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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…

Coaching Kids

Coaching Kids Reader Question: “How do you get your own kid to listen/trust your advice as a coach and not as a parent?”

Coaching Kids

My son Noah and daughter Gracen, who were 4yo and 1yo respectively, at the time of this photo.

Be comforted to know that most parents I’ve dealt with have a “coaching kids” challenge – especially when it’s their own!  And I’m preparing to have the same challenge with mine…already have coaches lined up who will be working with them when the time comes 😉

Let me start off by saying, this post IS NOT telling you how to raise your kids.  That’s not my place.  I’m offering advice on what works for me.   In addition, I’m not a child psychologist, or any other type of professional dealing in kid behavior.  Just like with everything on this blog, try it out for yourself, if it doesn’t work, then toss it.  Always be testing.

FYI, I may use the words “coach” or “coaching”, where you could also use the word “discipline” or “parent” or “parenting”.

That being said…

Over the years, I’ve received great advice from the parents of my hitters, before I had kids, and now.  When it comes to coaching kids, below is me throwing my brain up on your tech device screen!

In this post I’ll share:

  • The 30,000-foot view tips to keep “seasons of life” into perspective,
  • 18 ways to get your own kid to listen/trust your advice as a coach and not as a parent, and
  • Some high priority books and resources to read on the subject…

 

30,000-foot View Tips to Keep “Seasons of Life” into Perspective

When it comes to coaching kids, one thing to keep in mind from a 30,000-foot view…

I did a 6-week Men’s Fraternity class at my church a few years back.  The purpose of the class was to train and equip “Godly fathers”.  One thing that stuck out for me at the time, was that your perspective as a dad (or mom) MUST change with the season of life.  What does that look like?

  • Up to 12-years-old, parents are seen as coaches.  Most kids in this age range are less resistant to a parent barking orders.
  • During the psychological warfare teenage years, 13-years-old to college, parents are to be seen as a “listening” counselor.  God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen twice as much as we talk 😛  And,
  • The years following college, young adults getting into their professional lives, parents move into the “colleague” season of life.  New families, babies, etc.

Another great piece of coaching kids advice for those parents who wear both the “coach” and “parent” hat, was to have the ability to be coach on the field, but mom/dad in the car and away from the field.

One more fantastic piece of advice I received from a coach at Fresno State my Freshman year, at a time when I was so frustrated the coaches were tweaking every mechanical movement I did on the field (at least that’s how it felt to me anyway):

“You don’t need to worry when we’re coaching you.  You need to worry when we aren’t.  It means we’ve given up on you.

Powerful.  That message changed my perspective on coaching the rest of my career at Fresno State!  Look, coaching kids is love.  Make your kids aware of that.

 

18 Ways to get your own kid to Listen/Trust your Advice as a Coach and not as a Parent

I want to preface this section with the fact, I haven’t mastered any of the following points.  That’s right, still working on them.  And I welcome the fear that this process will be a journey, and not a destination.  I’m far from being perfect.  I heard this expert’s advice on one of my wife’s favorite dating shows Love at First Sight:

“If you want to find a perfect person, then you have to be perfect yourself.” One of the frustrated men who got married on the show responded with, “But I’m not perfect”, and the expert added, “Then it looks like you get the message.” (liiight bulb)

We don’t have to be perfect as parents, we just have to be willing to learn, make mistakes, adapt, and try again.  The following list of 18 tips for coaching kids will help (especially when the kids are your own!)

