A post in the archives under the 'Parents' tab, “Baseball is Like a Piano” discusses a key ingredient for our young softball or baseball player to have the best possible experience: working on their skills away from team organized activities. Just like alearning to play the piano, a youth ballplayer needs to practice at home.
Aspiring young piano aficionados have equipment at home to practice on, the young ballplayer needs equipment to for practicing at home as well. Fortunately the equipment needed by a youth softball or baseball player doesn’t cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. What is the key piece of equipment for our young ballplayer? - a Batting Tee.
A batting tee can be found at the local sporting goods store for around $25. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just something that will support a ball so a kid can take a whack at it. A ball isn’t even required; a rolled up pair of socks can serve as a baseball or softball. I know this to be a fact because as a child I hit socks off a Tee in my bedroom (I am not sure if my mother was aware I was swinging my bat in the house).
Batting is said to be the most difficult action in all of sports. This statement refers to hitting a live pitch, but as golfers know, hitting a stationary ball off a tee is not that easy either. Why is hitting a ball (moving or stationary) so difficult to master? Because the primary movement in swinging a bat (or club) is rotating the lower half of the body. When was the last time we (or our kids) rotated the lower half of our body in our daily activities? Unless we are a dance instructor it might be difficult to remember the last time.
Kids run, jump, skip and climb. These and other daily activities involve the leg muscles working, more or less, in straight lines. Then we hand them a bat and ask them to hit a ball, an activity that requires the lower body to rotate, an action they rarely or ever execute in their day to day activities, and we wonder why they struggle. Yeah, but we tell them to ‘keep your eye on the ball’ and to ‘line your knuckles up’ and to ‘raise that back elbow’. Unfortunately these things have little, if anything, to do with the actual swing itself. “The legs swing the bat” and when the legs swing the bat, they rotate.
Making a $25 investment in a Batting Tee can do wonders in helping a child develop their batting skills
Video of Josh Hamilton working off a tee...most every MLB player employs the use of the tee in their daily in-season swing routine as well as part of their off season routine. Tees aren't jsut for Tee-ball, they are a tool used throughout a successful baseball career.
The second thing we can give our young ballplayer is our time. Gosh, we brought them into the world, then signed them up to play, the least we can do is spend 10 minutes a day tossing the ball back and forth with them – just 10 minutes a day!?
The most fundamental skill in softball and baseball is playing catch and many kids do not do this enough to develop a minimum level of competence in order to execute a throw or a catch in their team practices or a game. Not only do their muscles need repetition, but also their eyes. The more repetitions a child’s eyes get seeing a ball flying towards them the more skilled their brain will become in matching up the ball with their glove.
The good news is that we don’t have to travel far in order to play catch with our child. In most cases walking a few steps out our front or back door is all it takes to find a spot to play catch.
One of the aspects of softball and baseball that makes these games so popular is the social component. Conversation is a big part of the baseball and softball experience. Players socialize in the dugout and they socialize while playing catch.
Understandably, in today's busy world, it can be difficult to find time to hold an extended conversation with our kids. Another contributor to the problem is finding a scenario where we can gain and hold our child's attention. However, many parents report that the time spent playing catch with their child is the time they have their most in depth conversations with them.
While playing catch a child is ultra-focused on the person they are playing catch with – in this case its mom or dad. How many other activities can give us our child’s undivided attention? It is also reported by many adults that, when looking back on their childhood, some of their most vivid memories of spending time with a parent are from the time they spent playing catch.
There are the two things we parents can do to help our kids get the most out of their experience playing baseball or softball. Get a Batting Tee for them, so they can work on their batting skills (they don’t need a partner to do this) and give them few minutes of our Time each day. Get them swinging the bat more and let's start playing catch with our kids; we just might find we get to know them a little better in the process.
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