By Joe Praino
While physical fitness for children is imperative, a good balance of mental and physical exertion is of the utmost importance.
Just as a child who would prefer to spend entire days camped out in front of the TV playing video games is ignoring their physical health, an athletic child who spends all of his/her time running around mindlessly on the playing field is ignoring their mental development.
The key is finding a way to fulfill a childhood need for play with an almost equal urge to be challenged mentally. And that is why for the last 200 years one activity has been the overwhelmingly popular choice for children of all ages. An activity that is more physical than a game, but more cerebral than a sport: baseball.
Yogi Berra once said about the game of baseball that “90% of this game is mental, the other half is physical.” While many might find Yogi’s math “fuzzy” at best, his take is the closest anyone has come to successfully describing the mental/physical breakdown that it takes to achieve in the game of baseball.
Baseball differs from other sports in many ways. The most obvious being the pace at which it’s played. While most sports have a break at the end of a quarter, the end of a half or the occasional time-out, in baseball the breaks are far more frequent. Not only is there a break every inning, but also one following every out and even between each pitch. It’s these breaks in physical activity that require a player to have excellent focus and unwavering concentration.
Another aspect of baseball that separates it from other activities is the rate of success for a player.
As Ted Williams once said, “baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”
Three out of ten is 30%. If your son or daughter came home with a 30% on a spelling test they certainly wouldn’t be met with praise. Meanwhile, in baseball if someone succeeds 30% of the time they could end up in the Hall of Fame. These numbers explain just how difficult baseball is and it’s this part of playing that teaches children about perseverance and staying mentally tough even when met with almost certain failure.
Cultivating this mental toughness and physical strength will ensure your child’s success in the classroom, on the playing field and everywhere in between.
Joe Praino has been coaching youth baseball for 15 years in and around New York City. He has recently moved to Los Angeles and this summer is launching Extra Bases Baseball Camp, a summer camp for boys and girls ages 5-12, at Barrington Recreation Center in Brentwood. http://www.extrabasescamp.com
Cultivating Physical Strength and Mental Toughness
By Joe Praino