  1. Don’t overdo discipline.  Making mountains out of mole hills – pick your battles. Being consistent with rules and consequences is HUGE.  Remember Goldilocks Golden Rule…too many rules, and they’ll rebel later.  Little to no rules, and they’ll walk all over you and everyone else.  Find the sweet spot.  Without consistent rules and consequences, they won’t build the necessary mental muscles to develop self-discipline when they’re adults.
  2. Avoid overuse and burnout – playing multiple sports or being involved in multiple movement activities is key.  Variety is fun to kids, and the spice of their life.  The same thing over and over can become boring, which leads to burnout.  Bodies engaged in a variety of movements is a healthy body.  Say no to Sport Specialization early on.
  3. Make sure they’re “listening” (the VAK Model) – did you know that in less than 5-minutes, you can get a ballpark of a player’s learning style by asking them a few questions, and watching for where their eyes go? Up to left or right – visual learner.  Side to side – auditory learner.  Down to left or right, and straight ahead – kinesthetic learner (feel).  Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) calls this the VAK Model.  This comes in handy when coaching a child, they don’t look at you, and you tell them, “Look at me when I’m talking to you”…they may primarily be an auditory learner, NOT visual.
  4. Be careful tone of voice – my 5yo son is very sensitive to tone of voice (auditory learner), so I have to be careful when coaching him. I must have good reason to raise my voice during times of correction with him.  Also, tempo of words are important when raising the voice or not.  You want to strive for keeping the voice under control even when raising it.
  5. Don’t question by entrapment – asking leading questions in order to trap them isn’t very effective.  It’s condescending actually.  I’m a work in progress on this one.  Putting kids through an interrogation is a terrible idea, especially if you don’t want resentment later. The key is coming off with genuine curiosity as to why they made the mistake they did.  Remember, they’re not perfect, neither are you.  Easy on paper, hard to apply.
  6. Caution them once, then let them make the mistake (providing mistake doesn’t do extreme physical or mental harm) – ever tell your kid to not do something over and over and over and over?  Lessons are more effective when we get ‘hands on’ experience learning them ourselves.
  7. Praise them whenever they do something you want them to do“You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.  Behavioral conditioning is much more effective when rewarding for positive things, rather than punishing for the negative (i.e. taking things away).  See Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot The Dog in the resources below.  I take my 5yo to 7-Eleven to get his favorite candy RIGHT after school. We also award stickers for doing certain things like listening the first time, cleaning up messes at home, and being patient with his little sister when she’s hitting him!  10 stickers earn him a toy in the $10-20 range.
  8. Ask their advice, put yourself in a learning mode – genuine curiosity.  Be honest, you LOVE when others ask for your advice, and seem genuinely interested in what you have to say.  Our kids love giving THEIR advice.  Be interested in their thought process.  I find it fascinating how clever they are at their age.  Sometimes I underestimate them, and they surprise me.
  9. Patience – using guided meditation apps like Headspace or Calm can be a real help with this.  The book resources below will help too.  Extreme patience in infectious.  Kids will model their parents.  If you’re an angry person, then chances are high your kids will be too.
  10. Understand what their big WHY is – what inspires them?  What motivates them?  Are they looking for attention (need significance), love (craving connection), routine (are they overwhelmed), or variety (are they bored)?  Knowing what’s driving their bad or good behavior can be a big help in prevention or promotion in the future.
  11. Show them the book, video, etc. you’re getting your info from – show them the hitting information you’re teaching them isn’t just “your” opinion.  Show them the science, experimentation, case studies, etc.  Give them proof.  Kids are pretty intuitive.  They seem to know when something has legs or when it doesn’t.  Give them proof.  Check out this post on How to Get Hitters to Buy Into the System.
  12. Give them options to “experiment” with – instead of saying, “Do it this way, not that way”.  Give them options.  You like options, don’t you?  Remember, these human movement principles are like bumpers in the gutter lanes of a bowling alley.  I don’t care what path the ball rolls down the lane, just as long as it stays between the bumpers.  A hitter’s stride type (aka “Float”) doesn’t matter, just as long as there is one.  Let them test, and choose which they feel more comfortable with.  Check out this post on Baseball Stride Drills: A How To Guide
  13. Show them high level movement examples – humans learn best by modeling.  Before there were “hitting coaches” – yes, there was such a time – hitters figured it out by watching other high level hitters.  And yes, it’s okay when coaching kids, to teach them high level movements.  Movement is movement.  Just like you wouldn’t teach an 8yo that 2 + 2 = 5 because they’re too young to learn the truth…you wouldn’t do the same with movement.
  14. Fun – coaching kids MUST be fun. I love positively teasing the kids.  I like making things up to see if they’re listening, “Where’s the keys to the batter’s box?”, “Do you know where the box of curve balls is?” “After running past third base, you run to FOURTH base…” etc.  Keep it light, and the drills fun. Check out this post on: TBall Drills: How To Coach Tee Ball Without Going Insane that may be of interest to those frustrated with coaching younger athletes.
  15. Keep expectations reasonable – “reasonable” doesn’t mean below their current ability level.  The expectations will depend on the age group.  Operating at or slightly above skill level will help players grow.  Learn to manage player frustration, know when to regress or progress a drill.
  16. Break things into small bites – make small circles at first.  The accumulation of many small circles build into a BIG circle snowball.  Focus on one movement principle at a time for a week or month, depending on the age and ability level.  Patience is your friend regardless of what decision the coach whose focus is on winning may be.
  17. Reward effort not talent – reward effort.  Reward process not performance.  “Good job!”, “You’re so smart”, and “You’re so talented” are not helpful pieces of feedback.  Coaching kids in character is best.  Remember, kids MUST learn life lessons through sports, not the other way around.
  18. Pat & Pop Method or the compliment sandwich – give the hitter 1-2 things you really like about their swing (the “Pat” on the back), before giving them the constructive criticism (the “Pop” in the mouth).  Or compliment-criticize-compliment sandwich.  You don’t like to be constantly criticized, and neither do they.  Teenagers often call this nagging.  Find the good before finding what needs to be corrected.

