Since 1945, the American Baseball Coaches Association has held meetings every year with the NCAA with the idea that college baseball needed organization and direction. What started as a 29 man convention has spawned to an 8,000 member association spanning 20 countries.
This year’s convention was held in Anaheim, California from January 5th-8th. More than 4,500 coaches and 300 exhibiting companies made the 73rd annual ABCA Convention the largest ever on the West Coast.
As the game continues to evolve, different aspects of the youth baseball industry are also changing. It’s important to recognize some of the trends happening in the game. Here are the three reasons the ABCA Convention proved the game and your baseball program will change in 2017.
Technology Is Taking Over
It’s clear now more than ever that technology is changing every part of the game. Everything from tracking a pitcher’s release to gauging bat speed or torque is being monitored. Companies like Diamond Kinetics and HitTrax are paving the way for coaches and directors to analyze all details of a player’s swing.
“The baseball world has completely changed,” Rohit said. “Without a doubt, Diamond Kinetics and HitTrax were the biggest draws at the event. Everything revolves around tracking efficiencies for recruiting more so than ever.”
With all this technology and data, kids are able to receive their scores faster. They are then able to assess how they stack up with everyone else. Tweaks such as lowering their hands on the bat or raising their release on the mound are now easier than ever before.
“It’s almost like these companies are gamifying baseball for the kids,” Rohit said. “Like a video game, kids get instant results and make changes right then and there to get better.”
Programs Are Getting More Specialized
From pitching camps in Texas to hitting instructors in New York to catching schools in California, there seems to be no shortage of specialized training. And the market seems to be expanding.
Across the country, facilities are being built for this very reason. Having a field is no longer necessary. Instead, program directors and organizers can use technology to open a camp focused on players’ bat speed.
LeagueApps partners from Ohio, Sports Force Parks, is one example of facilities built on specialization. Located near Cedar Point Amusement Park, they specialize in hosting tournaments for all skill levels. However, they maximize their growth through a niche market in youth sports tourism. By marketing one special asset of what they offer, Sports Force Parks has grown from hosting tournaments into one of the premier players in the youth baseball industry.
It’s not just programs or facilities that are specializing. Equipment is being altered every day to optimize a certain part of a player’s game. There’s a science behind how specialized hats can help prevent concussions. Gloves are being built everyday to conform to a player’s tendencies at shortstop or centerfield.
With the addition of technology and improving software, these evolutions are leading to more and more specialized players. The result is personalized pitching coaches and clinics for infielders on turning double plays.
As long as kids want to be the best and play for the best, there will always be a market for specialized camps.
Baseball Organizers Cannot Miss These Conventions
The biggest and most important takeaway is also perhaps the most simple. You have to go to these youth baseball related events.
Aside from the possibility of meeting Tommy Lasorda or Bobby Valentine, conventions and events like the ABCA allow for not only an excellent opportunity for other youth baseball leaders to network, but the potential to grow your program through a 3 or 4 day event is enormous.
That fact is not lost on Rohit.
“All the big name sponsors are here,” he said. “Every organization is here to capitalize on how to grow their youth baseball business in 2017.”
Big names like Rawlings, Easton, and EvoShield, to name a few, have a heavy presence at these events. Just as college teams are looking for partnerships with these baseball goliaths, youth clubs and teams are finding more ways than ever to get sponsorships.
With over 4,500 college coaches and recruiters at the event, baseball directors and organizers are keen on getting the inside track on how to get their players recruited for college.
“Being on site just gives these program directors a competitive advantage in understanding what college coaches are looking for. Sure, the opportunity for sponsorships and technological advances are here. But the real advantage is in knowing how to get your kids recruited,” said Rohit.
If a baseball director is looking to grow their program in 2017, start by attending these events.