During the off-season, young baseball players should concentrate on improving the fundamentals. Coaches should place emphasis on individual vs. team workouts. Here are some recommendations for your young playersí winter workouts.
For many young players, winter is the ideal time to improve their batting skills. Many winter workout facilities in the colder regions have indoor batting cages for this purpose. There are also personal batting cages costing around $200.00 that can be purchased for individual use at home. As a less expensive option ($29.95), you can purchase the Hitaway Baseball Batting Training Aid (http://www.rkdm.com/hitawaybaseball). All you need is a tree or a pole; attaching the Hitaway Baseball and adjusting the height is the simple setup process required to begin swinging at the ball as it winds and unwinds around the tree or pole repetitively. Using Hitaway builds stamina, muscle memory, and form and increases hand-eye coordination. However, you must oversee the use of this training aid - players must be sure to set up in their proper batting stance for each and every swing, and to not rush thier swings. Othwerwise, you may quickly discover that it is far too easy for a hitter to have bad habits reinforced by this drill!
Hitting instruction should focus on mechanics (i.e., stance to follow-through), power, situational hitting, and bunting. In addition to fine tuning the physical aspects of hitting, winter workouts are an ideal time to focus on the mental aspects of hitting; during the season, in the last inning of a pressure-packed game, is not the right time to teach a young player about mental preparation for hitting. Even the youngest player needs to understand basic mental approaches to hitting. Developing a positive attitude about hitting and demonstrating the importance of understanding various game situations before stepping into the batterís box are two key points that should be included in instruction for young batters. The older players should be taught more advanced mental approaches, such as studying the pitcher, catcher, and defense and making adjustments based on different game situations.
No matter what individual skills your young player chooses to focus on during winter workouts, conditioning and staying in shape is essential. Some winter workout programs concentrate exclusively on strength, speed, and agility training, with instruction on base running and base stealing included. Staying strong and flexible during the winter will help prevent injuries when itís time to play ball in the spring. This is especially true for young pitchers. Weight training and aerobic activity appropriate to the pitcherís age is recommended. Winter is also an ideal time for pitchers to fine tune their pickoff moves and to practice pitchersí fielding situations (e.g., throwing to first base, fielding bunts, and covering first base). Pitchers can work on proper throwing mechanics during the winter and start throwing regularly about 6 weeks prior to the beginning of the season, but donít overexert your young pitcherís arm! Your coach or pitching instructor can provide a throwing workout that is appropriate to the playerís age, experience level, and other factors.
Check with your coach on the various programs available for winter workouts. Decide on a program thatís right for your playerís individual needs and appropriate to his age and playing level. While the off-season is a time to recover, donít let your young player wait until the week before the spring season starts to begin working out again Ė doing so could result in lackluster performance, or worse, lead to injury and cut the season short.
By Author. All Rights Reserved. Date
January 16, 2007
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