 

Coaching Books & Resources

CLICK HERE for a post by the Positive Coaching Alliance titled, “7 Must-Read Books Of All Genres For Parents”.  Here are the books mentioned in that post, and a few others helping solve the question we started off with in this post:

Some I’ve read, and others are currently on my reading list.  This is a perfect segue to shamelessly plug my “sticky coaching” book on Amazon… 😛

11 TBall Drills & Tips, So You Can Be Confident You’re Preparing Players For The Next LevelTBall Drills

In researching this coaching tball drills post, I did a Google search for “coach tee ball”, and one of the Google pre-populated search terms that came up was coach tee ball without going insane.  Apparently, there’s a book being sold on Amazon with the same title by a Robert Doss…who knew. 

I had to laugh because the dad of one of my online hitters, Lawrence Sutton Jr. (link is to his Perfect Game profile), shared over the phone he was pulling his hair out trying to coach his two twin 7yo daughters how to hit.  Let me give you a little context about [son] Lawrence…

You may remember [son] Lawrence in this post titled, How 175-LB 15yo Is Consistently Hitting The Ball 400-FT With…BBCOR & Wood.  Well now Lawrence is hitting those ugly yellow dimple balls out during batting practice.  He’s hitting baseballs over 360-feet…off a tee!  He’s registering over 94 to 96-mph off a regular tee using a PocketRadar.  He’s also hit balls in games over 425-feet. By the way, he’s about 6-foot, 1-inch, 180-pounds…and gets mistaken for a college Freshmen during unofficial visits, but he’s a Sophomore in High School!!

Let me repeat…so now [dad] Lawrence is trying to coach his TWO TWIN 7YO DAUGHTERS…yes, A LOT of patience needed.

Look, I can’t say my situation is exactly like [dad] Lawrence, but I do work with a lot of hitters from 6yo to pro guys and D1 college gals.  Half the hitters I work with are 12yo and younger, and the other half are 13yo and older.  In addition, my son Noah turned 5yo this past December…and this is his first year of tee ball…AND wait for it…I’m now helping coach his tee ball team.  BAM!  A lot of my parents said this day was coming.  Those who can’t see me right now, I’m tipping my cap 😛

In this post, I wanted to share with you advice I offered [dad] Lawrence over the phone about “how to coach tee ball without going insane”.  I know some of you coaches out there can offer some advice as well, so please share below in the comments.

Here are my 11 tball drills and tips (in no particular order):

  1. Patience through guided meditation apps
  2. Don’t have high expectations
  3. Have a long wick to frustration
  4. Failure is going to happen…A LOT
  5. Build fun into practices and games (joke with the players)
  6. Positive reinforcement training
  7. Minimal to NO mechanical teaching
  8. More emphasis on external cues
  9. Extreme adjustments
  10. Focus on throwing and catching
  11. Getting them ready for the next level

 

#1: Patience through guided meditation apps

First of all, if you’re not going to have the patience for coaching tball drills, then you’re not going to enjoy coaching.  Period.  There are two great guided meditation apps out there:

  • Headspace, and
  • Calm.

I prefer Headspace, which I’ve been using over the past couple years.  Minimal investment of money, and between 2 to 20-mins investment of your time each day.  Helps me focus better, think clearer, expose my creativity, and especially for coaching tee ball – become more aware when you’re losing it, so you can relax in a shorter period of time.  It’s totally transformed my interaction with my wife, kids, and hitters.

 

#2: Don’t have high expectations

David Epstein, in his book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance, talks about “learn-ability”.  It’s the ability of an athlete to adapt and learn something new over time.  To help put coaching tball drills into perspective, the bell curve of young athletes looks like this:

  • Left hand side long tail = below average “learn-ability” athletes, take longer to learn something new (these are few),
  • Majority middle bell curve = average “learn-ability” athletes, take a reasonable amount of time to learn something new, and
  • Right hand side long tail = above average “learn-ability” athletes, take a very short time to learn something new (these are few).

Most of your tball drills and expectations should be setup for the majority middle bell curve.  You’ll then want to have a regression-progression plan for your below and above average learners, which we’ll discuss later in this post.  The point is, set reasonable expectations, and understand what you’re up against.

 

#3: Have a long wick to frustration

If you haven’t noticed, kids pick up on frustration pretty quickly.  And oftentimes you can’t fool them.  Believe it or not, kids just want their adult counter-parts to be happy.  Studies show that when hot tempered anger or animated frustration enters the mix, learning stops.  The focus falls onto survival.

