract with each other…the eyes are only suppose to look for what the brain wants to see.  You can read about that in the book Stumbling Upon Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

And this child development expert was biased towards information confirming his belief that “normal” 6yos cannot side step and hit a moving ball.

BREAKING NEWS!!

I’m biased too!  But on the opposite side of the spectrum.  I operate from the perspective that if the young athlete isn’t getting what I want him or her to do, then I’m NOT doing something right.  Not the other way around.  I find a way, and look for information validated by science to support my claim.

So which coach would you rather work with?

Let me repeat,

Teaching hitters to ‘squish the bug’ has NOTHING to do with what the best do.  And an instructor that defaults to this when teaching young hitters is like a grade school teacher teaching his 1st Grade students that 2 +2 = 5, because they’re incapable of learning that the real answer is 4.

Look, some of you may be thinking that ‘squishing the bug’ is about “getting the hips through”.  My good friends Matt Nokes AND Homer Bush dispelled this myth in the following posts:

I was told this is a BOLD statement…to say teaching ‘bug squishing’ is WRONG.

It is wrong.

You may feel I’m judging you, but I’m not.  I have an issue with what you’re teaching and WHY.  NOT with you.

I think you’re better than that.  It’s not personal. 

But be honest with yourself.  It’s not what the best do, but I do understand you’re frustrated working with these younger hitters.

…And may have a solution…

 

Regression to Progression Models for Teaching

I’m not going to get into how to teach side stepping in this post.  If your kid can side skip, or side step, then they’re fully capable of a weight shift.

The question is how to get them to hit a moving ball.

And before I get there, I wanted to share a quick story I read in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, that highlights the learning process.

Remember this scene in the movie Terminator 2…? (video should start there, but watch at about the 5:00 min. mark)…

In the book, Arnold discussed how he learned to load a shotgun with one hand, while riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and at the same time shooting the padlock off a chain-link fence.

According to him, this was his process:

  • NOTE: He spent time in the Austrian Army as a tank driver in his younger days, so he knew how to shoot a weapon beforehand.
  • He spent many repetitions loading this particular shot gun with one hand, seated on the Harley.
  • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun, seated on the Harley, shooting a small target.
  • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun while riding the motorcycle.
  • He spent many repetitions loading the shotgun, riding the Harley, and shooting the target.

His whole thing was “reps, reps, reps”, until the action he practiced became second nature.

This is also what Josh Waitzkin calls “making small circles”, in his book The Art Of Learning: A Journey in Pursuit of Excellence. Josh was a young chess prodigy, and his life was the basis for the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”.

How did I teach my 2-year-old son how to hit a moving ball?  Here’s the process:

  • Starting at about 1.5 years old, we practiced hitting different sized balls off a little tee with a big plastic blue bat,
  • A few months before he turned two years old, I started throwing a big beach ball at him while he hit it with his big plastic bat,
  • We then started slowly shrinking the ball down until after a few months past his second birthday, he was hitting baseball sized whiffle balls with his big plastic bat, and then
  • We shrunk the bat down to a conventional yellow whiffle ball bat, so at about 2.5-3 years old, he was able to hit a baseball sized whiffle ball with the slim yellow bat.

Truth be told at 3yo, he wasn’t hitting every pitch I threw at him, but he was hitting the ball harder more often, other than just ‘tipping it’ or totally swinging and missing like most his age or older, who didn’t have the prior progressions.

 

The Bottom Line…

Coaches,

If 3 year old girls are learning tennis in Russia, golf in Korea, and gymnastics in China, then your hitters can learn how to step sideways and hit a moving ball.  If discipline is an issue, use the Minimum Effective Dosage Rule, practice only 4-5 days per week, for only 5-mins each day.  It’s not about length of time, but frequency of reviewing the material.

If you can teach a chicken to turn the pages of a book, and train two pigeons to play ping-pong, then YES you can train “normal” kids to step sideways and hit a moving ball.

If you cannot, then the fault most likely falls – I know this may be hard to swallow for some – with the instructor, not the child.  Set the ego aside.  Every day, ask yourself the question:

“What don’t I know?”

