Are you a coach or parent who tells the player to always put their head down and run after they hit the ball? Or how about explaining to the same player to "never take your eye off the ball" when a fly ball is hit to him/her? We always mention to others about how sports are a metaphor for life, but how do you relate baseball/softball to real world situations when players are being taught to not trust their instincts or make game time decisions?
When a hitter hits a ground ball in the infield, he/she should roll their eyes in and make sure the infielder fielded the ball. If the same batter hits a line drive in the gap, he/she should head towards first while keeping their head on a swivel by glancing between the ball and the bag repeatedly. It's up to the player to make the game time decision on whether or not to advance to the next bag. Coaches are there to assist and have the final say, but it's in the players best interest to make the game time decision to advance or not. The players have better instincts on whether or not they can reach the next bag more so than the coaches. Also, the player can make a decision later than a coach can. A base coach will have to make a decision early enough for the player to interpret it, whereas if a player was making the decisions, he/she can make it much later and rely more on decision making skills and instincts.
It's up to the coach to teach the team during practice on how to run the bases. Players should be taught the basic system of score, inning, and outs. Players should know the situation they're in and know if they should be aggressive or not on the bases. Players should know that they will be making decisions on the bases as long as the ball is in front of them. Once the ball ends up behind them, that is when it's appropriate to rely on the 3rd base coach for advancement.
Players will sharpen their baseball instincts by making decisions and possible mistakes on the base paths by not relying 100% on the coaches. This will be a huge part of the player's development. By learning how to make game time decisions on the bases, the player will then be able to rely on instincts in real life.
The same holds true when a fly ball is hit over the player's head. Players SHOULD take their eyes off the ball when needed. Players will be able to cover more ground as well as be able to see where the fence is or other fielders. It's scary for players at first, but the more they take their eyes off the ball, the more they will be able to rely on instincts. Players will make a lot of mistakes during practice when mastering this technique, so they have to be willing to push through the mistakes and learn from each fly ball.
Moving forward... allow your kids to run the bases with their head on a swivel, and allow them to take their eyes off the ball in the field. This is something that will need to be practiced over and over again but should be implemented immediately.
Heads-Up Baseball is a book that every player should read. Ken Ravizza will help change the way the player approaches each game and life.