Friday, February 05, 2010

Why Every Baseball Player Should Play 1 Year of Football

1. Toughness
Ask anyone; nothing is tougher than football two-a-days. Set in the middle of August, players are asked to dedicate almost eight hours of their day to practice. Armed with ten pounds of gear, players sweat and strain twice during the day running and tackling each other at top speed. The energy a young person must extend is very taxing.

If a baseball player has prepared like this; the start of spring or summer practice should be a piece of cake. There is nothing that can compare to the start of football. Not only that, but the competitive edge over teammates without that experience should be huge!

Competing in a challenging environment that puts great physical demands on players should improve their toughness over time. Displayed in a player’s make-up, this inner-toughness should help players overcome situations that require extreme concentration and focus.

2. Pressure
One simple question,” When is the last time 9,000 people showed up for a high school baseball game? The answer might be never. Getting baseball players out for football mean they perform in front of large crowds. It almost every case, the audience will be 100 times larger than their baseball games draw. Don’t get defensive baseball coaches, it’s a good thing!

If a baseball player is used to a playing in front of a large crowd, a baseball game should be no sweat. Being comfortable in front of the crowd, is a great asset to have as a performer. Many times, crowds make people nervous especially players without a lot of experience. Being able to feel a sense of calm should help elevate a player’s performance in crunch time.

3. Weather
Football starts in August and runs through October. For the lucky teams, their season is extended through November. These months present very different types of weather. August is hot, while October can be very cold. In between these months, Mother Nature may throw some curveballs. This year, the Midwest received snow in early October before Halloween.

Rain and wind is also a problem. There are no “rain outs” in football unlike baseball. The show must go on whether there is a constant downpours or a light mist. Players must learn to handle a wet ball, planting on a slick surface, or adjusting to a ball moved by the wind.

Competing in these types of conditions may be hard but learning how to handle them has long-term benefits. When properly conditioned, players should be able to look past a little cold or rain sprinkles to get the job done. So many times, kids without different athletic experiences get so distracted by little things like weather.

Baseball players are spoiled not being forced to play in the rain or freezing weather. Their playing conditions are much better than football; it would do them good to get a taste of “football weather” experience. It also would provide some perspective on what kind of weather is considered bad.

This may seem like a small thing; but games can be won or lost if players get unnerved by less than optimal conditions. Having a football background should help baseball players adjust to these types of obstacles.

4. Playing Through an Injury
With the physical demands football places on players it is only natural for there to be injury. Like other sports, football gets its share of serious injuries like concussions and broken bones. More often though, players simply get bumped and bruised more than any other sport. Likely these are the results of numerous falls, tackles, and collusions. Players in football really do take a beating.

Being able to play through pain is vital in football, along with other sports. In baseball, it is important as well. Just because baseball lacks the consistent contact football enjoys does not mean it is less taxing. Ask any Major League after the regular season. It its own way, baseball is just as demanding physically.

For instance, some amateur players play 4-5 games a weekend. Playing a schedule of consecutive games naturally causes the body to break down. If a baseball player has been through the rigors of football; they should be able to handle this type of muscle soreness and fatigue. Not only physically, but the mental-side as well not letting the body’s nicks and scratches interfere with their will to win.

5. Intensity
Because of its physical nature, football is a game that is played with fire and attitude. If you don’t believe it, watch a kickoff team’s huddle before the game’s first play. Players have to be pumped up to bang heads for two hours. If not, they are going to get run over by the competition.

Baseball, with its slower pace, is not so externally intense. The game has a more internal focus. Instead of breaking up a pass or sacking the quarterback, players must be ready to hit a curve ball or track down a long flyball. Both of these baseball actions take the same amount of intensity as the above football plays.

Having a football background allows players to understand how intensity works in regards to output. Taking that kind of attitude into baseball should help generate a player who performs harder and is not afraid to get dirty. These kinds of attributes are hard to find in a player who hasn’t played a down of football.

6. Practice
I stand by the fact, that if done correctly, football practice is more difficult than baseball. It should be; there is no tackling in baseball. Going through a season of football should give baseball players perspective on what effort, endurance, and intensity really looks like.

Sometimes, baseball players take their sport for granted with the cushy conditions and leisurely pace. Also, starting the athletic calendar off with football, baseball players should be in a good place once baseball starts. They should be able to fall right back into the practice/game routine without any transitioning problem.

7. Game Planning
Baseball is a game played in bunches totaling as many as 40-50 games. The high school football regular season is much shorter usually lasting a total of 9 weeks. In baseball games are played in consecutive nights; unlike football where games are played once a week.

For baseball coaches, game planning is difficult. Many times, coaches may not do anything different from game to game. Simply put, the coach does general activities to get their team ready, but does not specifically go through an opponents pitching or hitting tendencies.

That is the opposite of football. Players and coaches spend hours dissecting an opponent’s tendencies and weaknesses. They review all week on the opponent. Prepared teams may be able to identify team’s plays simply by their formations.

Having this background, baseball players benefit greatly. Even without their coach, players can study opponent’s pitchers, hitters, and defense looking for weaknesses. Also, baseball players should be more observant to certain tendencies that happen in the game with a football experience.

8. Handling Emotion
Football is a game played with great emotion. There are screams, pumped-fists, and even tears. It is drive by adrenaline where one player tries to take down another. Often, players struggle at keeping their emotions in check letting their actions spill past the whistle. Teams are effected by out-of-control emotions; getting penalized during important moments of the game.

Baseball is not played like football. Tense in football, players must be relaxed in baseball. Playing with tense emotion hinders a player’s ability to move fluidly while swinging, throwing, or fielding. It is a fine line because players cannot be emotionally dead, but they cannot be hopped-up either.

With a football experience, baseball players should be able to play relaxed but with the passion coaches love. They should be able to channel their emotions in a positive way giving them the extra energy to snag a deep flyball or perform a hook slide to avoid a tag. Their emotions should provide an enhanced awareness of the game and its details.

9. Teamwork
Football is called a “brotherhood” where players are challenged to protect each other. It is a game that bonds players together for a lifetime. These ties allow players to look past individual accomplishments and focus on the larger team goals. In football, the play is only going to be successful if all 11 men do their job.

Baseball is different. There are many individual performances during the game. Offensively, almost every play is a one-on-one opportunity where the pitcher battles the hitter. It is not 11 vs. 11 like football. With so much individual play, it is easy to lose track of the team concept especially if the game is not in question.

Participating in football, which highlights team play, is a great tool for players. First, it illustrates to them that teamwork is important. Also, it provides coping skills for players to use when their teammates struggle. They need to know how to pick people up rather than letting them toil in the dumps. Remember, teams are only as good as their weakest link.

10. Confrontation
With all the other details being equal, meeting confrontation head on is the most important skill football provides baseball players. In baseball, you have to be fearless. Think about it; standing in the batter’s box trying to hit a ball thrown sometimes close to 90 MPH at your head. That is crazy.

How do you get that courage? Are you born with it? Many people believe you are; but I think it can be developed. Here is a courage developing football situation, try looking up to catch a punt with three guys running full speed right at you. That definitely takes courage, especially since you know that those guys are going to nail you.

Performed on a regular bias, players should develop a “no-nonsense” attitude. There are other football examples. What about colliding 50-60 times a game against an offensive lineman weighing close to 300 pounds? That takes some courage. These football situations could go on and on.

The bottom line is football should help put a little “chip” on a baseball player’s shoulder. These are the players that are not afraid to call a ball, collide with a fence, or flinch at a nasty curveball.

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