Coaches Corner

This blog is a compilation of the messages and life lessons we teach at the Legends Youth Academy. All content and messages have been developed and taught by Legends Founder and Head Coach, David Klein. Hope you enjoy and keep living a Legends Life! 

  • Menlo Park Legends Baseball Camp

    One can argue the most important part of baseball is the ability to throw! Simply put if you can’t throw you can’t play!

    With the rise of travel ball and emphasis on pitching with extreme velocity, arm care has been a VERY hot topic over the last few years. The majority of information and research has been surrounding kids in High School and older, however, I believe that paying attention to arm care and developing proper arm care habits should start as young as 8 years old!

    Based on over a decade of experience working with ballplayers from ages 6-24, I have drawn my own conclusions as far as best practices to take care of ones’ arm. In my experience, the summers have proven to be the most tricky time for managing arm care because most kids are coming off a period of heavy arm usage and also because of vacations…

    I’ve therefore assembled a list of 10 tips for kids ages 8-14 to keep arms healthy during the summer. Hope this helps!

    1. Listen to your arm! Potentially the most important tip of all, you have to learn your body. If you’re feeling pain or fatigue you must stop and communicate with a coach, parent or doctor. Don’t push it! It’s not worth the risk!
    2. Pick up a pair of Jaeger Bands and memorize the routine! J-Bands (surgical tubing) have been used for many years for maintaining arm health and for warming up the small muscles in the arm. Use J-Bands EVERYTIME before you throw! CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE AND TO PRINT OUT THE ROUTINE
    3. Don’t start and stop! Most injuries occur when kids are starting and stopping with a week or two in between throwing. Not throwing for a week or two then jumping into a game or intense practice shocks the arm and puts one at high risk for injury!  
    4. Ramp up slowly. If you just took a few weeks off throwing, great! However, you MUST build your arm strength back up slowly. Start at 45’, then go to 60’ the next day, followed by 75’, 90’… As a general rule of thumb for kids, for every week you take off, you need that much time to ramp back up to be at full strength. For example, if you take 3 weeks off throwing, you need 3 weeks of throwing ramp up before you’re ready for aggressive/mound throwing.
    5. Throw as often as possible – at least 3-4 days/week! Contrary to what people say, I believe the more throwing the better. The more you throw and stretch out your arm the more it will grow and develop!
    6. Don’t pitch on back to back days. While I know it’s tempting to pitch on both days of a tournament, just don’t do it. Even if the arm is feeling good and even if you only threw 1 inning. Studies show this creates a major strain on the arm.
    7. Plan out your throwing for the year. Recent studies have indicated youth athletes who throw more than 8 months out of the year are 5x more likely to have Tommy John Surgery from overuse or another catastrophic arm injury. The recommendation is to take 4 total months off throwing with 2 months of consecutive rest (I recommend December/January as being a great time for a 2-month break)
    8. Focus on fastballs and changeups only until little league is finished. Yes, throwing curveballs and sliders is fun, however, they create more strain on the arm (despite how good your pitching coach is). A quality changeup is the best pitch in the game. Focus on locating fastballs and getting a feel for your changeup. Once a kid finishes little league he can begin developing his breaking pitches.
    9. Play other sports. Playing other sports will develop different muscle groups which will make your child an all-around better athlete. College baseball coaches nowadays prefer multi-sport athletes as they have less wear and tear on tendons/ligaments. They also have developed different movement patterns and core strength which helps to take stress off the arm.
    10. Long toss! Long toss, AKA the practice of extending out, progressively, to the furthest possible distance (stretching out) is the most important element of building a healthy arm. There are 2 major components: the “stretching out” phase where you move away from your partner, throwing with arc until you reach the maximum distance… AND the “pull down” phase, where you keep the same “max effort” long toss throws but instead of throwing with the ball as hard as you can on a line. Please note: you can only do pull downs once your arm is fully conditioned for aggressive throwing.

    Follow these guidelines and enjoy a long healthy baseball career. And don’t forget the #1 most important rule: LISTEN TO YOUR ARM!

  • We hear it all the time because it’s true, baseball is a game based on failure. Even the best hitters in the world still fail 7 out of 10 times (a .300 average is VERY  good)! The failure aspect of baseball makes things difficult for youth ballplayers who do not have strategies to regroup and move on. Furthermore, unlike basketball or soccer where the game moves fast, if a player makes an error or strikes out he often needs to wait a significant amount of time (or a few innings) until his next opportunity. This dead time in between opportunities leaves a lengthy window for negative thinking, self doubt and anxiousness.

