We do a lot of baseball and softball training and development for youth leagues. We have created a program around getting leagues better, and by leagues we mean the COACHES, PLAYERS and PARENTS within them. It is highly focused around practice…
In today’s game we have seen a cultural change, and in my opinion, a bad one. Youth baseball is revolving more and more around games. This is very prevalent in travel baseball, which has picked up a lot of steam in the past 15 or so years.
Now, I am not saying that travel baseball is bad. I am instead saying that it is being misused. Teams are playing 4+ games over a two-day period, and doing this multiple times a month. On top of that, during the week, these same individuals are playing in their youth league games. Players are starting this as young as 8.
So, I ask: When do you practice?
No matter their answer, my conclusion is this: Not enough.
Practice is the one of the most important aspects of life itself. Why are we neglecting it?
It seems like we expect to eventually win a race just by competing in as many races as possible.
This is just not how it works.
It’s like a teacher saying: “Okay class, I am going to give you homework once a week, but I expect everyone to learn and do good on all the tests. Oh yeah, by the way, we are going to have 2-3 tests per week.” Homework is what prepares us to be successful on the test. You study hours upon hours so that you can ace the test that might take an hour to complete.
Do you know how much an Olympic swimmer trains to be able to compete at their highest level? They don’t just go out there and set world records. They are in the pool for hours a day practicing, watching loads of video, working out, and trying to shovel thousands of calories into their body so that they can refuel it to PRACTICE MORE!
So, why do we neglect practice now? If you have baseball for 40 hours a month, you should be practicing a minimum of 20 hours (50% of total baseball time). Personally, I would really rather see 75% of baseball time be spent practicing. It is safe to say that a player in professional baseball spends under 10% of his baseball time playing in games. This is counting the offseason as well. I would love to know the true statistic of this, and would like to believe that it could even be lower than 5%.
My purpose in writing this is to make you think, not to make you feel bad or angry. Just please evaluate. I have had to make changes in regards to this. I had to change both as a player, and now as a coach. If we are not evaluating what we do, we shouldn’t be doing it.
If you have ever said: “Well, we are going to take it easy this week because they had a long weekend full of games,” you are playing too much. If games are taking away practice time, I would cancel some of the games.