Our Progression of Learning Series will conclude with our fourth segment, the High School Years (NOTE: We’ll group our 14-year olds with the high school kids even though 14 is likely an 8th grader).
Once the player survives the critical age of 13, they can no begin to focus on more advanced training. What you teach a 14-year old should not differ from what you teach an 18-year old. The only difference will likely be in the physical performance: how hard they hit the ball; how fast they run; and how hard they throw the ball. But their ability to process skills and techniques should be the same.
You should find yourself spending very little time on the fundamentals: fielding ground balls hit straight at them; side toss; tee work; proper throwing mechanics; etc. About 15 minutes of your practice time should be spent on the ‘simple’ things. The remaining practice time should be spent on advanced work: double play turns; charge plays; hit-and-runs; hitting behind runners; learning how to throw from all angles to understand ball flight; etc. Learn and master the techniques that can turn a good player into a great one.
But the key to all of this is what the player does when they are 6-13. Can they spend time on the advanced work? YES, BUT ONLY IF THEY HAVE PERFECTED THE FUNDAMENTALS!
You should also spend a great deal of time with this age group on the mental side of baseball. Film your hitters and work with them on understanding how to break down a swing. This will be incredibly helpful for your pitchers and catchers. This will help them handle opposing hitters better. The more they watch and analyze, the better they will be able to understand how they can improve themselves.
Learning any skill requires progression. You start with the basics and work yourself to the more advanced. Unfortunately, we live in a society where kids (and adults) want the “quick fix.” Everyone wants the instant gratification. Would you rather have $20 today or $200 a year from now. Few kids have the patience to put in the time to work on the fundamentals. Most want to go straight for what they see on TV. But what they fail to understand is that the pitcher throwing 95 with incredible movement on his fastball was once a 9 year-old kid working on proper pitching mechanics.
Teach your kids to be patient. Teach them to master the skills in batches. Teach them that building a solid foundation is what creates a strong and lasting home!