The summer is nearly over and all the baseball and softball summer tournament champions have been crowned. Many players will now turn their attention to other sports until spring, while others will continue to focus on baseball or softball.
I am not an advocate of athletes playing any sport year-round, especially baseball or softball. At some point, the body needs a break, and more importantly, the mind needs a break. I also worry that players will lose their zest for the Game. If they play too many games and attend too many practices, there is a strong possibility playing this great game will become work. Over the years, I have witnessed many talented players who gave up playing baseball and softball before they reached high school, because they were burned out. Parents of these players were typically startled, but I believe they just didn’t see the writing on the wall.
Some parents and coaches don’t understand that even though young players appear to have boundless energy and enthusiasm, the physical and mental stress of playing too many games from the beginning of spring to the end of summer will naturally have some negative effects. In the age of elite travel baseball and softball teams, it is not uncommon for some hitters to play 150 to 200 games each year between March and September. Then, there is the fall schedule and even a winter schedule for players in warmer climates. Winter games in places like Chicago are also becoming more common due to the construction of large indoor facilities that can accommodate actual games.
I always preach “balance” to my children, and I try to practice it in my life. I love the baseball and softball players who find balance in their lives by taking part in the arts, participating in church or school youth groups , or by volunteering to serve in the community. Heck, how about just being young? Enjoying friends and family should never take a back seat to playing any sport year-round.
Even high school players who have the talent and passion to play college baseball or softball should seek balance in their lives. It is possible to incorporate a heathy level of year-round practice, without sacrificing everything else that will make a well-rounded young person. The best high school and college players I know are the ones who understand when it is important to work hard on their pitching, hitting, or fielding. These players also know when to take time off to clear their heads and to rest their bodies.
In my next post, I will describe how players can use one of the greatest inventions for hitters to improve hitting mechanics and to stay sharp in the offseason (or any time of year)—the batting tee!