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The batting average trap: Hitter's confidence...
Player thinks to themselves in the last inning of the game, “Oh no, I’m 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and it looks like I might get up one again. I may have to hit one more time and I’m dreading it.
If two more guys get on base I’m going to have to bat and I’m not looking forward to it. My confidence is shot and all I see is my average likely sinking further”.
Rather than…”I know I’m 0 for 4 and not having a good day but I’m not worried at all about my average. I love the challenge to bat again in the last inning and have the opportunity to be the hero. If a couple guys get on base I’m going to get one more shot to be the game winning hero.”
The hitting average trap. What is it?
Baseball is a game of statistics for sure. Baseball is a numbers nerd’s paradise. There are stats for everything possible.
These statistics permeate into the youth baseball leagues and certainly into the parents and coaches mindset too. Since batters average is a very common stat used to evaluate a hitter’s ability it is an easy go-to for players and adults to measure and track.
Unfortunatly, the batting averages often weigh so heavy on a player’s mind that the fear of a their bat average going down takes a hitters confidence down with it.
It can get even worse when baseball coaches and parents pump up and put a major emphasis on a players hitting average.
Now the player is trapped in the batting ave. stats. Instead of enjoying the competition and challenges of the at bats the players often dread getting to bat or even worse…lose their aggressiveness and look to get a walk.
Never talk about batting averages. Never post averages. I didn’t say not to track batting averages—just don’t make them public. Don’t mention them. They are not necessary and do more harm than good.
Two Seconds of Nice...
First, as a youth baseball coach or a high school coach, remember the players need to know you care before you can get on to them.
Without a coach that supports the players first you never gain a player’s trust or build a relationship where you can give them correction without causing resentment.
Give them ‘two seconds of nice’ before you jump into the ranting and raving world of coaching corrections (criticism is tough for anyone to swallow). If they know you really care about them they are likely able to accept the arrows you shoot their way.
Second, make sure players have the freedom not to be perfect. If players are constantly under duress playing with tension, anxiety and pressure you likely will not get the best of their talents and skills.
Players should know that they are not expected to get 3 hits every day. Players should know that there will be failure and they will not be perfect.
Players with loose muscles play with higher reaction levels. Players that play ‘tight’ and afraid that they have to play perfect will under-perform.
Helicopter baseball parents often expect perfection too.
They will swoop by the dugout at every opportunity to get a few seconds of ‘fence time’ to put some more fear into their kid with expectations of perfection—and no room to not be perfect.
Or worse, the dreaded ‘ride home’ when the kids get the third degree when they don’t get 3 hits and that batter's average is dropping like a rock.
Third, players often end up playing in a ‘2 hour time-out’ with coaches just salivating for something to go wrong and begin putting the team in time-out.
Youth League Coaches wrongly expecting players to play perfect baseball and never swing at a bad pitch or throw to the wrong base.
How much fun-ness is going on when the coaches keep kid’s in a perpetual time-out, nit-picking on everything that goes a little off track.
Fourth, how about building a climate of calmness, toughness, focus and a little bit of ‘fun-ness’.
Try eliminating the batters average trap. Focus on the moment instead of the pressure of failing.
Shoot for ‘quality at bats’ rather than building individual statistics. Give the players the ‘freedom to not be perfect’.
I would praise all over kids 14 & under for a good,
powerful, solid, aggressive swing any time. (SIDE NOTE: even when they swing at the ball out of the strike-zone).
Once you ingrain in player's minds that they are expected to swing with authority and aggressiveness you create a culture of offensive minded hitters.
Offensive minded players who can get out in front and square-up on fastballs are more likely to stay in the game.
Offensive minded hitters have a higher degree of fun-ness, too. Try keeping track of A+ swings (or A, A-, B+ etc) during the games rather than just batting averages.
All the Best & Thank you for your service to baseball!
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