#1 Shocking Mistake Killing Your Mindset (Baseball Batting Quotes)

It’s a blessing…

And a curse.

It empowers people to do GREAT things…

While others, it imprisons to mediocrity.

One word can offer us a detour…

And at the same time can make us feel like we’re at a dead end.

How we look at this one word can make suffering feel like a learning process

Or can make us want to quit, and never try again.

What’s ‘the word’?

We’ve heard Ted Williams say that “Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports.”  The word, ‘Failure’, has separated Hall Of Famers from players getting just one  cup of coffee in “The Show”.

What follows are SIX of my favorite inspirational quotes on Failure. I wish this was something that was put in front of me when I felt my struggles were insurmountable during my playing days.  So, please share this baseball batting quotes post to your social media, to spread the word, you never know who they’ll help.

What’s more…

Not only are these my favorite quotes on the topic of Failure, but they were the TOP-6 baseball batting quotes when I posted them to my Hitting Performance Lab Facebook fanpage and Twitter page.  “Like” and “Follow” me there (if you haven’t already) because I posting more great hitting content daily.

The baseball batting quotes are arranged from least to most engaged with on my Facebook fanpage.  Let’s start with…

#6:

Baseball Batting Quotes: Maxwell Maltz

#5:

Baseball Batting Quotes: John Wooden

#4:

Baseball Batting Quotes: John Wooden

#3:

Baseball Batting Quotes: Denis Waitley

#2:

Baseball Batting Quotes: Michael Jordan

And #1!

Baseball Batting Quotes: Sumner Redstone

Here’s what I feel the #1 mistake is…we treat Failure like it’s a terrible thing. When we are conditioned to look at Failure as a bad thing, then we stop trying.  Or at best, become standoffish when  giving it another shot because the pressure begins snowballing.  There’s no release, just build up.

Young hitters NEED to be encouraged to tinker and test.  To make their own adjustments.  To look at Failure as feedback.  To question the status quo.  This is where creativity and problem solving flourish!

Here are FOUR other articles or books that I love, related to the topic of Failure:

  • “5 Reasons To Stop Saying “Good Job!” by Alfie Kohn – blog post that the title is self explanatory.  After reading, you’ll see why this can lead kids to the “Failure as a dead end” mindset.
  • Golf Flow by Dr. Gio Valiante – sports performance psychologist, Dr. Gio, who works with the top PGA tour players. This book has nothing and everything to do with the baseball.
  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle – how the body learns, and that greatness isn’t just in our DNA code.
  • Brain Rules For Baby by John Medina – John brings up some great research and study, and one in particular says that telling a kid, “You’re so smart!” will handicap them, rather than saying, “You must’ve worked hard for that.”

As Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” So focus your attention on Failure as only a feedback mechanism.

 

Domingo Ayala: How To Hit Cage Bombs

Photo courtesy: TopicNow.info & DomingoBeisbol.com

Okay, in all seriousness…

I received an email from a reader named Garrett,

…in response to a post I did, titled:

“What Every Coach MUST Know About Giving Feedback To Hitters”.

This post will identify and fix a “5 O’Clock” hitter…

 

Identifying a “5 O’Clock” Hitter

What is a “5 O’Clock” Hitter?
One who ONLY “shows up” for batting practice, but not in a game.  In other words, BOMB!! lol
Here is Garrett’s email…
“Hey Joey, 
Does this sound like the recipe for a five o’ clock/inconsistent hitter to you?
  1. takes one swing then goes and analyze the video…repeats the process 30 times
  2. relies on someone else to tell the what they are doing wrong
  3. uses BP to try and hit bombs…how do your hitters use bp on the field for work?
  4. uses the tee to practice the perfect swing for the perfect pitch
Thanks.”

