2020 ABCA Convention: Top Trends On-Deck For Youth Baseball
By Jamie Hancock
January 6, 2020
If you have a passion for baseball, the ABCA Annual Convention was like a playground filled with informative clinics, enticing product displays, and live demos on the trade show floor. The LeagueApps team made up a few of the lucky 7,100 attendees in Nashville last week, returning for the fourth year in a row.
Count on us for a timely report on what you may have missed, namely the arrival of a technology and data revolution. It’s truly here, and advancing at a much faster rate than anyone ever could have imagined. Want to track the ball’s exit velocity off the bat or uncover how slight changes in a player’s batting stance can impact their performance? No problem—all of this data is at your fingertips if you’re willing to invest in the future of the sport.
In the next four minutes, you’ll get all of the insights you need to start 2020 off on the right foot. And there’s more to come next week after the World Baseball Coaches’ Convention takes place at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. We’ll be there, so make sure to come see us!
Technology and data was a big topic at our Innovation Dinner at ABCA, which included several notable baseball organizations that have bought in to this revolution and are leading the way. Co-hosted by SportsRecruits and Blast Motion at Edley’s Bar-B-Que, the event brought together over 100 coaches and organizers to discuss the current youth baseball landscape and share best practices.
LeagueApps President, Jeremy Goldberg, moderated a panel featuring Gators Baseball Academy, East Coast Sox, Marucci, and Blast Motion. Baseball, beer, and BBQ—what could be better? In addition, our guests heard from Will Alexander, the CRO of the new MLS expansion club, Nashville SC, and Patrick McAnaney, the Sales Director at SportsRecruits.
Overall, baseball has been the fastest adopter of performance-based data tools—out of any major team sport. At ABCA, we saw some of the most innovative, mind-blowing technology from Blast Motion, to Rapsodo, to HitTrax, and even tools like Driveline that help you translate all of the insights. While this technology has initially been focused on MLB and colleges, these companies are using that as validation to go into the grassroots.
So, what are the implications? One of our core beliefs is that the tech and data revolution will change everything from the operations to the game. First, baseball may be better positioned than any sport to speak to the next generation, as these tools make the game literally feel like a video game. Check out the below video of HitTrax technology in action, which provides hitting stats, including exit velocity, launch angle, distance, point of impact, play outcome, strike zone analysis, and high speed video with integrated metrics.
Secondly, the most enterprising organizations are going to adopt this technology and can widen their advantage/differentiation over smaller organizations or those that are less tech-minded. Third, if you think about the future of the sport, fluency with data to drive your job will be a critical skill. Kids will be able to learn valuable life lessons through baseball—like how to use data to drive decisions.
Lastly, there’s a real concern regarding how this kind of technology/data will widen the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, with underserved communities left further behind. But not if we have anything to say about it. Another one of our core beliefs is that all kids should be able to play sports. We’re working hard to make this possible through initiatives like FundPlay—our pledge to donate 1% of our revenue to impact 500,000 kids by the end of 2022.
On day 2 of the convention, we sat in on a panel session titled “Developing Players, Developing Staff: Blueprints for the Future of the Game” that featured various representatives from MLB team, among other speakers. To conclude the session, they shared the 2020 resolutions they have as leaders within their organizations. Here are a few of them:
- Do less of the day-to-day stuff and focus more on the software and products
- Keep growing relationships for players
- Delegate tasks as a manager
- Incorporate breaks for eating during practice
- Listen more to players and coaches
- Empower players to take ownership (i.e., abandon the drivers ed approach and let them take the wheel)
- Carve time out for yourself to become a better person and coach—whether that means working out, reading, taking time for your professional development, etc.
- Talk less, and instead try to facilitate a positive environment by communicating simple messages
We’d love to hear your resolutions for 2020. And just remember: if you build it, they will come. Good luck as you kick off your spring seasons. We’ll see you in Washington, D.C. in 2021!