Now that the summer baseball season has ended, athletes are making decisions on how they will continue to develop during the fall months. For some youth and high school players, this may include taking some time off and playing another sport. For others, it may include finding ways to keep playing baseball throughout the fall. The fall provides a huge opportunity for baseball players to improve their skill set; however, we often see athletes mismanage their development during this period of the offseason. Before you make a decision on how you are going to develop during the fall, you should first make the following considerations:
- Where you want to go (long term goals)
- Where you’re at (current skill set)
- How you’re going to get there (improvements needed)
First, you should determine what your long term goals are for your baseball career (for goal setting tips, check out this podcast on goal setting). Examples of this could include simply making the varsity squad your senior year of high school or playing college baseball and beyond.
Second, you should have an honest assessment of what your current skill set is in relationship to your long-term goals. An easy way to do this is to compare your skills to the measurables of those playing at the level you want to play at some day. For example, most D1 pitcher’s fastball velocities are 88-90+. If you’re sitting 75 on your best day, then you know you’ve got some work to do.
Third, you need to determine how you’re going to make the improvements needed to reach your long-term goals. Players don’t just magically improve throughout the offseason. You must have a plan and execute it. This could mean focusing on your development by getting an individualized strength or velocity training plan or making mechanical changes to your delivery.
Only after making these considerations can you determine what the best plan is for your development during the fall portion of the offseason. However, all too often we see players who have no plan and just join a fall league to keep playing. Usually, this is not the best strategy for development. For example, I repeatedly see undersized high school athletes who have a mound velocity of 78 mph go play fall games in order to improve their skills and increase their exposure to college recruiters. To me this can be a huge waste of time and resources if their fall team is not prioritizing development and training consistently (which is usually the case). Additionally, exposing a 78-mph fastball to college recruiters is a great way to not get recruited. In this case, playing fall ball will do nothing to help that athlete reach his goals because he is missing out on such a huge window of opportunity to develop his skills. Instead, he should take advantage of the fall by getting on an individualized strength and velocity program in order to close the gap between where he is and where he wants to go.
However, this does not mean that playing in fall baseball leagues is always bad. If a player already has the measurables to play at the level they want, but they need more exposure to college recruiters, then playing fall games can be a great way to do that. It can also be a great way to experiment with a new pitch or mechanical changes against hitters in a low-risk setting. If a you go through these three considerations and a fall baseball league provides the best opportunity to help you develop, then by all means, that’s what you should do. So, before you decide what to do this fall, consider where you’re at and where you want to go and then take advantage of the time you have to make it happen.