Archive for May, 2012

Practice vs Games – Which is better?

Practice or Game. Which one is better for your child’s development? Let’s take a closer look.

Let’s compare practice and games to school. I have a lot of teacher friends, so this analogy should really elicit some interesting conversation.

Games are like tests in school. It’s a way for teachers (coaches) to evaluate if you have effectively learned the material.

Practices are like…well…like the rest of school. Practices are learning.

As I think about the youth player and everything that he has to learn to become a proficient baseball player, I wonder if we aren’t playing too many games. Are we testing the boys too much without providing them real opportunities to learn? To practice. Not to mention myelin. If you’re not sure what myelin is, you can click here. Myelin is critical to learning difficult skills. And, in order to develop myelin, it takes continuous stimulation. Continuous stimulation. Have you watched youth baseball games? Not exactly continuous stimulation.

So, while games are fun and completely necessary, I’m not sure that we, as parents and coaches, aren’t putting the cart before the horse. Practice is a must. All year long.

Some of GoWags most skilled youth players are making conscious decisions to not play as many games and focus on building myelin. Yes, they will miss out on the instant gratification and thrill of victories. But something tells me they will get plenty of opportunities later. Much later.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

 

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A contribution from a friend

It’s nice to know that people read this blog. Seems like every week I have at least a handful of people comment on something I’ve written. It’s also not uncommon for me to receive texts or emails with blog ideas. Some very good. I’d like to share an email I received this morning concerning a little league game a friend was coaching. Feedback is certainly welcome.

so I am watching one of my players bat yesterday against a very good
pitcher.  He is a little overmatched, but he is battling.  The opposing
coach is on his bucket calling every pitch including location.  The 12
year old batter is standing firmly in the box and battling the best he
can. Fouled off a couple pitches, laid off a curve ball in the dirt.
Doing his best to stay alive. Alas, he goes down on a 2-2 change up.
As the batter was walking back to the dugout, it dawned on me. The real
reason that I dislike coaches calling pitches at this level may be as
simple as a matter of fundamental fairness. The 12 year old kid did not
just strike out against another 12 year old kid. Rather, he struck out
against a 50 year old man.  What appeared to be a great battle between
two kids was really a battle between an adult and a child.  While the
child was facing a child pitcher, he was also facing the knowledge and
experience of an adult. In the end, it was not the child pitcher who
outsmarted the child hitter, but it was the adult coach. I guess the
adult coach should be proud.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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Angular velocity – Implications on bat speed

Our Green Light Hitting book is being published sometime this Summer. Hopefully, our mobile app will be available then too. One of the most important principles to understand is the relationship between Angular Velocity and Linear Velocity. Think of Linear Velocity as bat speed. How fast is the barrel of your bat moving through the hitting zone at contact. Pretty important stuff, right? In Physics terms, Linear Velocity is represented as V = rω where r is the radius and ω is angular velocity.

So, if we maximize our “r” and we maximize our “ω” we will maximize our Bat Speed and ultimately our power potential.

What is r with respect to hitting? A direct quote from the book:

The easiest “r” value to identify is the lead arm stretched across the torso during the swing. A lead arm that rotates around the shoulder has a much larger radius than one that rotates around the lead elbow.

Understanding “r” is only half the battle. You can’t simply extend your arms across your torso and think you’ll improve bat speed. You must generate ω! You must generate Angular Velocity! Let’s begin with the definition of Angular Velocity. Angular Velocity is basically how far and how fast something moves around the center of an object. Specifically, how far and how fast the barrel of your bat moves around the center of your body (axis of rotation). How do you improve Angular Velocity?

Short Answer: Don’t get too technical. See ball….Kill ball with lead arm stretched and wrists hinged.

Long Answer: Again…From the book.

If you can’t apply ground forces you will never create angular velocity no matter how stretched your lead arm may be. The moment the front heel lands and provides an “impulse”, the momentum train is in gear. The body’s muscles contract (hopefully sequentially) and apply a force to the end of the bat. The more forces (from the joints about which each arc rotates) that are in play create more acceleration of the bat as it nears the hitting zone.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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Perceived Danger

Does your son pitch well in the bullpen and then struggle to execute in games? At least 80% of my pitching lessons begin with Dad or Mom explaining how he just doesn’t pitch the way he can when he gets in games. Look at the picture below. Harmless right? You wouldn’t think twice about joining them. Now go ahead and click on the image.

