This is easy:
- Move in next door to a former player, preferably a major league baseball alum.
- Make sure he has exclusive access to an indoor training facility, and guaranteed field time at a local park when the weather is nice.
- Ask him to coach up your kid.
- Make sure he’ll do it for free.
- Make sure he’s available on-demand.
- Make sure he won’t yell at your kid or criticize him in any way.
- Make plans to spend the future millions that your child is sure to earn as a first-round draft pick.
This topic of private baseball instruction is a big one in the game. When to start, where to go, how much to pay, how often to go, and when to stop are all components that go in to the decision-making process here.
When to Start
I was 9 or 10 when I first went to camp, 12 when I first started taking specific lessons. Surely that makes sense now. Not even close. Youth sports and baseball in particular are barely recognizable now to the game I played as a youngster. The key factor in determining when to start looking for an instructor is less tied to a specific age as it is to specific needs in the player’s development. Often parents believe they can teach the game as well as they know it. This is good so long as the child is receptive to the instruction, but if things get to a point where the player is simply not picking up the lessons, or when the aspects of the game become more complex with new age groups, it may be time to consider a private instructor.
Where to Look
Aside from Googling for instructors or baseball schools in your area, there are additional resources available. Perhaps the best to use would be to ask around on your team or in your circle of friends to see if any one can recommend an instructor who works well with their child. Additionally, attending different camps can allow you to see instructors and how they approach group sessions and instruction to gauge how they might work out for your player.
What to Look For
This is a tricky one, right? Presumably you’re looking for someone who can provide objectively correct instruction, while also being able to develop a rapport with your player and personalizing their delivery to them. This may sound pretty “new school”, but every player is different and communication in a one-on-one setting should be tailored to the individual. If a coach can recognize this and tailor their communication to the personalities (and even moods) of different players, then you may have found a winner. This is where you can “test drive” different coaches to see who knows what they’re talking about, and who your player responds well to.
Rates can be anywhere from $40-$50 for 30 minutes to over $100 for hour-long sessions. Pay what you think makes sense.
What to Expect to Get Out of It
At minimum, warning track power and 10+ MPH on the fastball after 2 sessions. AT MINIMUM! Seriously, as with any skills that a person develops, the ability to execute the skill can differ between different scenarios. A player may struggle to pick up a principle in a lesson, then execute perfectly on it in the final innings of a bracket championship game 3 days later. And we’ve all seen the opposite be true as well. The key here is patience and trust in the process. If the coach is teaching the right concepts and the player is enjoying the instruction and learning from it, it’s sometimes a matter of time before the results come.
The Parent’s Role
If you’re paying for the instructor, you kind of have two choices:
- Reinforce his or her concepts in no-instructional scenarios
- Undercut the lessons by trying to impart contradictory principles on your child.
If you choose #2, just save your money and either find a new instructor or resume teaching the child yourself.
Personally I’m a proponent of private instruction so long as it makes sense for the player. In my experience, it’s helped me learn the game better seeing it be taught by professionals, and also helped my communication in different scenarios.