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Hitting Help: Nomar Garciaparra offers up tips
By Greg Bach
Hitting a baseball is one of the toughest things for kids to do in sports.
And teaching it is one of the biggest challenges for coaches, too.
So, what’s the secret to helping kids become more productive performers at the plate?
We checked in with Nomar Garciaparra, six-time All-Star during his playing days and owner of a sparkling .313 lifetime batting average, to get his thoughts on helping youngsters enjoy more success swinging the bat.
Check out what the two-time American League batting champion had to say:
DIG IN TO HOW KIDS FEEL AT THE PLATE
Kids want to collect hits, and they want that feeling of successfully getting on base. But sometimes even a good at-bat, a perfect swing and solid contact results in an out.
So, what’s the secret for keeping kids positive at the plate?
“Most kids, their first instinct is to say ‘I only got one hit today’ or ‘I didn’t get any hits today,’” Garciaparra says. “But as a coach you should be asking them ‘How did you feel today? How did it feel in there? Did you feel good in the box? Did you see the ball well? What gave you trouble? Let’s talk about it.’ Focus more on asking them how they felt rather than on the result, and telling them what they did good during that at-bat to give them that positive reinforcement.”
The more thoughts players have swirling in their heads when they step to the plate, the greater the chance that they’ll be handcuffed by too much thinking and struggle to execute a fundamentally sound swing.
“Simplify it,” says Garciaparra. “If you tell a player ‘don’t do this’ it puts it in their mind. Instead, say ‘Hey, what you need to do is let’s drive the ball the other way, let’s drive the ball up the middle.’ Tell them what they need to do so when they step in the box that’s what they’re thinking – and not the negative.”
It’s vital that kids have confidence in themselves no matter what sport they are playing, and that certainly applies to when they step into the batter’s box.
The more confident kids are in their ability, the more likely they’ll enjoy greater success swinging the bat.
So, it’s up to coaches to deliver messages dripping positives, particularly if the youngster is really struggling to break out of a slump.
“When you step in that box, first and foremost, you better have confidence,” Garciaparra says. “That’s what hitting is, it’s about being confident.”
Dr. Katherine Tamminen was the lead author of a study on helping adolescent athletes cope with stress. Use her insight to help your young athletes understand stress, manage it, and excel on game day.
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