Where Should Your Focus as a Coach Be?

By Miles Noland

“Winning is a part of the system but never trumps player development.” -Former Yankees GM Bob Watson

The statement shows the philosophy of the consistently best major league baseball team in history, the New York Yankees. The Yankees know if they focus on player development they will build a strong system, and a strong system will allow them to compete for championships on a yearly basis, via prospects coming up through the system. These prospects help them win games, or they are traded for other very talented players that plug holes where the Yankees need help at the time.

If this philosophy is good enough for the Yankees, why isn’t good enough for the youth leagues?

I have heard of so many youth baseball coaches talking about a huge summer tournament they just won, or pulling in ringers for a big summer tournament to help them win. Or the big league game that the youth baseball coach brought his best pitcher back in because they needed someone quality to work through some innings.

It takes a mature youth baseball coach that understands player development and keeping kids healthy to make decisions that are better for the player in the long run, and perhaps not as good for the team in the short term. Youth baseball coaches have to realize the huge responsibility they have in leading youth athletes, and they have to put their ego aside and do what is best for the kid. Coaches, just like the Yankees and the rest of the major league teams are doing, need to put the emphasis on player development over winning. This philosophy in youth baseball may not be as exciting or rewarding in the short term, but the reward of this focus and effort comes down the road.

The reason this emphasis on player development is occurring in the major leagues but not on the youth level is a lack of quality coaches. Youth baseball coaches are not adequately trained to be in the position they are in. People that succeed in life are more knowledgeable and take action on that knowledge more than unsuccessful people. It is the same for coaching youth baseball. IF you pride yourself on serving kids and being a good youth baseball coach, you must get coaching yourself to provide the kids the best opportunity possible to develop.

Focus on teaching kids the fundamentals and mechanics of the game, and worry less about how many games you win. Focus on keeping a kid’s arm healthy, rather than stretching him out to win a tight game. Be the mature coach and the one who truly wants the best for the kids long-term, rather than merely making yourself look better by scratching out another win.

75% of kids quit baseball by age 13. Be the youth baseball coach that encourages kids to keep playing, and use baseball to great virtues like strong character, hard work, and the ability to deal with failure.

Miles Noland operates Noland Fitness LLC. His website, www.athletehitting.com is a wealth of information for young hitters.

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33 Cues for Baserunners

By Miles Noland

1.You must be on balance when you finish your swing. This allows you to run your best time from home to 1st.

2. After hitting the ball and not being sure if the ball will get through the infield you should peek on the 3rd of 4th step to see if you should take a turn around 1st or run straight through the bag.

3. Never expect a single, always expect to take the extra base. In youth baseball you must run hard around 1st to even have a chance to take the extra base.

4. Always be aware of the pitcher when he has the ball in his hand. You must take a lead with your eyes on the pitcher.

5. Always run through 1st base. After running full speed through the base break down in an athletic position and look to the right for an overthrow.

6. In youth baseball always be aware of the opposing team when on base. You never know when you have an opportunity to take advantage of them not paying attention.

7. Have the mentality of a thief while on base. You must look to take anything they give you.

8. Anticipating the pitch thrown in the dirt, looking to advance to the next base. It is very hard for a youth baseball catcher to block the ball in front of him, stand up, pick the ball up, and make a great throw.

9. Understands the pitchers pickoff move and looks for differences between when he goes to the plate and when he picks.

10. Understands that if the pitcher slides steps he should not steal.

11. Knows that a headfirst slide in youth baseball allows you to get there slightly quicker, but doesn’t allow you to get up as fast in case of an overthrow, and is much more dangerous

12. Knows that a feet first slide allows you to get up faster in case of an overthrow.

13. Knows that you should not make the 1st or 3rd out a 3rd base.

14. After rounding first and thinking about going to third the baserunner should look at his third base coach

15. Constantly reminding himself how many outs there, and what he should do in each situation

16. Knows to try to tag in youth baseball with 0 outs, and try to get off the base as far as possible with 1 out.

17. Understands that with 2 strikes and 2 outs to be moving on a swing

18. Knows to freeze on infield line drives with less than 2 outs

19. While on 2nd base in youth baseball he must hold if the ball is hit in front of him (3B or 6 hole), and advance when hit behind him