    The Internal Traffic Light

    Think of it like an internal traffic light: when your internal traffic light is green everything is going great – you are competing at a your highest level – you are playing in the moment and you are in the zone! A yellow light is when you start to have trouble and are beginning to spiral out of control mentally. A red light is when you are really struggling: maybe you made a bad error, walked a few batters or struck out for your 3rd time – your mind is racing, your tense and you just want the game to be over. You’ve lost all control of your emotions when your red light is on.

    The Lesson

    The beauty of this, is the opportunity to teach youth one of the most important life lessons there is:

    Dwelling on past mistakes will not help performance, it will only hurt one’s ability to compete at a high level.

    – David Klein

    The reason I have started this newsletter with this topic is because I have recognized that this is one of the most prevalent and important lessons youth ballplayers must learn. As parents and coaches it is our job to provide kids with actionable strategies they can implement so they can compete with their green light on, flush their mistakes and look to the next pitch without letting the past impact the present.

    The Release

    I recommend that coaches and parents work with their kids on developing a “release” which is specific to that individual. All players are different; as a result, particular “release” and “reset” strategies work better for some than others. Here are a few possibilities that I have implemented with athletes ranging from 9 year old beginners to 24 year old professionals.

    After making a mistake, error and the yellow/red light is on…

    1. Take your glove or hat off, take a few deep breaths. When you put it back on. the last play is forgotten. It is 100% done with and the focus returns to the present moment.
    2. Take a long, slow deep breathe. Chances are your face, neck and chest are tight with frustration. Take a couple of breaths and make sure you muscles let go as you exhale.
    3. Pick up some grass or a rock, or anything else and squeeze. Squeeze the object and put all your negative emotions into it. When ready, throw the object and your negative emotions away!
    4. Smooth things over. Wipe smooth a footprint in the dirt with your foot to clear away the last play or your last at bat.

    Conclusion

    Coaches, a good way to work on this is to give them a talk about their internal traffic lights. Have them go home and think about their release. At the next practice, start practice by handing out 3×5 flash cards and have them write down their release strategy. Therefore you can learn their release and can hold them accountable for it when they enter yellow/red light territory. I am happy to answer questions or come and talk to your teams about this. Hope this helps!

    -David and the Legends

  • Legends Life Lesson & Task: The Importance of Goal Setting

    This week’s Legends Life Lesson is focused on the importance of “goal setting”. Regular goal setting is important for everyone; and if we start this practice early and make it fun, it can be a useful habit for life! 

    Studies have demonstrated that by writing down goals, you are more likely to achieve them. A proper goal is a goal that is considered a SMART goal in that it is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

    Therefore, this week’s Legends Life Lesson and task is for each player to write down 1 personal goal, 1 academic goal and 1 baseball goal. These can truly be anything your child would like to improve with himself – small goals are totally okay too! After writing down this goal, he needs to write down how he plans to achieve it. Throughout the course of the season and towards the end we will have the boys self assess their goals and we will award those have accomplished their goals with special star stickers for their helmet!

    I have attached a worksheet, which can be printed and stapled to their notebook, OR your child can simply write the goals into in his Legends Ledger notebook. The deadline on this task is September 13th at practice. 

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WORKSHEET

  • Legends Life Lesson & Task: The Importance of Teamwork!

    Because we are at the very start of the season, it is important we develop habits so the kids begin coming together as a unit. Therefore, our focus for week 2 is all about TEAMWORK! 

    Winning a baseball game does nothappen by 1 player alone… it takes an entire team to pull it off! As we are atthe start of the season we are developing habits which will allow us to be apositive team player… sharing information about the pitcher, communicatingbetween pitches, helping your teammate find his glove, high fives after a greatplay, positive encouragement after a mistake… For the rest of our lives we willbe working in teams – at school, in our relationships and eventually in thework world. Getting a hit in a game can often be hard, but we ALWAYS have theability to be a great teammate!

    To supplement some team building exercises at the Foundry, the kids will need to complete the attached Legends Life Task by September 20th for their Gold Helmet Star. One of the best ways to learn the game and reinforce the “real baseball” elements we are teaching is by watching the big leaguers play. Therefore, this task will be centered around watching 3 innings or 30 minutes of major league baseball. 