Totally different! Throwing strikes in the bullpen is easy. Just like joining these fellas for lunch. Throwing strikes in a game is a little more like the actual image. Many times pitchers (this includes grown men) see the “batted ball” as real danger. So, in an effort to avoid that danger, they do everything in their power to not let the hitter hit the ball. Well…Duh? Isn’t that what pitching is all about. Not letting the hitter hit the ball. Kinda.

Being an effective pitcher, especially as you get older, is more about courage than talent. Do you have the courage to trust that your stuff is good enough to get that dangerous guy out if you throw it in the strike zone? Because if you don’t have courage…it’s easier to throw ball 1…ball 2….ball 3….ball 4 and still avoid that dreaded danger.

Some of the best pitchers this game has ever known gave up a lot of Home Runs. The image below is the list of all time home runs given up leaders. Some pretty impressive names on that list. The skeptic says, “Yes…But they pitched a lot longer so they gave up a lot more Home Runs.” I say, “They pitched a lot longer because they weren’t afraid to give up Home Runs.”

FULL REPS!

Bret Wagner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To protect AND to prepare

I don’t think you’d get much of an argument if you defined your role as parent as the following:

“To PROTECT my child against any imminent dangers and to PREPARE my child to be a productive, well-adjusted adult.”

PREPARE. For what? For life. And all that life dishes out. Let’s begin with the end in mind and work backwards. Think of 4 people who you would consider role models for your son. These 4 people should embody those characteristics and values that you would like your son to one day develop.

Got your 4? What do they all have in common?

PASSION!

I’m not talking cheerleader, rah-rah type of passion. I’m talking simple give a damn passion. They care about what they do and they care about doing it right. I love passion. Sometimes passion doesn’t look so good sometimes. Sometimes passion spills over into crazy. That’s OK. I’ll take a dose of crazy for my son because I know 99% of the time he’s going to be bombarded with give a damn.

When a baseball game is over there’s a score. And that score decides a winner and a loser. Too often we PROTECT our kids from the pain of losing by promoting an air of indifference. Don’t forget about PREPARING your son too. PREPARING him to give a damn about this game and everything else that he sets his mind to.

PASSION. That’s what I want for my son and for his team.

Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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An Unfortunate Turn of Events

Showing off our Casio High Speed camera:

Make sure you watch the ending!

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Green Light Hitting – The Book

Kyle and I recently sat down to go over his brand new Green Light Hitting book. 2 years and 191 pages later, it’s almost ready for publication. It’s unfortunate that Kyle is being inducted into the West Shore Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame this Friday, because I truly believe this book may be his crowning achievement. Our publisher even used the term “brilliant”.

If you or your son has ever had a hitting lesson with Kyle, I’m sure you helped contribute to the book. Maybe not in name or picture. But certainly in theory.

Most think of Green Light Hitting as a mindset. While that is a huge component of understanding GLH, there is so much more.

Would you believe it actually starts with a Russian physiologist named Nikolai Bernstein? Bernstein was a contemporary of Ivan Pavlov, the 1904 Nobel Prize winner who concluded that all action is a conditioned reflex to each stimulus. Remember his experiment with the dogs? Bernstein disagreed with Pavlov. Bernstein believed that movement was much more complicated than a simple reflex to a repeated stimulus. Bernstein contended that each individual was different all the way down to his central nervous system. Bernstein coined the phrase “degrees of freedom” to quantify this difference.

An excerpt from the book:

Green Light Hitting is a hitting program modeled after Bernstein’s beliefs. It takes into consideration the task at hand, the person performing the task, and the environment in which it must be performed.

Most rational people understand that teaching calculus to 2nd grader’s is preposterous. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good students or even that they don’t have a good math mind. What they understand is that all children develop their skills over time. These skills are developed as their body systems develop with them.

Green Light Hitting is the first baseball hitting system that recognizes what Bernstein understood years ago deep in the heart of the Soviet Union. The manner in which we learn cannot be replicated using conditioned reflexes. Rather, it must take into consideration our central nervous system, muscular system, skeletal system and also the demands that the game of baseball places on them.

Green Light Hitting realizes that a player doesn’t need to “let the ball get in” until a pitcher can throw something other than a fastball.

Green Light Hitting realizes that right-handed hitters have different demands placed upon them than left-handed hitters.

Green Light Hitting realizes that Level 16 might be unattainable for some, but it should be a whole lot of fun trying to get there.

Green Light Hitting – From the Backyards to the Big Leagues is scheduled to be released sometime this summer with an expected retail value of $45.

 

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Full Reps!

Bret Wagner

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