At a recent group baseball lesson I had with a six and seven year old I took 10 minutes to help these young men work on bunting. After showing them a basic but proper bunting setup I gave them several each to try and lay down. The next round I gave them each 10 balls to bunt - one kid got five of ten down and the other got six of ten down — 55% combined.
I knew they had better production in them than 55%. I could’ve stayed the course and just kept feeding them reps hoping they’d get better. Instead, what I did was give them incentive to complete a task successfully — I took the quality over quantity approach here.
The only reason they didn’t get at least eight of 10 bunts down was due to a lack of concentration and focus.
So what did I do? I gave them motivation and incentive. I told them the last round they will have six bunts each. The loser has to do 10 sit-ups for the winner — you should’ve seen the excitement. I then gave extra incentive by saying if both of them got all six bunts down then I would have to do 20 sit-ups — then the excitement doubled!
Sure enough, the first kid up got all six bunts down. Then, the next kid comes up and lays down a perfect six in a row. Both pointed at me laughing and couldn’t wait for me to start my 20 sit-ups. They counted for me, making sure I did each of them. What was even better is that they pulled for one another. The kid that wasn’t bunting was engaged and rooting his buddy on to get the bunts down.
Together, we improved their bunting execution from 55% to 100% with no physical instruction or adjustments. It was all mental. It was figuring out ways to get them locked-in and focused on the task at hand. The mind is a powerful thing whether you are six years old or 60 years old. You can use tactics like this with many baseball skills: ground balls, pithing, hitting in the cage etc..
This particular 10 minutes wasn’t just about bunting. What I did was get the kids excited about accomplishing a task, gave them a challenge well within their abilities, worked on their mental engagement, and developed their hand-eye coordination.
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James Parr, former MLB pitcher, Atlanta Braves
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