They’re modeling you when learning how to react to “speed bumps”.  And if coach (or mom/dad), is extremely animated when frustrated or angry, then they’ll learn that’s how you deal with it.  Guided meditation helps hide the mental meltdown button.  Here’s another powerful word I use often with my kids…and hitters…

The following YouTube video is Dr. Carol Dweck doing a speech on the power of “yet”…

I highly recommend her book Growth Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success.  The power of “yet” will help mold your tball drills to be growth mindset oriented.

 

#4: Failure is going to happen…A LOT

Think back to when your kids were learning to walk.  Did you teach them a thing or two on how to do it?  What cues did you use?  Internal ones? External?  “Walk as hard as you can, as far as you can” cues?  NO!  Figure It Out (or FIO) and Gravity were their best teachers.  The best tball drills are designed with failure in mind.  A LOT of it.  Swing and miss.  Swing and miss.  Swing and miss.  And multiple that by 100 at this age!

I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.  They’re 4, 5, or 6 years old.  Even one of the best hitters to ever play the game said hitting a ball is one of the hardest things to do in any sport – Ted William.  You can’t get 7 wrong on a school test and climb the education ladder.  Hall of Famers get it right 3 out of 10 times in baseball.  Keep on a poker face (hold the judgement), give positive reinforcement during tball drills when they get a productive outcome, and encourage the heck out of them.

 

#5: Build fun into practices and games (joke with the players)

Play games at the end of practice like Total Bases, Last Man (or Woman) Standing, Russian Baseball (kind of like cricket), or any other fun game.  Use it as a reward if they get their work done.  Speaking of which, tball drills MUST not go any longer than 60-mins (preferably 45-mins).  Adults forget 4-6 year olds have the equivalent attention span of a gnat.  Keep practices short and sweet.

I like to “flirt” with my players and hitters…not in a romantic way, you weirdo!  In a playful way.  I tease my Middle School and High School hitters about the video game Fortnight, and how all the pretty girls are looking to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to ban the video game because it’s robbing them of their “guy time”.

When we’re talking about running to different bases with the tee ballers, they learn about 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, and FOURTH base…wait minute, is that right?!  I ask them if they have the key to the batter’s box.  Or if they could fetch me the box of curve-balls.  I tease the heck out of them on down times.  Keep them loose and on their toes.

 

#6: Positive reinforcement training

The best resource for this is the book by Karen Pryor titled, Don’t Shoot The Dog:  The New Art Of Teaching And TrainingKaren has trained dolphins, horses, dogs, and humans.  This form of training has taught chickens to turn the page of a book.  True story!  And trained two pigeons to play ping-pong.  Another true story!  Studies show we’re driven more by positive than negative reinforcement.  That’s not to say negative reinforcement training isn’t effective, because it is…give one chimpanzee an apple, then take it away, and they’re peeved!  Give another chimpanzee two apples, then take only one away, and they’re just as peeved!  However, if you want to build lasting habits, positive reinforcement training is the way to go.

Let me give you some examples of this:

  • My 5yo boy Noah gets any $1-2 candy at 7-Eleven immediately after school.  He also gets an ice cream scoop immediately after going to his gymnastics training.  He earns stickers for doing productive things, and after earning 10 stickers, he gets a toy of his choice within financial reason.
  • For the boring redundant parts of my business I play my favorite music in the background (right now it’s Eric Church, songs: “Talladega”, “Springsteen” & “Record Year”), and most times have a sweet green tea within reach.
  • Karen Pryor told a story in her book Don’t Shoot The Dog, of when her daughter took a night class for working professionals.  The Professor would always start the class off with the “Who finished last night’s homework?” question.  Only 25% of the class would raise their hands.  She’d then lectured the class on the importance of doing their homework.  After one of the classes in private, Karen’s daughter talked the Professor into praising those who did do their homework instead of belittling those who didn’t.  After about of week of using positive reinforcement training, 75% of the class were raising their hands after the “who turned in their homework” question.

You MUST read Karen Pryor’s book.  Your coaching will never be the same.

 

#7: Minimal to NO mechanical teaching

(Get more information on the Backspin Tee, or the RopeBat at TheStartingLineupStore.com)

Above is my 5yo boy Noah hitting a Smushball laser in a Backspin Tee with a Ropebat.  Look at him ‘show those numbers’!

Remember, they’re 4, 5, and 6 years old.  I have local and online lesson requests from parents with kids in this age range I turn down.  And by the way, it’s possible to teach a 2yo how to hit a moving ball.  I did with my son Noah.  Not forced.  He loved the movie Sandlot at the time and got a little tee ball set for his birthday.  CLICK HERE for a post on how I progressed him to hitting an under-hand thrown baseball sized whiffle ball using a long slim yellow whiffle ball bat.

