Joe Breen, Director of Baseball Operations, RBI Baseball Academy
Recently, renown Strength Coach Mike Boyle re-wrote a previous article from Performance Enhancement Specialist Dewey Nielson called “Be Brilliant at the Basics.” The piece is only 5 short paragraphs but dishes some very valuable information. It discusses how he receives so many questions about what type of training he uses with elite athletes comparing things like kettlebells vs dumbbells, lifting from the floor or from a hang position, etc. His argument is that “it doesn’t matter” saying that if the athlete you’re training cannot perform the fundamental basic exercises that make up the foundation of a strength & conditioning program, then the rest doesn’t matter. My favorite quote from the article is “The thing that separates a novice from an expert is the ability for the expert to perform the basics extremely well.”
That quote and the article as a whole has such a degree of truth to it in the baseball skills training world as well. As a group we train thousands of kids each year in various ratios including one-on-one, small group (3-6:1), and team (8-12:1) so we have an opportunity to design programs that cater to either that one player or the general skill level of the group and/or team. If there is one complaint from youth players/parents we ever get on a consistent basis, it’s that the drills are too easy or that they already know how to do a certain skill or drill. In our opinion, many of the times parents and players overestimate the ability of the player but regardless whether they are right or wrong, the biggest thing to understand is that “it doesn’t matter!”
No matter what the age of the player, the basic fundamental drills done in baseball need to be done extremely well before we begin introducing too much variation and even at that point, you still include the basic fundamental drills to compliment the new variations. We understand that kids’ attention spans sometimes don’t allow for the same exact drills all the time, but the truth is that is what they NEED at that age. They need to not only learn HOW to do something, they need to learn how to be BRILLIANT at it.
A perfect example of this is hitting off of a tee. The tee is part of every baseball players first playing experience in their town tee-ball league or even in the back yard. As soon as kids “graduate” from tee-ball to coach pitch leagues, they feel as though they never want to see a tee again because “it’s for beginners.” This couldn’t be more untrue. The tee still stands as one of the best training tools in any sport because it allows the player to work on the basic fundamentals of their swing without having to worry about timing…and best of all it can be done by yourself! If the player does not display proper technique when hitting off of a tee, then what in the world makes you think that it will be better when you have someone pitching trying to get you out?
No matter what age or skill level you are, remember that the basic fundamentals of the game don’t change. It is those who are “brilliant at the basics” that tend to become the best players on the field at every level of ALL SPORTS.