Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy
Yes, you read that correctly…MIDDLE SCHOOL! Yesterday I directed a seminar to parents and players in our RBI Hawks Travel Baseball Program on some of the ins and outs of the college baseball recruiting process. Prior to the seminar I put together an outline of notes on some things I thought would be important for players/parents to know. It’s truly a dynamic topic and there is just far too much information to jam into a single one-hour session. I thought this would be a great blog topic that I could spread out into a few important sections to help those seeking information at least gain some sort of knowledge base.
I felt the best way to share this information would be to put together a timeline so that anyone reading this can see what they should already be doing, what they currently need to do, and what they need to do in the future. One of the questions I most commonly field is “When should we start paying attention to this?” My typical answer is “you’re already behind.” Most people don’t even think about the process until the end of their junior year of high school. This can be a decent time for non-athletes, but athletes, baseball players in particular need to get the ball rolling early.
MIDDLE SCHOOL (Grades 7-8)
While this is NOT the time to be sitting there debating which college to go to nor is it the time that coaches will be actively recruiting, it is definitely a time to start to create good habits both on and off the field to put yourself in the best possible position entering high school. Here are a few bullets on some important things that parents and athletes should begin to add to their schedules:
– Study Habits & Good Grades: As will be discussed down the road in this blog series, having superior grades is an absolute must. Some of the habits kids have when they are sophomores, juniors, and seniors in high school were created when they were in middle school. Parents need to make sure they are setting time aside at the home for kids to be focused on school work. This needs to happen every school night and most Sundays as well. If parents can stay on top of this in these years, most kids will continue these habits on their own in high school.
– Sports: Kids at the middle school age should be playing multiple sports. I played football, basketball, and baseball all the way through high school and it’s a great way to develop the complete athlete. It puts kids in both a constant learning and competitive environment. Parents need to accept when a kid isn’t the best at his sport. Too many times kids quit sports because their parents don’t want to see the kids fail, which in my opinion is a horrible lesson to teach. Check out another blog article I wrote a while back called 3 Reasons NOT to Specialize in 1 Sport.
– Off-Season Skill Training: I suggest 4-8 weeks of off-season skill training for your “secondary” sports and about 8-16 weeks for your “primary” sport. Many kids at this age won’t know exactly what their “primary” or “secondary” sports are and that’s ok but you should try to avoid going into a season with zero preparation for obvious reasons. This skill training should be a combination of on your own at home (ie tee work in the garage, shooting outside on the basketball hoop, playing catch with the football, etc) and clinics/camps/private instruction. There are so many options out there for kids to receive quality instruction from professionals, but it shouldn’t be the only work the kids do to help themselves improve. Keep in mind that in-season commitments should take precedent over off-season.
– In-Season Skill Training: Depending on the athlete’s practice schedule, the athlete should still make time for in-season skill sessions. You need to work on your individual skills like hitting and fielding.
– Strength/Resistance Training: There is no questioning how important this is. Players of the middle school age typically hit one of their most significant growth spurts just as puberty sets in. This tends to seriously effect the athlete’s coordination and athleticism. The feet get a bigger, the arms and legs get longer, and unfortunately this doesn’t always happen simultaneously. Beginning a supervised resistance training program can be a great way for kids to gain coordination and strength. It’s also a fair substitution for any kid not participating in a sport that season. There is no age that is too early to partake in “resistance training” which doesn’t always have to be “weight training.” Doing pushups, squats, and other exercises using only your body weight is a great start.
– Nutrition: Many kids at this age eat for pleasure, meaning they eat what taste good, smells good, and satisfies them for the immediate time being. Typically these food choices are high in sugary carbohydrates, saturated fat, and do not provide much nutritional value to an athlete’s body. These choices do not cater to young athletes trying to retain muscle mass and minimize any increase in body fat. Like study habits, these positive choices at this age can translate to even better choices down the road in high school.
Overall, these years should be used to begin to make better choices in the classroom, on the field, and in the kitchen. Adding a bit more structure to the child’s routine will hopefully translate into them making these choices on their own in high school and beyond. One thing to also note is that family time should be accounted for before anything. Having a strong bond with one’s family is a huge factor in the overall development of the person with or without athletics. It should not just be for whatever time is left over.
Next up: Freshman Year!