I give the following advice to parents seeking swing help for their 4-6 year old hitters

  • Being athletic in their stance.  Bend at waist, chest over toes.  Bend in the knees.  Start that way and maintain that position to stride landing.  It’s easier to teach if they’re playing other sports like soccer, basketball, gymnastics, dance, and/or martial arts.
  • Grip on the bat.  Handle of the bat lines up in the middle of the hand – base of the finger tips, top meat of the hand.  I’m not even concerned if their hands are together at this stage.
  • Balance when swinging.  They should not be falling toward or away from the plate.  However, we may use these cues to correct one side of the extreme.  In other words, if they’re falling away from the plate, then I would tell them to fall towards the plate, to get them to balance.
  • Fungo toss is great as a progression.  Hitter tosses ball up to him or herself and tries to hit it before it hits the ground.

That’s just about how technical I get with tball drills for hitting.

 

#8: More emphasis on external cues and variance

We do a lot of external cuing.  Hit the ball over there.  Hit the ball up or down there.  Hit the top half of the ball.  Hit the bottom half of the ball.  Hit the ball in on your hands.  Hit the ball off the end of the bat.  Hit the ball in the middle (sweet spot).  Try hitting this ball with this heavy bat.  Try hitting the ball with this Easton Pro Stix whiffle ball bat.  We hit from different distances providing we’re progressing to LIVE toss.  Reverse strike zone drill where they’re swinging at “balls” and taking “strikes”…they like it when I bounce it and they have to hit it!

What’s important is for them to try different ways.

 

#9: Extreme Adjustments

This works like magic.  Check out for following video that’s great for tball drills…

 

#10: Focus on throwing and catching

CLICK HERE for an audio interview I did with NCAA Division-1 Hall of Fame college baseball Coach Bob Bennett.  One of the questions I asked him was if my team was getting ready to win the Little League World Series, but only had 4-weeks to train, what would you work on.  And do you know how he responded?  Playing catch and pitchers throwing strikes (obviously, the latter is irrelevant to coaching tball drills)Fielding ground-balls and playing catch are VERY important because 95% of coaches at the lower levels are teaching their hitters to hit ground-balls.  Why?  Because they know kids can’t play catch at that age!  If you want to win a lot of games, then obsessively teach your players to play catch.  Take advantage, this is low hanging fruit coaches 😉

 

And FINALLY #11: Getting them ready for the next level

Coaches MUST maintain a Growth Mindset at all time, and should never just coach for the current level.  Like Wayne Gretzky said:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

Coaches MUST be looking forward when developing players…always.  My son’s Pre-K teachers are doing everything they can to prepare him and his classmates for Kindergarten this next year.  So why can’t Little League coaches prepare their troops for the big field?  So in the context of coaching tball drills, start using the progression I used with Noah in the aforementioned linked article on how to teach a 2yo how to hit a moving ball…

  • Hitting off tee is essential at first, but slowly shrink the diameter of the bat, moving the tee up or down after every swing, and use different size and colored balls.  Variance if your coaching tball drills friend.
  • Once they’re consistent hitting the ball off the tee, grab the fat plastic bat and beach balls!  Start underhand tossing, and as they start hitting the ball more often, then slowly shrink the ball down to baseball sized whiffles.  Once they’re hitting those whiffles with the fat barrel plastic bat, then start slowly shrinking the barrel diameter down.

This is a progressive winning strategy that worked for my son.  It may or may not take longer, but that’s the art of learning.  Embrace it.  Have A LOT of patience.  And coaches, go forth and make awesomeness…

“It’s not about how many swing you get in a day, it’s quality deep practice swings that matter.”

I had the honor of being interviewed by Coach Daryl Weber who’s the founder of the website:

Attack Style Wrestling

AttackStyleWrestling.com

Coaching principles transcend ALL sports. Yes, a wrestling coach and a hitting coach CAN speak the same language. Photo courtesy: AttackStyleWrestling.com

Yes I know, he’s running a coaching blog about wrestling and this is a hitting blog,

BUT…

The principles of coaching transcend ALL sports.  

