Its been about two months since my last posting! The beginning of our youth season was quite packed with games and practices, but very few rain-outs. (An oddity for the St. Louis area in April and May)
I would like to take a little reading time to discuss baseball skill development and specifically the difference between PROCESS and OUTCOME oriented development. Baseball is one of the most technique driven sports to play. Every aspect of the game requires the teaching of physical and mental mechanics through repetition and experience. Baseball also BY FAR, has more statistical analysis than any other sport.
The usage of stats in youth baseball has also increased significantly with the development of easy to use apps and programs such as iScore and GameChanger. These are invaluable tools for coaches. However at the youth levels (specifically 7U - 12U baseball), players are still physically developing, learning the physical game, and learning the mental game and have little bearing on future success.
As it relates to developmental progress of an athlete there are two ways to chart such progress; outcome oriented and process oriented. I will define and provide the pro's and con's of each.
OUTCOME ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT
Definition: The use of statistical data to determine an athletes standing, worth, and/or ability in a particular sport.
- Easy to track with statistics.
- Likely correlates with a teams success in games and tournaments (ie Win-Loss).
- Can be skewed due to level of competition faced (ie cant compare to other players at different levels of competition).
- Does not take into consideration the effect of age and physical growth (ie younger teams with players several years apart OR older teams with players who have physically matured early)
- Does not track development of good or bad mechanics (ie a pitcher who throws hard early but with poor mechanics).
- Can have a negative influence on players with good innate ability but are still developing.
- Younger players can have a harder time dealing with failure as a natural consequence of baseball.
- Can have a negative effect on a young mans self-image and self worth as a player and a person during their developmental years,
PROCESS ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT
Definition: The process by which a players progress is tracked by the skills and mechanics they have acquired, learned, and practiced to determine their standing, worth, or ability in a particular sport.
- Intangibles such as hustle, attitude, and effort have a high value.
- Players learn to accept failure (ie striking out, making an error, walking a batter) as a natural part of the game.
- Players learn to play without fear of making mistakes.
- Age and physical development do not effect this process (ie a smaller player who is a late bloomer may have no ability to throw a 50 mph fastball like a teammate, but may have mastered better mechanics)
- Allows for players to develop baseball IQ (ie awareness and situational understanding)
- Downplays early win-loss ratio as a predictor of success or worth.
- Extremely difficult to track. Coaches must have a thorough understanding of good baseball mechanics or be able to seek out this information from professional sources.
- Requires a lot of patience from stakeholders (parents and players) as typically these teams are not as successful in early years.
I believe that a team that focuses on the process of learning the game vs the outcome of the game will find the game becomes more enjoyable for everyone and in the end these teams will be some of the hardest to beat and most successful as they get closer to the truly competitive baseball years (high school and beyond). Systemic adoption of a true developmental approach will also lead to fewer injuries, less burnout, and healthier coach-parent-player relationships.
Have a great beginning to the summer!
Still trying to sort out the chaos of youth baseball,