I remember when I was about 12 years old I started to really desire playing college baseball. That was the first year I played on a really good team that was competitive and pushed me to be better than I already was. From there I started to put in extra work on my own. Unfortunately I didn't grow up with a lot of money and I hardly ever got private lessons or individual work with coaches who really knew what they were doing. But that didn't stop me from seeking out information from them or going to camps and taking what I learned and putting it into practice.
When I look back on my playing career the one thing I knew no one was going to beat me in was working hard and playing to win! I had some skill, it wasn't like I didn't know what I was doing but other players I played with and against had a higher talent level than me. My cousin who I played high school baseball with in CA threw 90 mph as a Junior and ate pizza and was lazy. I still can't throw 90 mph and I worked twice as hard as he did. The thing that kept me playing alongside other players who had a bit more talent than me was my work ethic. That is something I hope to instill in all the players I get to coach. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be the popular way to coach anymore, coaches would rather be seen as cool and fun to their players. In my opinion this is doing more harm than good to players who continually say they want to play baseball in college and beyond.
When you look at the stats on how many high school players play at some level of college baseball it should motivate players to get their butts in gear and start working. Only 9% of players will play in college and 2.2% of those will play at the D1 level.
Can you say you are outworking 91% of your peers?
The reality is, that most of you reading this are not the gifted player throwing 90+ mph in high school with no effort. Most of you have no chance of playing in college unless you plan on outworking the other 91% of players trying to play.
The other thing I notice is that high school players, particularly here in Colorado, don't have a great idea of what level of work ethic it takes to play at the next level. Although they'll assure you they do, they don't. In small baseball states you don't get the same exposure to the level of talent out there. Places like CA, TX, and FL are full of players and full of players who are really good. They get a better taste of who they are competing against for those college spots. If you are a big fish in a small pond you better humble yourself and get to work because when you leave for college you are in for a big surprise. The player behind you isn't going to be terrible, if you aren't going to work for a spot you're going to get passed by.
So what does good work ethic look like, the kind that's going to help you get to college baseball/softball?
It looks like taking extra reps before and after practice
If you aren't doing more than team practice, how are you going to get better than anyone else? Everyone does team practice...
It looks like going all out every game, leaving nothing left in the tank
Effort and attitude is 100% in your control, giving everything isn't just physical it also means being fully engaged mentally. Missing signs, not paying attention, not knowing the count, not being competitive; those are all signs you aren't going all out.
If you get private lessons, come ready to work and be mentally engaged
Private lessons are a huge bonus not everyone has the chance to have. Take advantage of someone else's experience and come ready to learn and work hard. Pay attention! I have multiple kids who having been coming to me for years and still can't remember the warm up, but they think they're going to get better with 1 lesson each week....
Take your fitness seriously!
Baseball/Softball players are way behind in this. Thanks to misinformation on strength training a lot of players opt to not strength train, afraid of losing mobility or arm strength. Which is ridiculous, a good strength program will only enhance you as a player and put you ahead of your competition.
The biggest take away I want players and parents to get from this article is that there is no substitute for hard work. There are ways to make it fun, you don't have to burn yourself out. But don't fool yourself into thinking you have the talent to make it when the reality is you probably don't. I know I didn't have it and it's all good, it just means you'll have to outwork the other player who thinks they have it in the bag.
Don't look back on your high school or college playing career and say, "I think I could have given it more effort". Work hard, have fun, and keep the game simple!