Jack Perconte 2015-11-16 04:03:49
Baseball’s off season for players should be exactly that, of. Many players, coaches, and parents think the best way to improve and stay sharp is to work year round. They worry that players will lose everything they worked so hard for if they take time away. Not true, I explain. I tell them that all the work they did in the past can only help in the end. It takes a lot of convincing for some, but its’ necessary that players understand that their baseball skills and timing will return after practices begin. It is paramount that players take some time of. The length of time varies depending on the age of players. Most important is taking enough time so that players are itching to get back to playing again. If the players’ first thoughts are, “It’s already time to start baseball practice again?” then they need more time away. Even if players lose a little of their timing, fundamentals and feel for the game, it is worth it to have a hungry player when they return. I want players that have been away from the game long enough that they are extremely anxious to play and ready for the long season ahead. The off season is a time to let the body heal and the mind refresh . One might think that baseball is not that physically taxing, but that is not true. The daily nature of the sport, the explosive actions, and necessary repetitions place a toll on the body. Recent studies on the dangers of early specialization and the injury risks from year-round play have shown that too much of any sport is not healthy for the mind, body and career. There is no reason to dispute science. Baseball is especially tough on a player’s mindset because of the nature of the game. It produces as much failure as success. Even the best players have ups and downs no matter how good they are. It is easy to lose confidence. Time heals. Following is a nine-step approach for preparing for the next season. Players should: Decide which months to take of from doing anything baseball related. The months the player takes of varies from player to player, but the time off should not be negotiable. For teams that begin practicing in early winter, players may have to take of fall ball to get their time away. As mentioned, downtime is crucial, and that break should be a minimum of two to three months for even the most dedicated of players (and up to six months for young athletes). That break time allows players to come back with a determination that year-round play cannot produce. Personal experience – My best year in professional baseball came after a winter working in a factory. That work was far from anything baseball-related. The job helped me realize how much I loved the game and it gave me an appreciation for the opportunity to play it. I could not wait to begin playing the game again, and it propelled me to work harder. Write down the things they want to focus on when they resume baseball activities. Careful analysis of the past season should provide areas of concentration for next year. It is easy to forget where attention is necessary after a while. Players may want to talk to parents and coaches about their greatest needs for improvement, too. The most important note should be about any significant fundamental changes. Major fundamental changes in season are difficult, so players should start those before games begin. Personal experience - After analyzing my first couple opportunities in the big leagues, I realized I had to do different things. I practiced hitting by choking up on the bat, and it made all the difference for me. Even little changes can bring big results. Close the door on the past season. Whether players had a great season or not, it’s over, and they can only begin developing a new “eye of the tiger” by closing the door on the previous campaign. Confidence gained from the past season is valuable but resting on one’s laurels does little to help the following year. A lack of confidence from the previous season is not preferred, but it makes serious players more intent on turning things around in the future. Whatever the case, it’s time to move on and forget about the past. Personal experience - My best seasons followed down years. I did not dwell on my past years’ failures, but they served to motivate me. One tends to think they can regain the groove after a successful year, and they slack off with their preparation. Only the superstar players repeat success year after year, so players have their work cut out for them after good seasons. Play a sport or join conditioning programs that are physically challenging. Getting in and staying in great physical condition helps condition the mind and body. Playing other sports develop different muscles than baseball does. Other sports help a player’s physical development and provide the mental break from baseball. Age-appropriate weight lifting and flexibility exercise like yoga are beneficial for all players. Personal note – Playing racquetball, hitting a speed bag and running steps helped my off season conditioning a great deal. Those activities seem to be a thing of the past but they were great training. Plan on learning a new position next season. It is apparent hat major league baseball is moving in the direction of having more versatile players. Instead of having one or two utility players, teams have many players that play multiple positions. That idea should spread to youth baseball too. That movement should entice players and their parents to not insist on playing only their favorites pot. The more positions a player plays, the better his opportunity of play at the higher levels of baseball. Personal experience – Some of my baseball regrets include not learning to judge a fly ball and practicing on the other side of the in field. Late in my career some teams wanted me to move to third base from second,and I was unprepared for that transition. If I had been more versatiel , I may have been able to play a few more years. My bad. Watch video of MLB players. As the off season moves on and closer to the start of baseball practice, it is time to develop positive imaging and visualization skills. Even though players should not swing a bat or throw a ball on their break, they can learn a lot just by observing the best players. Having a picture of “how” helps one do the same. Personal experience – One of my best spring trainings came after watching continual clips of Rod Carew hitting a baseball. A perfect picture in the mind of the proper mechanics is valuable when things go awry. Get the throwing arm ready before anything else. A couple of weeks before tryouts or team practices, players should begin a light throwing program. Each day of throwing should include longer and faster throws so the arm has time to get stronger and prepared. Many players run off to the batting cages as the first thing to do for baseball preparation. They believe hitting is the most important thing to get ready. The first priority should be getting the arm in shape followed by some fielding work. An early-season arm injury because of a lack of preparation can harm the whole year. Personal experience – Getting a sore arm in spring training one year cost me time and the opportunity to show coaches what I could do. I learned that a healthy arm was paramount to staying on the field. See a respected hitting coach at least once before the first day of practice. Starting practice with bad habits sets players up for a long season ahead. Some teams have coaches qualified to see the finer mechanics of hitting but most do not. Even those that identify what players do wrong often do not know ways of helping them correct any flaws. A specialist will identify the fundamental deficiencies and give players ways of working them out. Pitchers should also see an expert once their arm is in decent shape. Ironing out any mechanical issues and having ways to practice gives focus to season-long development. Many kids do not know the things they should be working on to improve. Having an early-season plan of improvement is useful and necessary. Personal experience – The years I hit the ball well in spring training I seemed to carry it through the season. The years of spring training hitting struggles produced the same during the year. Start a stretching program. As implied, staying injury-free is important. Stretching is a good way to build up energy and focus before games and practices. It is great for winding down after workouts. Stretching helps keep injuries away. Many youth do not recognize the importance of stretching, but it is valuable for staying on the field and is a good team-bonding experience, too. Personal experience - Like weight training and conditioning work, stretching helped my mental game as much as the physical aspect. To this day I like to stretch. It brings back great baseball memories, but most of all it feels good on the old muscles and calms the mind. Finally, you may have thought that I left out the goal setting step. I am not a big fan of setting individual goals , as they are either forgotten or unmet. The goal all players should have is one of constant and daily improvement. Jack Perconte’s new book, Creating a Season to Remember – The New Youth-Sports- Coaching Leadership Handbook will be out this year. Find Jack Perconte at baseballcoachingtips.net.
Published by Baseball Magazine. View All Articles.