    Week 2 Legends Life Lesson Task: 

    1. Watch 3 innings or 30 minutes of a Major League Baseball game
    2. Write date of game and teams playing at top of page
    3. Write in their Legends Ledger 3 things they learned/observed (3 separate sentences)
    4. Find an example of a player acting as a positive teammate and write 3 sentences about it

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WORKSHEET

  • Legends Life Lesson Week 3: The Power of Self Talk and Focus Phrase 

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WORKSHEET

  • Legends Life Lesson Week 4: Having an Attitude of Gratitude 

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    The kids have been working SOOO hard with George on their strength and agility training. Us adults know that “working out” is half the battle – as important, if not more important, is what you fuel your body with! If we finish a great workout and fuel our bodies with junk, we have just wasted our workout! After these tough workouts, or a day out on the field, our cells are open and starving for nutrients. As athletes, we must fuel our bodies with nutrient dense foods so we recover properly and have the energy to power through training.

    While most kids can get away with mediocre food choices, the goal is to get them started with some healthy eating practices at a young age. Hopefully they begin to value healthy food choices and carry this through their teen years.

    In my opinion, here are the simplest and most important nutrition tips for young ballplayers!

    1. Drink Water! Stay hydrated with plenty of water! (Not Gatorade, unless its really hot)
      1. Drink 2 cups of water before practice/games
      2. Always, pack a large water bottle for practice/games
    2. Consume Protein! Consume at least 15-20 grams of protein within 30-45 minutes of working out
      1. Protein shakes are great (no sugar)
      2. Any lean protein will do! Fish, chicken, turkey, beef, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, nuts
      3. A small serving of healthy carbohydrates is important after a workout too as it helps replenish glycogen stores. A banana or piece of whole wheat bread (gluten free) is my personal choice.
    3. Limit Sugars! Stay away from unnecessary sugars!
      1. Consume whole fruit instead of fruit juice
      2. Stay away from sodas, candy, chips and fast food!
      3. Stay away from white flours.
    4. More Vegetables! Consume as many vegetables as possible (green vegetables are the best!)
      1. 1 serving of greens per day at a bare minimum
      2. Spinach, kale, arugula, brusel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli… All great!
    5. Breakfast Baby! Eat a healthy breakfast to fuel for your day
      1. I personally stay away from carbs/sugars in the morning as it spikes insulin levels and makes you hungrier come lunchtime.
      2. I like to stick with eggs, cottage cheese and yogurt
        1. Avoid sugary cereals

    **Other healthy living tips:

    • Always fasten your seatbelt, apply sunscreen, stretch your muscles wear your helmet, wash your hands and brush your teeth! Legends look after themselves!

    Legends Life Task for the Week:

    1. No soda/candy for the entire week!
      1. Write in your Ledger that you “did not drink soda or eat candy all week”
    2. Complete 1 at-home workout and eat healthy lean/protein within 45 minutes of working out. (Workout suggestion: 30 minutes of physical activity, 30 pushups, 30 sit-ups and 30 squat jumps)
      1. Write in your Ledger the workout you did and the protein you ate after!
    3. Eat a nutritious breakfast every morning
      1. Write in your Ledger you favorite healthy breakfast!

    Bonus education! I did a podcast episode a little while back on 9 nutrition tips for ballplayers on a budget. You can listen to this podcast episode here! http://www.menloparklegends.com/50-9-nutrition-tips-for-ballplayers-on-a-budget/

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WORKSHEET

  • Legends Life Lesson Week 5: Be a Healthy Legend!

    The kids have been working SOOO hard with George on their strength and agility training. Us adults know that “working out” is half the battle – as important, if not more important, is what you fuel your body with! If we finish a great workout and fuel our bodies with junk, we have just wasted our workout! After these tough workouts, or a day out on the field, our cells are open and starving for nutrients. As athletes, we must fuel our bodies with nutrient dense foods so we recover properly and have the energy to power through training.

    While most kids can get away with mediocre food choices, the goal is to get them started with some healthy eating practices at a young age. Hopefully they begin to value healthy food choices and carry this through their teen years.

    In my opinion, here are the simplest and most important nutrition tips for young ballplayers!

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    Bonus education! I did a podcast episode a little while back on 9 nutrition tips for ballplayers on a budget. You can listen to this podcast episode here! http://www.menloparklegends.com/50-9-nutrition-tips-for-ballplayers-on-a-budget/

    CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE WORKSHEET