Sunday, July 8, 2012

Youth Baseball: Are Private Lessons Worth the Money?

Are private lessons for pitching, hitting or fielding really worth the money?

When I was a young baseball player, my dad taught me how to hit, pitch and field. In the 70's, there was no thought about private training for baseball. My dad played baseball in college, so he was more knowledgeable that most dads. Still, he was not a technically sound instructor.

Kids of today, those filled with real potential and not, are turning to private instruction to get ahead or to simply keep up.

Jayson Stark, one of my favorite sports writers wrote a great piece on ESPN called The Age of the Pitcher - I found this section of the long post about the increase in number of hard-throwing pitchers most interesting.

In 2007, 11 pitchers averaged 95 miles per hour, in 2011, that number tripled to 35. How did this happen?

Jayson and baseball experts have the following theory. 

Think about that for a moment. Can that really be true -- that the number of smokeballers blowing 95 mph and up has tripled in five years? Even other pitchers have a hard time comprehending that phenomenon.
"I've never seen as many hard throwers on every single team as I do now," says Derek Lowe. "It seems like every team has three or four guys coming out of that bullpen throwing 95 miles an hour."
"When I first started doing this 25 years ago, if you saw a kid touch 90 (mph) at 17 years old, you were like, 'Oh my God,'" says the Indians' vice president of scouting operations, John Mirabelli. "That guy became an automatic prospect. Now, just about every guy (on a scouting director's radar) throws 90, and most of them throw 92. And you never saw amateur guys throwing in the upper 90s. Now you see it all the time. It's unbelievable."
But this word of caution: We can't be totally sure if those numbers are accurate. They might tell us more about how we measure velocity now than about the pitchers we're measuring. So we went about this another way: We asked scouting directors what they see when they show up at high school and college games.
Other scouting directors spun the same tales, over and over. And that tells us something: This is NOT a mirage.
So where is that velocity coming from? The theories go like this:
  • More long-tossing to build up arm strength. 
  • More and more kids seeking out personal pitching coaches, most of whom once played professional baseball, who are passing along advancements in throwing programs and better mechanics. 
  • An explosion in the use of personal trainers, even by teenagers.
  • Less abuse of young arms by coaches, thanks to new rules, pitch counts and workload limits.
The Main Point

When you combine talent, desire and proper instruction good results will follow no matter what you are doing, but it does not necessarily mean that your kid will advance. Spend your money on private lessons wisely and go into it with the proper perspective because chances of playing in college or the pros is remote at best. 

To me private lessons teach my kids one thing - if you want to advance at anything, be it sports or school or business, don't be afraid to ask experts for guidance. 


  1. In my opinion, and as a former athlete whose parents spent thousands a year for me to play select soccer and receive private lessons, I think that the lessons were well worth the money.

    1. It was something else that kept a teenage boy occupied
    2. I became a very good soccer player and went on to play for a Collegiate Division I program. saving my parents much more money due to a free college tuition.
    3. More importantly, I became better at what I loved, which increased my self esteem as a teenager and my confidence as a soccer player

    I would say however that when it comes to private lessons, I think that parents need a way or source of information that allows them to find the best person for their child and not just Trainer Joe, because everyone else in the community is paying him.

    1. Cortney - I could not agree with you more - there are so many benefits to sports in regard to self-confidence that pay dividends down the road even if kids do not go on to get a college scholarship like you did or turn pro. Thanks for adding the the conversation.

  2. I think it's just a matter of find the right private coach. The few times we did it, we asked people we knew, because we knew they were experts and we had already seen results. I guess it's important to go on recommendations by others who've been coached by that person. I hate to see parents spend tons of money on it, but maybe keep the lessons to a minimum, and ask the coach for things the athlete can work on in his own time.

  3. I debate this with a buddy whose son plays on my son's travel baseball team almost every day.
    His son takes hitting & pitching lessons, but has not pitched as much this season as in years past.
    When he complains about the cost & time for a possible limited return...I always ask him the same question.
    Do you want your son to play HS baseball? Do you want your son to pitch in HS?
    There are no guarantees in life, but you have provided your son with advanced instruction and tools that will give him the best opportunity to succeed in his future baseball endeavors, if he so chooses!!!

  4. I am an athlete who has benefited tremendously from private coaching, allowing me to play collegiate and professional basketball. I enjoyed reading this article. I founded to make it easy for any athlete to find the perfect private coach, in any sport (safe, reviewed, qualified coaches). I hope CoachUp can be a resource for this community.

  5. At what age should an athlete begin private hitting lessons? I have a son who is only 4 1/2. Today we were at the park and he was hitting while I tossed some soft pitches. Someone strongly suggested that we get lessons before he picks up bad mechanics. While I definitely agree he will use private lessons in, maybe, 2 or 3 years from now (7 or 8 years old), I question if investing into private lessons now (4 1/2 years old) is a wise use of money.

    1. Steve, I agree. I am a Private Coach and have coached my son (7) and my best friend's son since he was 4 (now 12), but I feel they don't need coaching until at least coach pitch and most often later. Let them love the game for as long as they can before getting too serious or you will destroy their love for it and make it feel like work. Also, cost is not a good judge of coaching ability. Like someone said earlier, referrals are good, but even then you have to match styles. I tend to approach parents whose kids I think I can help, but I will also recommend other coaches if I don't feel I can help a certain kid that wants it enough.

    2. I have twin boys that are 15. They LOVE baseball and have been playing since they were 4. I think if you teach them to love the game and love to get better you will be fine to add lessons at any age. Your whole goal should be for them to tell you "dad, you don't know enough, sign me up for this..." You have plenty of time to fix mechanics... Plenty

  6. To my mind, there is no need in a private training for baseball. It is not worthy the money you pay for the lessons.

  7. baseball is the best game in the world, when I was a little we practiced in our yard, then school, now playing office

  8. In schools like my children attend where there are soo many students for limited number of spots and you have upwards of 25 kids out for basketball, etc. You need to have those tools like private instruction and AAU, and travel teams just to have the best opportunity to play your sport in high school.

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