Baseball coach Jordan Baltimore instills values of teamwork and confidence
In the time he spent as a volunteer he realized that many coaches were more concerned with winning games than with child development. In 2009 he branched off, creating New York Empire Baseball in hopes to change the traditional way of coaching. Within the first two and half years the program grew from one team of 12, to thirteen teams and over 600 players. Players start as young as four years old, and are quickly taught the principles of hard work and responsibility.
“They are treated like adults,” Baltimore said of his mini players. “They are forced to make decisions, sometimes in very difficult situations. That led us to another aspect of our organization culturally, which is that we don’t want them to have a fear of failure.” He explained that by giving kids more responsibility, it teaches them to think creatively under pressure.
Baltimore’s frank New Yorker attitude was evident at the 9U (ages 6-9) team practice at P.S. 811 on the Upper West Side this past Saturday. Any time a player would make an error, Baltimore would sternly yell “no” and quickly huddle the team up and have a group discussion on how to avoid that mistake in the future.
Despite being so young, the players held a mature level of concentration.
“My job as a coach is not to win baseball games,” said Baltimore. “None of our coaches’ job is to win the game; it’s to prepare twelve children to win a game. To motivate them in the game to do their best.” The philosophy at Empire views winning as a positive result of the player’s hard work. Their belief is that youth sports should be able to develop the academic, athletic, and social skills of tomorrow’s leaders on and off the field – the goal being that player’s athletic ability will improve naturally as they apply the mindset that success is a result of hard work.
Eight-year-old Ari Litt embodies the program’s objective of improving more than just athletic ability. The smallest player on his team, Ari started out as a very shy kid unwilling to try new things. His father Dan explained how the team has helped Ari.
“The drills he goes through [with Jordan] are really special. He teaches them teamwork, confidence, teambuilding,” Dan said. “I’ve seen a big change in Ari’s attitude since he started in the league. Now he walks in here as if he owns the place.” Ari is now a leader of his team, often helping other players reach their goals during practice.
Baltimore does not expect perfection out of his players, but he does expect them to always strive for perfection. There is a high level of intensity in this program, which is applied to each training session, practice, or game. At his practice with the 9U team came to a close, there was determination on each young player’s face, filled with hope that Coach Baltimore was pleased with their performance.
He huddled them together one last time before it was time to leave. “You can never, never be afraid to fail. You don’t ever have to be worried that we will be upset if you strike out,” he said. “But if you strike out looking, that’s a different story. You have to go up there swinging. You don’t want to just hit the ball; you have to want to hit it harder than you ever have in your life.”
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