|High School Expectations|
As a freshman/sophomore high school baseball coach, the question comes up as to what skills should a boy of 14 or 15 have when they reach high school? Naturally this is a difficult question to answer given the different developmental variables that the age group brings to the field. However when a boy decides that he wants to continue playing baseball at the high school level it tells me that he is committed to the sport and most likely has been pursuing the sport since he was in little league. By the time they reach high school, sports have pretty much picked the person. The sport that a person is comfortable with and that they have had some success in is the one that they will put their energies toward. So the player who shows up at tryouts in high school is generally the boy who has devoted his energy to the sport and wishes to continue.
The game of baseball takes a giant leap at the high school level. The days of well-intentioned father-coaching and patchwork skill training ends and is replaced with a systematic program that is designed to produce consistent play both in the field and at the plate. The game of baseball is all about consistency. Make the play in the field eight to nine times out of ten, and produce a base hit three to four times out of ten and you will be considered a very good player.
What we look for in a player first is the ability to throw, catch and swing a bat with some fluidity and grace. Second is the desire to learn to be consistent. By far the biggest stumbling block to a player's chance of progressing to the varsity level in high school is his own failure to adapt to a program that is trying to progress his level of play. Players have to be willing to let go of certain comforts in the way they play the game so that they can learn the skills and nuances of the game at the higher level. Just because your child can hit the ball doesn't mean that he can hit for power or can adjust to the curve or that he can understand when a pitcher is setting him up to swing at a high strike. The complexities of the game of baseball are revealed and put into play at the high school level and a player must be willing to become a student of the game to have great success.
So what I look for most in a player is a love of the game and a thirst to become a better ball player every day. I tell the kids on my team that every time we step on the field we have an opportunity to get better. At the school where I coach the varsity coach firmly believes that great players are made and that they are not born that way. We, as a staff, believe that any kid that comes out and makes the team with the basic skills honed from some years at the youth level has the ability to become a solid baseball player with attention and a solid work ethic. The player that comes out and has the drive and thirst to be great can open himself and make himself a great ballplayer.
My advice to the young player that is looking down the road to playing in high school is to work hard and practice well. Learn whatever is being presented by your coach at the time because the book of baseball is vast and the experiences of all that have played it are worthwhile. When you get to high school bring all that you have learned and be ready to keep learning; always be coachable. Your desire to be a valuable teammate and better player will be the best skill that you can bring to the field.
Chris Smith - High School Baseball Coach, Boulder CO.