Jesse Kurtz manages the successful 12u Team Majestic, which is one our Bardo's in-house teams. We interviewed Jesse to find out what it's like to be a Bardo's in-house coach and the biggest differences he sees with his players since joining Bardo's.
Compared to other places you've coached, what are the biggest differences being a Bardo's in-house coach?
The camaraderie between all the coaches (staff & other in-house coaches) is tremendous. Everybody there has one goal; to see the kids succeed. All the coaches in the building help teach and encourage every player no matter what team affiliation. To have that many eyeballs on practices makes the time very efficient and effective.
What kind of progression have you seen with your players?
Our kids come to practice with the intent on working hard because anything less is unacceptable. That is constantly reinforced by the Bardo’s staff. With multiple teams in the building at once, our kids have improved how they compete which has consequently led to improvements in all areas of the game. They have also learned to not be so serious. Baseball is a game, it does not define who you are as a person. They’re starting to realize that with the teaching and reinforcement from the respected staff at Bardo’s. Our kids have a “swagger” about them because they are “Bardo’s Players”, which is awesome to see since they were shy for so long. They know they’re learning the game from the best and they enjoy competing with that in mind.
What do you enjoy most about being a Bardo's in-house coach?
The learning process. Having played baseball into college and coached youth up to high school, I felt like I had a fairly strong understanding of the game. But like life, things evolve and that includes how we teach the game of baseball and the safety (player’s arms, specifically) that goes along with that. Mike Bard and his staff are constantly “seeking truth” in the game and staying on top of the new approaches and best practices. They will admit, they “don’t know everything about the game even though they are the best in the business when it comes to knowledge, but they are seeking every day to learn more. That approach is very refreshing, comforting, and admirable. Even though they have professional players and coaches on staff… to not take the “we know all” approach leads to great respect among other coaches. It is a team effort within those walls. This specifically has played a big role in the new approach to throwing in a safe & effective manner. I have appreciated their willingness to let old habits take a back seat while the staff and teams learn the safer way to throw.
Any pleasant surprises from being a Bardo's coach that you weren’t expecting?
Mike Bard and his staff go out of their way to encourage the kids and talk to them about life. Even though baseball is their job & passion, they are very good about putting things into perspective. Making sure the kids know that baseball is something they do, it doesn’t define them. They talk about things like, “nobody will remember your batting average, but they will remember if they were a good teammate and how they acted.” The staff at Bardo’s really puts a lot of thought and care into how they handle the mental side of youth baseball.
Have you changed any of your managing habits after being a Bardo’s coach?
The biggest change I have made is how I communicate with the players. The staff has effectively explained the importance of commanding respect while not being a dictator on the field. Too often I found myself yelling rather than explaining when things weren’t right. The Bardo’s staff has helped me and my coaching staff get the most out of the players in how we handle the kids (especially in times of failure). I do way less yelling and more coaching, thanks to the Bardo’s staff.
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Pitchers have been told for years that they need to be long, loose, and "whippy" with their arm. The belief is if the arm action is short and compact they'll push the ball or lose power. While pitchers do not have to be a quick with their actions, more efficient is still the way to go.
It's one of the biggest elements we have battled for our Youth In House Training and our Healthy Heat Program. The real reason that shortening up is necessary at times is because of timing. The Texas and Florida Baseball Ranch programs refer to the most critical position of the throwing motion as final connection. The final connection is when the front foot strikes the ground while having the hand up, inside of 90 degrees, with the elbow just below shoulder level. Everything that happens before the final connection is just a means of comfort and timing.
This happens particularly with younger players. Trying to time a distal are action consistently just doesn't happen. They may need to find a more compact and efficient movement pattern to allow for more consistent timing and connection.
Four different players using four very different circumstances all in the same position. I don't think Puig lost much power on his throw from the outfield. It's easy to get lost in all the movement when watching guys throw, but when the foot hits the ground the scapula needs to be retracted with hand up and inside 90. This allows for the hand to accelerate longer and achieve late launch, but more on that next week.
The short answer is you can’t judge arm action by simply looking at it with the naked eye. In the Healthy Heat program, we do a lot of work in an effort to make the arm action more efficient and that looks different for everyone. However, just because an arm action looks too “short” it does not mean it is the cause of a command problem or a lack of velocity.
Maximize arm health, velocity, and overall effectiveness by joining the Healthy Heat program today.
Andy is a Colorado transplant and is one of our top catching and hitting instructors here at Bardo's. He played college baseball at Sacramento City College and later at Azusa Pacific University. He graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a double major in Sports Psychology and Kinesiology. Andy is also beginning his first year at Valor Christian Academy as the catching and hitting coach.
As a catching instructor, what do you think is the most underrated element as a youth catcher?
I see a young catcher’s ability to be a leader on the field as something that is often overlooked at the younger ages. Even if the player is not naturally vocal it is important for them to take control of what his or her teammates are doing between the lines. That includes defensive placement, game tempo, and overall energy level of the team.
You recently moved to Colorado from California and have been named Valor High School's assistant baseball coach. What are the biggest differences between Colorado baseball and California baseball?
Coming from California I do see a slight difference in skill development due to the differences in weather and the fact that we practiced and played year round in California. That being said, I don’t see that as an excuse for these young Colorado players. The ability to train indoors is something that can and should be taken advantage of if the player intends on getting better and competing at a high level.
As a private instructor, what is your philosophy or approach when instructing a player?
As an instructor I like to create an atmosphere where the player has a high level of focus and intensity, but at the same time feels like they are allowed to fail. I believe that we learn best through our failure and I try to set up scenarios where the player will sometimes fail. My goal is to make a session more challenging than a game situation. By doing this it will raise the players competitive threshold and make the game feel a little easier.
Is the mental game different for a catcher compared to if they were playing another position?
Naturally the catcher and pitcher positions require an extra mental edge because they are active every single pitch. I believe a catcher has to have a certain mentality that is different than the rest of the team. A catcher has to be willing to take responsibility for everything that occurs on the field. If a pitcher throws a ball in the dirt, the catcher must do his job and block that ball. If a shortstop makes a bad throw to first base the catcher must be there to back up that throw and not let the runner advance to second. The position is inherently a selfless position and requires a team mentality.
What element would you like to see changed in the game of baseball?
I love the game of baseball for all the lessons that it teaches us, but I would love for us to reframe how we approach failure. This starts with the coaches creating a positive environment and will transfer to the players seeing failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. In a game that is so full of failure, a kid can either go home with 45 reasons why he isn’t good enough, or they can go home with 45 reasons why he should keep working hard and come back tomorrow with something to work on. It is all about how we teach these boys and girls to respond to failure. That is something that will stay with them long after they play this game.
Book a lesson with Andy.