How-To Fix a “5 O’Clock” Hitter

My responses below addresses the numbered questions above (slightly edited)

“Garrett,
  1. That sounds like a similar approach to Jaime Cevallos’s Positional Hitting!  Video analysis is a great source of external feedback, but like everything else, can be relied upon too much, or obsessively at times.  I’d prefer the hitter work out the kinks for at least 5-8 swings before filming again.  This can be supported in Peter C. Brown’s book Make It Stick.
  2. Hitters are their best own evaluators.  Nobody else can tell them how or what they felt on a particular swing.  I’ve had hitters like this, and typically it stems from mom or dad (or somebody) giving them the answers all the time growing up.  Not letting them make their own mistakes, and learning from them.  Young hitters have to fail on their own, then struggle for the adjustment…and if they need help after that, then coach can pick them up.  This has Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code written all over it.
  3. “Practice like you play, so you play like you practice”.  If you have to compete in a 100-meter sprint, you can’t train like you would for a marathon.  Marathon batting practice sessions (taking 8+ swings per round) are useless to a game swing.  My hitters take 3-5 swing rounds, and then get a brief break.  They’re also required to swing as hard as they can – under complete control – for each swing.  CLICK HERE for a great testimonial case study post from one of my San Diego dads, on the turnaround his two High School boys experienced making this switch.
  4. Mass practice off the tee is no good.  The tee position must be varied after each swing.  This is talked about extensively in Peter C. Brown’s book above as the Art of Variance.  Also, please refer to preceding point #3.
Hitting cage bombs gives a short-term boost to self-confidence.  And hitters who don’t do train for the “100-meter sprint” will break during competition.
Self-confidence is gained through working the process, staying the course, and not obsessively focusing on outcomes or their competition.  Gio Valiante’s book Golf Flow is a great resource for this type of thinking.”
BOMB!! 😀 lol
My question to you is…
What are the one or two biggest mistakes you see coaches or players make in practicing like they’re going to play?
Please REPLY in the comments section below…
Giving Feedback To Hitters: My 2yo Son Noah

This is Noah (2yo at time) hitting the beach-ball with Grandma Alice…

Giving Feedback To Hitters: A How-To…

My in-laws had just come over for Easter Sunday,

And we were watching my 2-year-old son Noah hit balls off his little tee in the backyard.

What transpired was an ah-ha moment for me in giving feedback to hitters…

My brother-in-law was the fielder, and in between swings, my mother-in-law was feeding his tee more balls.

Whenever Noah would angle to hit the ball away from my brother-in-law,

My mother-in-law would come over and help Noah angle correctly, by moving his body with her hands.

It dawned on me that I’d never given him feedback like that before.

I typically just tell him to “hit it that way,” and he angles his body naturally.

Which is the better way?  And does it matter?

There’s a growing body of research and study that reveals the science of giving feedback to hitters.

First, let’s see how you’d answer the following 3 questions…

1. Do you give verbal feedback between each swing?

OR, wait till the end of a round?

2. Do you use internal cues like a focus on the feet?  

OR, focus on external ones outside the feet?

3.  Do you physically move the player into a better position yourself?

OR, do you allow the player to make adjustments on their own?

How’d you do?  Don’t worry about being wrong…

In this post, we’re going to look at how science answers the 3 previous questions on giving feedback to hitters…

 

1. Do you give verbal feedback between each swing? OR, wait till the end of a round?

The Science Of Giving Feedback: The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle

To give this section some context, check out Daniel Coyle’s post about the Z-Boys by CLICKING the image above…

Daniel Coyle, in his book The Talent Code, talks about The Language Of Ignition.  He shares a story from Skip Engblom, the guy who coached the Z-Boys surf/skateboarding team in the 1970’s.

Enter Coach Skip… (by the way ‘unowaime?’ is Skip-Talk for ‘you know what I mean?’):

“When it came to skateboards, we got all systematic about it, practiced a couple hours a day, four days a week.  There’s no instant gratification, man.  Everything boils back down to training; doing it over and over.  So I never said much.  I would just be mellow and say ‘good job, dude’ or ‘nice shred,’ and sometimes somthing to up the ante, toss in a little carrot, you know, like ‘I heard so-and-so did that trick last week.’  And then they’d all be trying like crazy to do that one, unowaime?”

