My six-year-old son has grown a bit obsessed with the game of baseball as of late. I am usually in my home office when he comes downstairs in the morning. He takes a seat in the kitchen, which is adjacent to my office and I hear him racing through the buttons on the remote. Then he yells out, “Dad the Orioles are playing at 7:05 tonight.” Then it’s common for him to not just watch the game; but to watch the replay of the game the next day. When I put him down to sleep at night, he asks me to have my phone on me so we can look at the MLB app. He wants to see the standings, stats, and track Gameday for games that are being played at that time. As someone that is a bit obsessed with the game myself, I love it. And I will do all that I can to feed his passion.
His love for the game started this past Spring when he started playing Coach Pitch for our local little league. Outside our scheduled practices and games, he wanted to play wiffle ball in the front yard; play catch; catch pop-ups; and his favorite, work on his diving catches. As days and weeks went by, his skill improved steadily. As his skill improved, he wanted to do more. He enjoyed making plays in the games. He enjoyed hitting the ball hard. And he enjoyed hearing people tell him that he was very good. Naturally, who doesn’t want to be recognized for doing something well? Now he has upped his ‘workouts’. He has taped a piece of paper to our living room wall and uses it to practice his pitching, calling out change-ups, two-seamers, and curveballs (none of which do anything other than go straight!). He has also taken up practicing his sliding on our hardwood floors in the living room. And again, I continue to support his passion, as long as it doesn’t run the risk of throwing a ball through a window or knocking over a TV.
I know he is just six. His love for the game may vanish overnight. Or it may get stronger. But what he has done over the past five months provides proof to something that I have been screaming about for years. The formula for improvement is simple. REPS, REPS, REPS! If you want to get better at something, the first step is taking action….FREQUENT ACTION. Showing up at one practice a week, and playing two games a week simply won’t cut it. Playing five games over a weekend won’t get you better. If you want to get better, you have to get in as many reps as possible, as often as possible.
We unfortunately live in a culture where we stress games over practice. The opportunity for more reps is far greater on practice days than on games days. Think about a little league (or any rec league) game. A kid shows up 15-30 minutes before the game. They may throw a little and quite possibly hit a handful of balls off a tee. There are no substantial hitting reps and there is certainly no defensive work being done. Practice days are the best opportunity for the most reps. Unfortunately, in order to get those reps, you do need a coaching staff that can execute a quality practice plan.
If all my son did was work on his game when he had scheduled practices and games, he would get better, but only slightly. It’s the practice he does outside of the organized practices and games where he makes his biggest gains. And the same is true for the best players. Follow them around and I guarantee you they are the ones working at their game on their own or within small groups of friends/teammates outside of their team workouts. Why do these kids put in the time outside their team’s workouts? Simple. They know it’s the ONLY way they can get to a level where they want to play.
There is no magic drill. You do not have to spend thousands on a baseball guru. You do not have to spend hundreds in rental fees or tokes for an indoor facility. You have everything you need. Find an open space outside. Grab your bat, a few balls and your glove and get to work!