Six Steps on How to Improve your Baseball Skills

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There is a direct correlation between skill mastery and the maximum speed of execution. The application of this principle can be summarized in six easy steps!

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Step 1: Establish your Goal Speed for the New Skill

If you can’t throw a softball 90 miles per hour, why would it make sense to spend 4 hours per day in the batting cage (or at home) trying to throw 90? Recognize that developing a new motor skill also involves developing muscular coordination and flexibility. Therefore, your goal speed must be accurate and realistic relative to where you are now as well as what level of coordination and flexibility you possess! So ask yourself: “What do I want my maximum speed to be?” To answer this question, consider how fast your competition throws or how fast you’d have to throw to play at the next level.

Step 2: Determine your Minimum Effective Dose (MED)

Once you’ve established your Goal Speed, determine how much time it will take to practice each day or drill each week alone in order for you to reach that speed. The formula is simple; divide your goal speed by your current speed and then divide by 20%. A 155-pound outfielder with an 80 miles per hour throwing speed who desires to reach 90 miles per hour would calculate as follows: 

90 ÷ 80 = 1.125; 1.125 ÷ .2 = 5.625 days of practice (or 15-30 minutes per day). 

That’s right… five days of practicing this new skill alone is the absolute minimum! In fact, three days per week would suffice for most people to reach their goal speed after a month.

Step 3: Schedule your Time and Put it in Your Calendar!

Be sure to schedule actual time for you to focus on this new skill – because simply thinking about practicing won’t get results! Don’t allow yourself to do other things while working on your new skill; that’s known as “multi-tasking,” which research tells us is counterproductive. To be effective, practice should be done one thing at a time… otherwise you’re developing multiple habits simultaneously and potentially creating motor programs with negative movements instead of positive ones. This habit could transfer over to competition, causing injury or poor performance.

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Step 4: Follow a Scheduled Plan in Order to Achieve Goals Faster!

Now that you have the proper speed and amount of practice time in your schedule, develop a plan for how you will work on developing this new skill every day or week. The following example illustrates how to break up the four skills needed for throwing a baseball 90 miles per hour:

  • Monday – arm swing, shoulder internal rotation and release point; 
  • Tuesday – stride length and stride rate; 
  • Wednesday – hip extension/posterior weight shift; 
  • Thursday- follow through hand position. This is known as “structured practice,” which is one of the most important factors in mastering a skill. Without a plan, there can be no mastery.

Step 5: Focus your Mind, Body and Environment (use all of our senses)

Make the new skill the only thing you’re thinking about during this time; therefore, close down your email, turn off the television and put away any distractions! Also, to enhance concentration, use verbal cues like “throwing 90” or make marks on a wall or calendar indicating how far you’ve come.

Finally, to increase muscle memory (i.e., repetition), focus on sensory input rather than technique; incorporate tasks like catching yourself before each throw in slow motion with eyes closed… this will improve kinesthetic awareness, which is essential for effective movement. The more sensitive the athlete becomes to the early detection of errors or inconsistencies in the movement, the faster he or she will be able to make corrections!

Step 6: Time-Outs & Recovery

It is equally important to rest and recover as it is to work; therefore, after every three hours of practice with your new skill, take a break for five minutes. Remember, your muscles grow stronger when they recover so this is an integral part of the process. It’s also important to include dynamic stretching in between these time-outs so you keep your flexibility up!