…”Here’s the deal.  You’ve got to give kids credit at a younger age for feeling stuff more acutely.  When you say something to a kid, you’ve got to know what you’re saying to them.  The stuff you say to a kid starting out — you got to be super careful, unowaime? What skill-building really is, is confidence-building.  First they got to earn it, then they got it.  And once it gets lit, it stays lit pretty good.”

In giving feedback to hitters, pretend words are precious.  Imagine that every word you say costs YOU money.  The less words you use, the smaller your bill is at the end of a session.  Make your words more impactful, more purposeful.

I wait till the end of a round (5-swings or so) to give feedback.  And even then, I’m quizzing THEM on what they did or felt, NOT telling what I think.  This works wonders in giving feedback to hitters that makes coaching sticky.

 

2. Do you use internal cues like a focus on the feet?  OR, focus on external ones outside the feet?

Giving Feedback To Hitters: Stabilometer

Stabilometer, photo courtesy: hospimedicaintl.com

I found a study by Charles H. Shea & Gabriele Wulf that was published at ScienceDirect.com titled, “Enhancing Motor Learning Through External-Focus Instructions and Feedback”, that illuminates a piece of the giving feedback to hitters puzzle… (CLICK HERE for the study abstract):

They had four groups who practiced balancing on a Stabilometer:

  • Group 1 – Focused on balancing with their feet (internal),
  • Group 2 – Focused on balancing by looking at a marker on the Stabilometer (external),
  • Group 3 – Concurrent feedback watching deviations from the horizontal on a computer screen and telling them the line represented their feet (feedback/internal focus), and
  • Group 4 – Concurrent feedback watching deviations from the horizontal on a computer screen and telling them the line represented the markers (feedback/external focus).

Study conclusions:

  • Both external focus of attention and feedback enhanced learning.
  • Learning benefits of an external attentional focus seem to generalize the feedback given to the learner.
  • Feedback generally enhanced performance and learning, suggesting that one function of feedback might be to promote an external focus of attention.

According to sports performance psychologist and distinguished PGA Tour mental coach, Gio Valiante, elite golfers use an external focus during tournaments by “moving towards the cup”.  In other words, they aren’t focusing internally about their mechanics.

Giving feedback to hitters works in the same way…I use feedback markers when working on footwork.  I urge them to “get to the markers” (external) instead of a focus on their feet (internal).

 

3.  Do you physically move the player into a better position yourself? OR, do you allow the player to make adjustments on their own?

Giving Feedback To Hitters: Golf Flow book by Gio Valiante

Great golf book on the mental process.  It’s has nothing to do with hitting, but at the same time has everything to do with it.


In a book by Gio Valiante called Golf Flow, he recalls a class session where he’s also a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida…

In the middle of class, that was being video recorded, he asked a female student to walk up and try her hand at sinking a putt on a 6-foot artificial turf green he had set up.

The first try was rushed, and she missed horribly beyond the cup.

The second try she took more time to line up, and the putt came up a bit short.

The third try she took a little more time, made a few mechanical adjustments, then sank the putt!

Please note that during the test, not a word was said to her.

Dr. Gio Valiante then had everyone in the class watch the video back of her whole session.  He instructed the class to analyze what key adjustments she made after her misses.

The key here is that the female student made the adjustments on her own.  Just like the Z-Boys skateboarding example above.

This has major implications on giving feedback to hitters…

Returning back to my mother-in-law’s reaction to Noah, when he was lining up to hit the ball off the tee…

The ah-ha moment for me was seeing Noah’s brain turn off as my mother-in-law did the dirty work of moving him into the right position.  In other words, he didn’t have to think about the adjustment, and make it himself.

Based on the research of this post, this leads to a longer learning curve.  So:

  • Keep verbal feedback (or cues) short and punchy,
  • Use external focuses (i.e. video analysis, “hit it over there!”), and
  • Make sure when you’re giving feedback to hitters, that you allow for natural adjustments to be made like in the case of Dr. Gio’s female student and my son Noah.