Thursday, May 31, 2012

A New Paradigm for Young Players and Statistics

Rob NaddelmanProfileRob Naddelman: Through a Parent’s Eyes

I remember being a young baseball player and being obsessed with my statistics. After every game I tracked my batting average and various other traditional statistical categories like doubles, triples, runs scored, stolen bases, etc. I think I was as young as nine years old when I started doing these statistical calculations after every game.

Now that I have my own kids and I am coaching them in their various endeavors (currently I am coaching my oldest daughter in softball and she is close to nine years old) I am going to work hard to move in the opposite direction. While our team keeps a scorebook for each game, I have no plans to calculate statistics for any of the players because I don’t think it has a lot of positive benefit. Here’s why…

If you start measuring success on the field by the number of hits you have, or how high your batting average climbs, you can tend to ignore some major components of baseball/softball that over time will lead to success. I would rather see my young kids get excited when they swing at a strike and hit the ball hard with good mechanics, versus getting a soft infield hit that is placed in the right spot. I would rather see them celebrate when the team scores a run on a well-executed unselfish approach at the plate, versus a player ignoring a bunt sign from a coach and swinging away to drive in a key run. Especially at a young age, coaches/parents should be focused on execution and doing things the right way on the field, versus the outcome.

If I were keeping hitting stats for my team, I would probably track how many times a player swung at a strike versus a ball. I would also track balls that were hit hard with solid contact, versus glancing contact, no matter what the result would be. Instead of tracking fielding errors, I would give them points for getting in the proper fielding position and catching it cleanly. Over time the results will come if you focus on doing things the right way. In this game, all we can do as players is have a good plan on the field and execute properly in key situations. What happens after that is sometimes out of our control.

Statistics are a huge part of the game at the higher levels. The sabermetric crowd is inventing new stats every year to help us interpret the game and glean information on our opponents. Our young kids have years before they need to get wrapped up in this obsession. For now, as coaches and parents, let’s focus on praising them for their approach and attitude versus the result.

Rob Naddelman is the President of Baseball Factory. Naddelman is a former two-time All Ivy League Third Baseman at the University of Pennsylvania, where he competed in a College World Series Regional. He has served as the President of Baseball Factory for the past 14 years, and also is the Executive Director of Baseball Factory's charitable arm Baseball Factory and Team One Foundation. Naddelman and Steve Sclafani (CEO) have been featured in Business Week and CNN for their work in building Baseball Factory into the nation's leader in player development and college placement.

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