20. Understands that if he is in a rundown he must stay in it as long as possible to allow the back baserunner to advance

21. Pick up the coach for the sign as soon as he returns to the base

22. At 3B takes a lead in foul territory and returns in fair territory

23. Sees a bunt down before advancing to the next base

24. Runs hard on the bases at all times

25. Must peek in to home on a hit and run to see where the ball is hit in youth baseball

26. Knows how to use a popup slide to recover quickly and advance to the next base

27. Never slide headfirst into home plate

28. Aware of the 1st to 3rd move while on 1st base

29. Knows outfielders arms and when to be aggressive and when not to

30. Understands pickoff moves to 2B and how to get back to the base

31. Knows what a walking lead is and how to use it to steal in youth baseball

32. Understand how to get deeper on a lead at 2B with 2 outs to get a better angle to score on a single

33. Must tag on any ball hit in the air while on 3B with less than 2 outs

Any player or team can have a huge advantage over the opposition by running the bases intelligently and aggressively.

Baserunning must be worked on and emphasized, because it can be the edge that wins your team the game!

Miles Noland operates Noland Fitness LLC. His website, www.athletehitting.com is a wealth of information for young hitters.

33 Hitting Cues

By Miles Noland

Use the cues to keep things simple for your hitters, and you will notice the improvement. A certain cue can have a profound effect on a hitter’s swing.

1. Hold the bat so loosely if the wind blows it should move your bat

2. How you do you jump? You bend your knees, which is how you get athletic. Hitters need to be athletic to hit, so they need to bend their knees

3. How does a boxer throw a punch? He loads back and punches. He does not punch without loading, because momentum equals force created. Hitters must load to be successful

4. Get all your energy flowing in a straight line.

5. Take the effort out.

6. Take a slow, long breath before stepping into the box. The muscles need oxygen to function properly

7. Focus on the task at hand, which is getting your best look at each pitch.

8. Focus on each pitch independently of each other. The best hitters eliminate the past and the future to focus on the present.

9. You are good enough; don’t play for anyone else but yourself, because it is not your job as a hitter to please everyone.

10. See the ball, and be easy.

11. Loose muscles are quick twitch muscles.

12. Drive the back knee to the pitcher.

13. Be aggressive with the lower half, loose with the upper half.

14. Have flex in the back knee when the stride foot lands.

15. The knob must be pointing towards the back foot when the stride foot lands.

16. Develop a plan for seeing the ball (ex.-early: whole body, one windup starts move to bill of hat, late: shift eyes to release point).

17. Tension causes poor decisions and loss of seeing the ball well.

18. Eliminate tension by visualizing what you want to happen.

19. Eliminate tension by taking long, slow deep breaths, which allows your muscles to breathe.

20. Good hitters get jammed, bad hitters are always early.

21. Great players love hit by pitches and walks, because they know they are helping the team, on base percentage is huge.

22. Great hitters make their living off hitting fastballs.

23. Eliminate offspeed pitches unless you have 2 strikes.

24. If a pitcher proves he can throw offspeed for a strike, then live by the motto, “if it’s high let it fly, if it’s low let it go”.

25. Figure out the umpires strike zone in the first 20 pitches of the game and adjust our approach.

26. Look for pitches you can drive early in the count.

27. With 2 strikes shorten your swing and put the ball in play.

28. Stay on balance throughout entire swing, ensures a good jump to first base.

29. Goal should be to hit the ball on the barrel everytime; if a pitch won’t allow you to do that, take it.

30. Learn about the pitcher and umpire from paying attention to teammates’ at-bats.

31. Handle adversity well, realizing baseball isn’t fair (but better than losing a job), but you move on to focus on the next play.

32. The pressure is on the pitcher with the bases loaded; be patient and don’t try to do too much.

33. Great hitters are constantly working on their craft.

Miles Noland operates Noland Fitness LLC. His website, www.athletehitting.com is a wealth of information for young hitters.