Hot Or Cold, Why Practice Matters

All youth league baseball seasons have begun, even in the most northern areas of the country. In the warmer southern climates, the playoffs are just a short month away. No matter what stage of the season you’re in, you want to either get hot or stay hot as a ballplayer.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity; that’s a quote from an ancient Roman philosopher named Seneca. What it means is that when the ball ball is pitched to you right down the middle of the plate when there are two runners on and your team is down by one in the last inning, you not only know what to do with the pitch, but you are confident that you can make something happen. That’s why practice is important.

Keep practicing. If you’re hitting the cover off the ball, you should keep hitting the ball as often as you can to stay sharp. If you haven’t been as successful as you’d like, then practice will sharpen your skills. The same with taking fly balls or ground balls. The professional shortstops that I’ve admired most are the ones that take 100 ground balls (half to their glove side, and half to their arm side) every day. And as far as throwing / pitching, as long as you’re not performing that at 100% intensity every day for all throws, you will get more accurate and stronger by throwing.

Players, parents, and coaches want more games. Games are the performance, like the school play or the concert. Imagine how many times that violinist practiced that piece and compare it to the number of concerts in which he or she gets to play it for an audience. We don’t seem to have that level of commitment or patience in sports, and maybe it doesn’t need quite that ratio. But whenever the ratio of practice to performance is higher, you get more success.

The game (or the concert) is normally more fun than practice. But no one gets better in games. You don’t get enough chances to handle the ball during the game, with the exception of the pitcher. And even the pitcher is concerned with controlling the game (and their opponent) more than working on a changeup or a different pitch. So practice.

One more thing on practice. The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” This has been co-opted by baseball coaches at all levels; I’ve heard the legendary Ripken brothers use it many times. But I submit to you that there is no such thing as a perfect practice. It’s impossible because I haven’t met any perfect coaches, never seen a perfect practice plan, and even if those existed there are no perfect ballplayers. So let’s get real.

And practice does not make permanent either. Because humans constantly change and adapt and become more or less adept at tasks over time. However, practice absolutely does make for habits and tendencies, good or bad. So practice good habits.