By Sam Flamont
There is plenty of time for formal practice, and using baseball training aids to develop better skills. But coaches and parents have just as much responsibility to encourage less formal activities.
The ultimate in creativity and growth in an athlete comes out in the baseball pick up game. It does not matter if the game takes place in a gym, your back yard, or a park. The pick up game is the single most important resource available to your child for multiple reasons.
It is free.
The pick up game shows the kid's love for the game, it allows them to have fun with their friends, it is great competition, and best of all there is zero coaching. When your child goes outside and gathers a group of friends together to play a game, it shows the kid has an interest in the game. It does not mean you need to run out and start scheduling all sorts of events for the kid to attend, but it does mean your child simply has an interest in a sport and you should find a productive way to cultivate that interest into a passion. The more pick up games the kids play the more they learn about the game and the better they become because repetition is the number one coach in any sport. Allow your kid this time to play. You will find this time the most productive of all their activities.
Not only is the child out playing a sport they are simply out, which means they are not sitting on the couch playing video games or watching television. Your kid is out cultivating a love for the game and best of all they are doing it with their friends. Having a positive experience with your friends is one of the best things any person could ask for. Friends make the environment fun as well as competitive because they are all usually around the same age. Also, the kid's make up the rules together when they play these games so they are learning life skills not just playing a little meaningless game in the front yard. Learning how to interact with people and working together as a team are two very important life lessons your child can learn from pick up games without any adult supervision.
Compromise is another lesson learned when playing pick up games. Nothing shows more compromise then the do over. The do over usually happens when both sides see the same play different ways. The conversation will sound like this, "that was a catch" "no she was out of bounds" "no she caught it" "ok fine do over". Since there is not instant replay in the front yard, and neither team will budge on the call the best way to settle any argument is with a simple do over. Do over's are the essence of compromise and the willingness to accept whatever happens, after the do over is agreed upon.
Having no coaches around again provides a breeding ground for creativity, learning, and fun. You would think how could you learn with no coaches? Easy, like I talked about before kids use trial and error. You try this swing and if that does not work you try the other swing until you figure out what works best for you. That is also a form of creativity because your kid is trying things they were not taught, so what they are doing is creating the best possible chance for success the best way they know how. Fun is obvious, we have talked about this over and over but nothing is more necessary in a child's life than fun. Your kid will always have fun if they are voluntarily playing a game. That is why they are doing it, they want to have fun, so they get together with friends and play ball. Parents allow time for pick up games, do not schedule them because it is no longer a pick up game, but allow your kid to go out and play in the front yard with no supervision because it will help their growth in so many ways.
Sam Flamont played his college ball at Grand Rapids Community College and Western Michigan University. At Western Michigan Sam was rookie of the year his junior year, and offensive MVP, All-MAC first team and All Region his senior year. Sam was signed by the Detroit Tigers as a Free agent in 2002, and he played professionally for 4 years. Now that his playing days are behind him Sam co-owns and operates In The Zone which is an indoor baseball facility in Traverse City, Michigan and runs his blog Baseball Around The Clock at www.samflamont.com. Sam recently joined the coaching staff at Central Michigan University.