Growth Stems from Coaching: The Importance of Taking Lessons for Baseball and Softball Players

First, I would like to preface this article by suggesting that the importance of coaching is applicable to anything, especially to things in life that do not come naturally to people, or even groups of people.   What comes to mind when the average person hears the word “coach”? For most, the first thought is most likely related to sports, right? And a particular name is immediately associated with the word, such as a childhood coach or a famous professional sports coach. Because of the cultural paradigm most members of society have the belief that a coach is a person with a clipboard, whistle, lineup card, etc., and the job of that coach is to manage how a team functions and is responsible for the team’s advancement, growth, and total number of wins.   Contrarily, the reality is the majority of the coaching people receive comes from themselves. Athletes of all ages will dramatically change their mindset once this concept is grasped. The job of a team coach or instructor is to perfect an athlete’s training methods to fix mechanical flaws, but beyond that the athlete is solely responsible to strive for mechanical perfection by developing their muscle memory; as we all know, a coach is not going to be the one competing when crunch time rolls around and a game is on the line. The team coach or instructor will also not be present for the majority of the time an athlete spends training, thus it is up to athletes to apply what they learn while working with their instructors when training on an individual basis.   Parents frequently have the following two questions when trying to determine a schedule for lessons plans: 1) Does my kid need to take lessons? 2) How often should we schedule lessons? The importance and frequency of taking lessons with a professional instructor vary on a case-by-case basis. The first thing a parent should consider is their athlete’s the level of commitment. If the athlete is a quick learner and is devoted to perfecting mechanics and muscle memory while training away from their instructor, the need for lessons is still present but on a much smaller scale (Hint: this becomes more common as athletes mature and decide to which sport they will dedicate themselves). If the athlete is still in a developmental stage or learning something new, the demand for instruction is much higher because when push comes to shove the good habits that amateur athletes are trying to build will almost always take a backseat to the bad muscle memory that has already been built.   Another common question from parents and athletes is, “How long will it take for lessons to work?” The harsh reality is that 99% of baseball and softball players are not going to hit a home run in their first game after taking a hitting lesson, nor will pitchers throw a perfect game after working on mechanics with an instructor for the first time. This is due to the time and dedication one must give to develop muscle memory. The amount of repetitions to build muscle memory varies based on many factors such as body type, genetics, willingness to learn and change, stage of development, mental toughness, and the list goes on. A safe estimate for the range of repetitions to build solid muscle memory is anywhere between 5000 and 15,000. During lessons and instruction, the goal is to demonstrate proper mechanics and fundamentals, but the self-coaching aspect of athletic performance is what will be the ultimate deciding factor in how long muscle memory takes to build to determine how well and how soon the lessons will really work.   To sum it up, lessons are greatly important for athletes, especially those at a developmental stage. For the ones at a more advanced level, a fine tuning lesson here and there is still important to ensure that the good habits are being developed and frequently practiced the correct way.   By: Tim Horton

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