As always, I’ve tried to make this 46-minute audio easier to digest, so I’ve included time stamps you can fast forward or rewind to.  In this interview, we went over the following:

  • About 1:20 min. mark, where it all began for me when I started teaching hitters to “swing down”. Dark time for my hitters then, and they weren’t getting consistent results.  My knowledge stagnated at the time. Where everything turned around for my hitters and my system.  Book resources included.
  • About 5:00 min. mark, how to debunk conventional teaching cues using today’s technology to test and compare swing mechanics such as Zepp, SwingTracker, and Blast.
  • About 8:00 min. mark, what is a “sticky coach?” Taking a hiatus from hitting industry teachings, the challenge is translating information from coaches that are very technical to the end user. Can the information be taken from the expert to the coach to the player?  The more effective teaches are the ones who can do this.  If we can effect the coaches, we can exponentially effect more players.  Coach Daryl talks about how doing coaching clinics can be REALLY powerful when it comes to effecting more players.  The book we were talking about was: The Science Of Sticky Coaching: How To Turn Ordinary Athletes Into Extraordinary.
  • About 14:00 min. mark, this interview started when Coach Daryl asked me to answer the following question, which he included in the following blog post: Do you have ONE TIP to help coaches and parents motivate athletes to commit to training consistently and with intensity…WITHOUT “burning them out”?  Read that post because he polled other effective coaches and they gave their responses as well.
  • About 15:00 min. mark, how to apply the Minimum Effective Dosage model (MED) to young athletes. 4-5 days per week, and 5-mins per day of hitting homework practice.  This is outside of organized practice time.  Be happy with 5-mins per day.  It’s not about how many swing you get in a day, it’s quality deep practice swings that matter.  And when you’re dealing with a demotivated hitter, set them up for success with the MED model.
  • About 19:00 min. mark, Coach Daryl likes to remind his athletes that it’s okay to fall off the wagon, if you don’t get the MED practice time in.  Life happens.  Set yourself up for success, by starting small and don’t overwhelm yourself early on.
  •  About 21:15 min mark, I talk about Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot The Dog, using positive reinforcers to inspire athletes to put the work in.  I shared the story of the Professor lecturing students 10-mins every day, who didn’t turn their homework in…changed to positive reinforcement, and went from only 1/3 of students turning in homework, to three weeks later, 3/4 of students turning homework in.  Praising hitters for the days they DO get in, motivates better than lecturing on the days they didn’t get in.
  • About 24:00 min. mark, Coach Daryl shares about his weigh-in struggles with his wrestlers.  Coach would tally up weigh-in numbers before practice, get frustrated, and proceed to negatively lecture his wrestlers at the start of practice.  This wasn’t good, so Coach had his coaches report weigh-ins to him AFTER practice, which freed him up to give a positive motivating speech at the start of practice.
  • About 26:30 min. mark, how to keep youth athletes from leaving the sport after only a couple years. Coaches “bullying” players. Encouraging athletes to open up communication lines with coach about playing time at the High School level on up. 12u on down is in the parent’s court. Dealing with coaches who teach hitting based on conventional wisdom. Using the “bobble-head” strategy.  Ask your players at the end of a session: are there any questions on what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it?  If players understand what they’re doing, then contrasting information at practice won’t confuse them.  They’ll be more prepared!
  • About 36:00 min. mark, talked about the approach a D1 softball player was going to use with her hitting coach, who has a professional baseball background and teaches conventional hitting wisdom.  She interned for me this past summer, sitting in and helping out on my hitting lessons, and we worked one-on-one about a half dozen times.
  • About 43:00 min. mark, coaches have to start asking more questions.  Question what they’ve always been taught.  Question what they’re learning now. Question ME because I don’t mind.  The quality of your coaching is directly connected to the quality of questions you ask.  Gain knowledge and test.

 

What is the Science of Sticky Coaching?

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?”

Leg Kicks May Be Dangerous To Pitchers (And Hitters That Don’t Perfect Them)

Before I get into the Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown video featuring Mark DeRosa & Cliff Floyd above…

I wanted to give you a heads up of what’s in this post:

  • Lesson learned from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in tournament, and
  • Rhys Hoskins swing breakdown.

 

Lessons Learned from School of Hard Knocks

Rhys Hoskins: MLBNetwork Swing Breakdown

Rhys Hoskins says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can. Photo courtesy: Sports Bay Area

I recently worked with a newer 12/13u hitter of mine, where he shared he had a terrible tournament, where he struck out virtually every at-bat the weekend before.

This immediately raised a red flag for me.

The easy thing to do for a player – and a dad or mom – is to point to a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

As a hitting coach, if this isn’t your first rodeo, then you know this is not the case a majority of the time.

Quick back story,

My last year of Little League was insane:

  • Hit .880 regular season, .770 in All-Stars,
  • 30+ dingers,
  • 40+ doubles, and
  • Struck out a grand total of 3 times in the span of 6 months.

By the way, looking at old VHS video of that swing, I was doing what I teach now.  All those strikeouts were early in the regular season, and once I settled down, they vanished entirely.

