Keeping young baseball and softball players motivated during the offseason

It's the time of year for young baseball and softball players to hang up their gloves for the season, but before they know it, they'll be back on the diamond. In the meantime, however, coaches and parents need to make sure that their young ballplayers don't retire altogether until the spring.

No matter which approach they take to spark motivation, adults should sit down with their athletes and talk about the season that just concluded. It's important, however, to focus the conversation on the future, discussing what could be better next year and how to get there. With that, a concrete offseason plan can be composed.

While working out and doing as much baseball- or softball-specific skill work as possible is crucial, here are a few other ways to keep your ballplayer on task after the season ends:

♦ Encourage them to try other sports – Aside from obviously keeping them in shape, playing other sports helps young athletes develop their overall mental approach to competition. Being that baseball and softball can be quite psychologically taxing, a mature mental approach can make a world of a difference for young players.

♦ Help them find their influences – Professional athletes are often asked who they looked up to when they were young. The answer may be the best player on their favorite team, but usually it's someone whose style of play is similar to their own. Work with young ballplayers to find pros like them, and help them understand what got them to the big leagues.

♦ Keep a calendar – Don't let them forget when the next season starts. Mark each week of the calendar with "X weeks until baseball season," so it's clear that they'll be back on the field sooner than they think. With that always on their mind, they'll be much more motivated to get in mid-season shape for the first pitch come April.

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