Are Baseball Drills Good or Bad
Many youth coaches have probably questioned whether baseball drills are necessary and I’m here to tell you they are!
I have heard baseball coaches say, “I never use baseball drills because they create robots of players and get players thinking too much.” My first thought is how can coaches not use baseball drills and my second thought follows, coaching must be very boring without them.
However, I cannot disagree completely with their statement, because they have a point. I have seen many kids become mechanical and think too much, especially initially. Additionally, I often do not see the full positive effects of baseball drills for quite a while. However, my 30 years of coaching experience have shown me the value of baseball drills far outweighs any initial, negative aspects that may occur.
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The great thing about being a baseball coach nowadays is the availability to find helpful coaching tips and baseball drills for free on the internet. Plugging a few keywords onto the YouTube site will bring up numerous suggestions for things players can try. Another helpful avenue for coaches is to watch or ask an experienced baseball coach in your area for tips on exercises to use for the age of player they are dealing with. Most baseball coaches love to share their knowledge with others and young coaches can get some valuable ideas for their practice sessions in that way.
Why baseball drills are necessary
First and understandably, most kids lack an understanding of the ins and outs of skill fundamentals. Secondly, many youth ballplayers are not auditory learners so a coach can tell a kid a million times what to do but their muscle memory rarely changes by just telling them how to do it. Thirdly and along the same lines, showing players the correct way rarely guarantees a big change in muscle memory either as the “picture says a thousand words” that kids don’t understand. Finally, what an athlete is doing and what they think they are doing, are usually two different things. Numerous times I have told ballplayers that they are doing something wrong or not doing it the way I told them with the reply of, “I am doing it that (correct) way.” I may bring out the video camera at that point to convince them that what they are actually doing is not what they think and the incorrect way. The video does not lie, they usually realize.
Of course, the above methods are not wrong and help, but it takes much more than those methods to develop the necessary muscle memory to have baseball success. Performing baseball drills creates effective change and so much quicker, despite any initial negative effects of the drills.
A necessary first step when introducing a drill to players is an explanation of “what” entails the correct baseball skill along with why a certain drill is necessary and beneficial for achieving that skill. The why is most important for convincing players to change and to perform the drills. This explanation is especially for players who are having success with the way they are doing it, but whose long-term success probability is not good.
Coaches should prepare for some players to balk at doing things that may be hard for them, so coaches must stay persistent with their explanation and insistence on why it will help them. Often, I will pull out my phone to video a player performing a drill to show them how it is helping them achieve the correct actions. As implied, players often need some convincing and showing them what they do is the best way of doing that.
Good Baseball drills are necessary because they:
* Give players a better understanding of the correct fundamentals. Once again, the telling and demonstration of something rarely changes muscle memory, especially for players, who have been playing for multiple years and who have very ingrained habits.
* Force the correct way of doing the baseball skills; they bring about the correct and desired change, and not just suggest it.
* Allow for continual, correct repetition, which is the beginning of new and quicker habit formation because drills force the correct actions, as mentioned.
* Can usually be repeated much more often than doing the complete baseball actions. This increased repetition leads to quicker muscle memory change in a shorter period.
* Can be used to create the opposite of players current actions so they can “meet in the middle,” so to speak with the correct fundamentals; muscle memory can change even more quickly with opposite drills. However, coaches should caution players doing one drill too often because overusing it can cause a different bad habit to occur.
* Break up the boredom of doing the same things all the time. Baseball, like all sports, are about repetition, but that repletion can lead to monotony for players.
* Break things down to the basics as good drills do and show everyone you know the game as their coach, which is beneficial when many parents feel like they know more than the coaches do.
As good coaches and players know, there is nothing more important than having the correct fundamentals. Sustained success does not occur without the correct mechanics.
Getting back to the original thought, yes, baseball drills are necessary even though they may cause players to be “too mechanical” and “too cerebral” for a period, but it is worth it, so players develop the correct fundamentals in a quicker way than without baseball drills. So, for the few players, who may become a little mechanical and cerebral, it is worth it in the end, as those negative situations go away with time. Once players’ thought processing has had time to clear up and their actions have smoothed out, they become less cerebral and less mechanical. In the end, the eventual “baseball upside” is so much greater because of the performance of good baseball drills.
Unfortunately, and as mentioned, the full effects of drills may not show until a much later time, even until the beginning of the following year. However, when players start the season so much further ahead than the previous season, coaches and players recognize the value of baseball drills. It is always a personal joy to see students return after a break and have much more advanced fundamentals, as well as increased bat and arm speed, due to precious baseball drill work.
Another great thing about good baseball drills is that as players perform the drill better over time, their regular actions become smoother, too, and thus the reason for the drills. An often-used request I make is that players perform the drills they have the most trouble with the most. There is a reason they struggle with the actions, so doing the drill more will help smooth out their movements after a while.
How to use the baseball drills for greatest effect?
- It is best to have players perform the drill under coaching supervision at first until they do it correctly. Some players may do the drill wrong also, so they are not getting anywhere despite the good intention.
- Have players do the drill up to about twelve repetitions before going back to the normal way and see if the drill has made a difference. Habits are hard to change but some players can adjust quickly and others not so much. Coaches must be sure and praise any little improvement they see after the drill, so players recognize the drills importance and will continue to do it on their own.
- Remind players that bad habits and natural tendencies will come back on them, so they never want to forget the baseball drills that work to overcome the problem areas.
Finally, it is often a great idea to show player parents some of the baseball drills you want kids to do at home. This serves to show parents some ways of working with their kids in a helpful way and shows them how much you care that players improve. Yes, baseball drills are necessary!!!