I was ignorance on fire!

Brace yourself for the “fall”…

The next year I made the move to the big field, with no pitching distance transition like there are nowadays.  I found myself swinging and missing A LOT.

I got so frustrated with myself,  and what do you think my dumb brain thought was the problem?

Right-O!! Mechanics.

Do you know the REAL cause?

Let me give you a clue…the word starts with a “T” and ends with “-iming” 😛 lol

I was being driven by my fear of getting “caught up” to by other players.  And yes, the whispers started in Middle School when I struggled to recover my old swing.

Do you know how much of a nightmare that is for a hitter who’s super driven to succeed like I was?

This fear drove me into the bookstore to read every book on hitting I could get my hungry teenager hands on.  Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Charlie Lau, Mike Schmidt, and on and on.  Nothing seemed to help.  I obsessively watched film of that swing trying to figure out what I was missing or leaving out.

Hey, at least I wasn’t out stealing cars!

It was a 4-year mind-fudge that ended in recovering my batting average – somewhat – but not my power the last two years in High School.  Thinking back now, it’s a miracle I ended up with a scholarship at Fresno State.

The point of this story is, negative tournament outcomes don’t necessarily mean a breakdown in hitting mechanics.

Back to my young hitter…

 

How To Fix Striking Out Every At-Bat in Tournament

So I had three questions I planned asking my hitter, in diagnosing the challenges he had with his last tournament:

  • The first one is, were you focusing on the new stuff we worked on last lesson (which was a week before), during game at-bats?
  • If the answer is NO to that question, then I would ask, how many strikes did you swing at, OR not swing at?
  • If they’re swinging at good pitches, then on the swings you took, how many were “on-time”?

If they pass the first three questions, then we look at seeking and fixing the ineffective swing mechanic.

However, this particular hitter failed question one.  I hadn’t warned him about bringing new swing techniques into game at-bats.  I told him that in games, your focus MUST be on swinging at good pitches and getting on-time.  It’s to compete.

I teach hitters my painful lesson.

The good news is, this hitter will be on the up and up again, and won’t have to go through the frustration, struggle, and anger I went through attempting to fix something I knew nothing about at the time.  And frankly, the only one who had a clue was Ted Williams, but his message was drowned out in the other white noise I was hearing, reading, and watching.  Paralysis by over analysis.

Now, let’s tie in the Rhys Hoskins video above…

Rhys Hoskins Swing Breakdown

Below you’ll find video notes I took.  Afterward, I’ll only focus on about a couple of these, I think others will make for good conversation in the Comments section below…

  1. About 1:20 min mark, DeRosa: “Hands go along for the ride…not a lot of hand load”
  2. About 1:40 min mark, DeRosa brings up examples of “violent hand loads” featuring: Cecil Fielder, Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield…and Manny Ramirez, Buster Posey, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy used as examples of “not a lot of hand load”
  3. About 2:20 min mark, DeRosa: asks Rhys is he’s conscious about his pre-swing hand movement. Rhys says all he’s worrying about is having some separation between his body and where his hands are during load
  4. About 2:50 min mark, Rhys: “The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”. Cliff Floyd talks about having a leg kick is a perfection type of approach. Pitchers are trying to disrupt a leg kicker: tempo, changing speeds, etc.
  5. About 3:20 min mark, Floyd says Rhys has something you can’t teach: “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…Floyd says it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.
  6. About 4:00 min mark, Cliff Floyd goes into more detail about a hitter focusing on perfecting the timing of a leg kick, and not worry about anything else, or else you’re screwed.  Rhys talks about getting “inside the pitcher’s rhythm in the on-deck circle”.  Cliff Floyd comments: “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.
  7. About 5:10 min mark, Mark DeRosa is wanting Rhys to explain the use of his hands and back elbow.  Cliff Floyd says if you want the kid to go into a slump keep talking about hands and elbows.  Rhys says his thought is “down to the ball”, then adds, “obviously you’re not swinging down like you’re chopping wood.” He’s hoping that thought process will keep him on a level plane in the strike-zone as long as he can.
  8. About 6:10 min mark, talks about “knee to knee” “hover” leg kick.  More balance, don’t get over backside.

A lot more good than bad in this video.  I wanted to focus on the timing aspect though…

Just to be upfront with you, I’m not one of those instructors that teaches a leg kick to ALL my hitters.  I think this is a BIG mistake.  If my hitter doesn’t have what I call a “Float” (aka stride type) built into their swing already, then I ask them to experiment a little.  Or if what they’re using isn’t effective at getting them on time and dynamically balanced, then we get resourceful.

