Thursday, December 10, 2009

7 Keys to Building Good Work Habits in Young Baseball Players

By Nick Dixon

Today the four letter word for baseball coaches is W-O-R-K: Working and learning to work are one of the vital elements required in the building of a successful baseball team and program. In baseball coaching work and baseball playing involves a lot of things. Work is practice. Work is hustle. Work is execution. Work is commitment. Work is being focused. Work and knowing the value of work may be the most important thing that you will teach your players. A player can have all the talent in the world, but if that player is not willing to work hard to develop that talent, the player is destined to be an underachiever.

Work is what allows a player, a team, and a coach to reach their maximum potential in the game. Every player has the potential to be great at something in the game! Hard work is the key element that will determine a the level of success a player will have later in life. Learning to work hard is a life skill that every youth player can benefit from. We all know of players that we played with or that we coached that had great God-given abilities but terrible work habits. They refused to push themselves to greatness. They would always spend more time looking for a way to get out of work, than actually working. They were simply lazy. They did not have the drive. It made no difference what the coach did, what the parent did, or what their peers said, they simply did not have the focus and commitment to work hard. These underachievers always come to their senses but it is always too late. When they look back to the good old day, they always say that wish they would have worked harder. A common saying of underachieves is that if they only had known then what I know now, they would have pushed themselves harder and made themselves work harder.

Players and coaches must understand the value of hard work. Anything worth having is worth working for. You must work hard. The assistant coaches must work hard. The players must work hard.

What are the keys to teaching players to work? Here are 7 keys to building good work habits in young players:

1. Praise
Praise the player when work is done. Instant positive feedback can serve to motivate players to work harder and harder. You should always correct a player when he does something incorrect. But when you do verbally get on a player, always find a reason to pat that kid on the back later. Keeping a balance between corrective criticism and praise is a valuable skill every coach must learn. Always try to send the players home on a positive note with a positive frame of mind.

2. Fun
The kids must enjoy practicing, playing and spending time together. If going to the baseball field feels like going to the dentist, they are going to lose interest and drive. When they lose interest and drive, they will stop working. Plan your practices with a variety of drills and activities to prevent boredom from setting in. Always include a couple of competitive games or drills to make the practice as fun as possible. I am not saying make your practice all fun game and play-time. I am just suggesting that you plan and organize your practices to include as many fun and motivating activities as is practical.

3. Discipline
Team discipline and player self discipline are two crucial elements for having a successful season. Players should be expected to have a high level of self control and follow all team rules. One important team rule is always showing respect to coaches and adults on and off the field. You can be firm and still keep a fun and comfortable atmosphere.

4. Role Model
The players must see their coach work. Kids can sense when a coach practices what he preaches. Do not expect a kid to work for you if you do not work for him.

5. Short-term Goals
Setting a goal for a drill or workout activity will often motivate players to put forth more effort. Have the goal be something simple and have the reward instant.

6. Long-term Goals Setting team goals for the season is an important tool to improve player mental focus and to add value to the work done at practice.

7. Individual Goals
If you have a gifted player that is more advanced and skilled that most of the other players on the team, you may want to have each player set 3 individual goals for the season. Have players set a target batting average goal, a goal of stolen bases, a goal of a number of base hits or such. Such individual goals often can motivate players to work harder than ever.

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Hello Baseball Friend,
I welcome any comments or suggestions. If you have a question or a topic that you would like to read about, please leave a comment and I will try to address that topic as soon as I can. Good luck in the coming season!
Have a great day, Nick