Off Season Coaching Resources for Youth Baseball
American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)
I first heard of the ABCA from my college coach who would attend the ABCA conference every year (Coach Steve Hertz, Gonzaga U.). 20 years later, I finally read an ABCA book called Baseball Strategies and smiled when I saw Coach Hertz had authored one of the chapters. So, even though I am only a volunteer coach and dad, I decided to join the ABCA which has turned me on to so many free resources with more substantive content for a coach or parent in youth baseball than I ever imagined. The ABCA now hosts one day Barnstormer Coaches Clinics throughout the west coast and they are super cheap and run by some of the best coaches in Division 1 Baseball. San Diego State University hosted a clinic last week. And U. of Portland and U. of Washington both hosted clinics a month ago. The main event, the ABCA (4 day) conference is set for Anaheim California the first week of January. By all accounts, this conference is truly a mecca for all things related to coaching baseball and I may just have to fly down and check it out. For those who can’t make these clinics the ABCA has videos of a bunch of previous conference clinics for sale on its website. After getting immersed in the ABCA website, I found the USA baseball education link, an organization that coordinates the national teams for amateur baseball 12U 14U, 15U and up.
USA Mobile Coach App / Practice Plans
The USA Mobile Coach App is fantastic; it is free, and provides practice plan ideas that you can customize on your app to suit your own team’s needs. It has a built in timer so you can stay on time and transition into your next drill segment. It also has a pitch counter, and short videos and written instructions demonstrating over a hundred different skills and drills.
“Outside the Box – podcast with Pete Caliendo”
One of the greatest youth baseball podcasts is produced by Pete Caliendo, who has coached with USA baseball for decades, working with youth teams all over the world at various levels. His 35 min. podcasts are loaded with information and coaching insights, substantive skills training, and in “depth how to’s” on topics as varied as: hitting mechanics, pitching mechanics, mental side of hitting, pitching, pros and cons of travel ball, the demise of “sandlot” baseball, how to coach the whole player, and how to modify our language and approach to coaching youth players in a way that Pete and his guests have found to work. The podcast is free as long as you keep giving him 5 star reviews. The Jim Lefebvre episode convinced me to try and coax the former MLB manager to Sitka for a coaches clinic sometime soon. We’ll keep you posted if that pans out.
Youth Baseball Edge Podcast
Another amazing podcast out there, loaded with tons of free, substantive, quality coaching information and insights is Youth Baseball Edge with Rob Tong. YBE focuses on coaching, drills and strategy to keep our kids engaged and enjoying the amazing game of baseball. I binge watched about 10 of these the first time I happened upon it. My wife did not appreciate the constant ear phones; but this podcast has some of Major League Baseball’s best hitting instructors, pitching and throwing conditioning instructors, MLB mental coaches, interviews of the a couple of MLB’s finest baseball player’s dad’s, Mr. Zobrist, and Mr. McCutchen. Mr. Tong also interviews Rob Wolforth of the Texas Baseball Ranch, the same guy Ed Conway took our local players down to see a few years back. Ask Matt Way about it, he’s been down on the Ranch and has incorporated some of Wolforth’s techniques into our youth baseball camps and clinics.
Pitching / Arm Training / Conditioning
Alan Jaeger has the reputation of being the go to guru of arm training and conditioning to ensure our pitchers and players arms remain healthy, strong and resilient against injury. Check out his free tutorial on arm conditioning at his website. Two other notable gurus in this area of biomechanical savvy are Rob Wolforth, and of course, the well known coach of Million Dollar Arm fame, Tom House. Jaeger has a bunch of free, accessible information on his website that we can use to help our kids get better. Ed Conway, who coached Sitka High to all of its Alaska State Championships, tells stories of meeting up with Tom House for a private clinic at some no name diamond in Southern California 15 years ago or so, before he was so well known. Next time you’re in the Post Office, ask him about it.
There is so much information in these podcasts, it is the perfect background for any lunch time workout or walk. I can remember growing up in the era when a $40 VHS video was the only way to learn to pitch at home. They were low budget and for whatever reason looked like they got some random guy off the street to demonstrate the drills. Now we have Youtube and can literally watch the best coaches in the world show us how to do things the way they do it at the highest levels of baseball. The more coaches and parents get inspired to listen and delve into these resources, the better off our kids will be when it comes time to play ball ;-). I have had countless examples of learning how I was just plain doing it wrong, and many times have figured out ways to do it better. I can tell you that the basic take home from the podcasts and resources above is: the best coaches, meaning the most effective at developing players’ skills and confidence, regardless of the talent level, are those who keep an open mind, know what they don’t know, and strive to keep learning.
Cool Drill Link of the Week
Watch Jim Lefebvre demonstrate a rhythm and timing drill to teach our kids how to hit velocity (90 mph fastball) on time.