We experiment with:

  • A leg kick (medium or high),
  • Slide step, and
  • Toe-tap.

By the end, they find that one of these techniques allows them to time the ball better, and it may not be what they started with.  We’re looking for what they’re comfortable with, and can execute the swing dynamically balanced.

You heard Rhys Hoskins say,

“The only thing I’m thinking about is getting my leg up”

This was after DeRo prodded him to explain what his hands and back elbow are doing.  Cliff Floyd got on DeRo that he’s going to force Rhys into a slump with all this hands talk! lol

Floyd also said that a lot of time and energy needs to be spent on perfecting the timing of the leg kick.  He added, “Did I pay attention to what that pitcher really does consistently” with his timing and rhythm in the on-deck circle.  This is very important.

Some of my good hitting friends online, who I highly respect in their knowledge, don’t believe timing can be taught or calibrated. I respectfully disagree.

If you can teach a pair of chickens to play ping-pong, then yes, timing can be taught.  True story by the way – with the chicken (read Don’t Shoot The Dog: The New Art Of Teaching And Training).

I’ve also heard pitching coaches on the Socials say they lick their lips when seeing a hitter with a leg kick.  And you heard Cliff Floyd address a pitcher’s job is to disrupt a leg kicker by changing their delivery tempo, changing speeds, etc.

But then Floyd turns around and compliments Hoskins saying, “He hits the fast-ball, he hits the curve-ball, he hits the change-up”…and adds, it’s going to be tough to get him out when he covers the plate well and doesn’t like to strikeout.

Calibrating a hitter’s timing and pitch recognition training are a deadly combination for pitchers who salivate over seeing a leg kicking hitter.  I asked this coach whether he’d salivate over facing Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, or Mike Trout.  He didn’t answer.

Coaches, if you don’t give hitters tools for their toolbox, then they’re up there hitting blind.  Don’t make them hit the pinata blind folded!

 

Here are some resources to take back to your hitters on timing and pitch recognition:

You can teach timing.  You can teach pitch recognition.  Woe to the pitcher that pitches to hitters who train both.  The winds of change are a blowin’ for hitters over pitchers.  When troubleshooting with your hitters, remember:

  • The lesson from my school of hard knocks,
  • How to fix striking out every at-bat in a tournament, and
  • Timing lessons from Rhys Hoskins.

How To Teach “Pull Happy” Hitters An Opposite Field Approach

I Need Your Help…

But before I get to the “BIG ask”,

How to Hit to the Opposite Field: Jim Thome, Mark DeRosa, & Lauren Shehadi

Mark DeRosa and Jim Thome helping Lauren Shehadi of MLBNetwork to hit to the opposite field. Photo courtesy: MLBNetwork YouTube Channel

I want you to watch the video above, where Mark DeRosa and Jim Thome help teach Lauren Shehadi how to hit the ball to the opposite field (she claims to be a chronic pull hitter).

It’s a fun video with some cool sticky coaching stuff in it.

In the video, please pay particular attention to the following:

  • What are some of the things either Thome or DeRo offered Lauren that didn’t work?
  • What were some of the things either Thome or DeRo offered that did work?
  • What did Lauren do when she didn’t understand a concept “Don’t bail out”, and then what did DeRo/Thome do or say to clarify?
  • Notice the use of positive reinforcement when she did something right…more on this at a later date, I’m currently reading a GAME CHANGING book for coaches called Don’t Shoot The Dog that goes more into this.  Sorry, only paperback version available on Amazon.

Now, here are a couple “BIG asks” (you don’t have to answer all)

  • What are the top two mistakes you see coaches make teaching pull happy hitters to hit to the opposite field?
  • What are your top two drills, sticky coaching cues, and/or hitting aids that consistently help pull happy hitters hit “oppo”?
  • If you had only 4 weeks – and a million dollars on the line – to train a pull happy hitter to hit with power to the opposite field, what would the training look like?

Pull happy hitting is going to be a MAJOR challenge as hitters climb the playing career ladder.  Extreme shifts are becoming a reality nowadays.

Great baseball minds like Homer Bush said in his book Hitting Low In The Zone,  that in order to hit .300, hitters MUST be able to lift the low pitch AND hit the ball to the opposite field.

Consider this quote from Justin Turner, who at the time of this writing is hitting .364 with 11 HR’s and 19 2B’s (a little over halfway through the season):

“Today, with the way defenses shift, you’re out.  Especially if you don’t run that well.  You don’t beat the shift by hitting around it or through it, you beat the shift by hitting over it.”

Someday your hitters will face a shift, and if they aren’t prepared, they’ll fail way more than they have to.  Be proactive coaches.

THANK YOU in advance for YOUR comments 😀