Youth baseball coaching and the love of the game, can become an obsession, occupying a portion of our time and energy not just during the baseball season, but year round. I’m embarrassed to admit when you get as old as I am and have played or coached 1000s of games, you tend to forget how it is for the Brand New Coach.
This section will be Devoted Totally to the brand new Coach, the future of the sport, where I will teach topics down to their most elementary form designed to begin teaching 5 and 6 year olds the basics of learning the game of baseball.
Youth Baseball Coaching - $ucce$$
Teaching young players the art of hitting begins with the most basic elements, first taught in stages, then combined into fluid hitting mechanics.
Teaching the Batting Stance:
Doesn’t matter if your league has an official T-ball division or not, you always begin teaching the hitting process with the aid of a batting tee.
1. Always place the Ball on the Tee with it set waist high to the hitter, adjust the height if need be to accommodate the exceptionally short or tall player.
2. Teach the hitter to face the tee and spread their feet shoulder width apart, making sure they are balanced and standing properly distanced from the ball.
3. Have them bend their knees and slightly crouch forward.
4. Their weight on the balls of their feet, not flat footed, re-check their balance making sure their weight is evenly distributed on both feet.
Youth Baseball Coaching - Driving Ball
5. Teach them how to grip the bat with both hands, No cross-handed grips.
6. Teach them to hold the bat firmly, but do not squeeze it.
7. Hold the bat up and away from the body, no resting on shoulder. Youngsters have a tendency to imitate their heroes, but this is no time for any exaggerated batting stance of an unorthodox major league player.
8. Teach them to keep their shoulders square and level, bat held still.
9. Focus eyes on the ball, hold head still.
1. Teach a Starting Mechanism, either lifting front leg or stepping forward slightly.
2. Teach them to use a level swing and hit through the ball, which is why having the tee set at the appropriate height is so crucial.
3. Keep eyes on ball, head still and down while swinging.
4. Teach them to shift their weight forward as they swing and follow through, don’t let their back foot lift off the ground.
5. Teach them how to extend arms and follow through with the swing, bat ending passed their front shoulder, remembering the importance of proper distance from the batting tee. A player will have trouble extending his arms and swing if he’s too close to the ball.
6. Drop the bat after hitting the ball, do not throw it.
7. Run to first base.
Youth Baseball Coaching - Fielding
Fielding a Ground Ball:
Teaching the basics of fielding a ground ball is probably the single most important fielding exercise for beginning players, because even though hitting off a tee, most hits end up being a ground ball.
1. Teach that trying to get in front of the ball, if possible, is very important, then begin teaching the proper fielding position.
2. Have the player(s) stand with the legs spread shoulder width apart, similar to their batting stance, re-stress the importance of balance.
3. Have them bend their Knees in order to get low to the ground.
4. Have them lean Slightly Forward, placing their glove on the ground out in front of them. Be sure they can actually see their glove as they look forward, and initially be sure their glove actually makes contact with the ground.
5. Roll the ball to them and have them watch Ball all the way into the Glove.
6. Teach them to cover the Ball with the Bare Hand in order to keep the ball from bouncing back out.
Catching a Fly Ball: and Youth Baseball Coaching
A coach’s patience will most likely be tested teaching the basics of catching fly balls, but always remember this is quite normal as the skills required to locate, judge, move to and catch a flying object is quite complicated.
The K.I.S.S method (keep it simple stupid) is by far the best method for teaching this skill. Throw slightly higher than line drive fly balls, underhanded to the players.
1. Teach them to move to Where the ball is thrown, intentionally not moving very far if any.
2. They must get Under the ball, fight the urge to explain anything complicated about how to judge where to position themselves, just “get under the ball.”
3. Have them hold their hands in the Air, shoulder high or slightly over the head, glove slightly ahead of their bare throwing hand.
4. Watch the Ball into the glove, then cover the ball with the Bare Hand.
Learning to Throw a Baseball:
Youngsters normally have a head start on this skill from throwing rocks or whatever with or at their brother, which can be good, or can be bad. In either event you must teach them the proper method of throwing a baseball, which again is taught in steps, then combined into one fluid motion.
1. Teach them to hold the Ball with the thumb under the ball, with two to three fingers wrapped over the top, which although their hands may still be too small, will give them a head start to learning a 4 seam grip which will be very important as they mature. Never too early to teach for the future.
Youth Baseball Coaching - Standard Tee
2. Have them face their target, keep eyes on target, with their legs slightly apart and balanced.
3. Have them raise their glove hand and point it towards the target.
4. Next, have them extend the throwing arm straight backwards.
5. At this Point … the player should be facing sideways, their glove arm pointed to the target, while the throwing hand is pointing straight backwards, resembling a scare crow.
6. Teach them to push off the back foot, shifting your weight forward, while bringing the back foot even with the lead foot as you throw.
7. As the arm comes forward, release the ball with the throwing arm pointing towards the target.
Catching the Thrown Ball:
Fear of catching a throw ball is usually not as pronounced as fear of a pitched ball, but it does exist and getting smacked in the mouth with a ball definitely won’t do anything to alleviate the fear, so just like everything else, proceed slow and easy. Toss the ball underhand, much like you did in the fly ball catching drill, except the ball should not have a large arc to it.
Youth Baseball Coaching - Running Bases
1. Have the player face you, shoulders square.
2. Have them bend their knees slightly, no stiff legged stances.
3. Teach them to watch the ball leave your hand all the way into their glove.
4. Teach them to position their hands together, glove adjacent to the bare hand, thumb touching leather, facing out on a ball located above the waist and cover the ball as soon as it enters the glove.
5. In contrast, hands together facing down on a Ball below the waist, then cover. You may question teaching 2 skills at once, but the player must be able to adjust his hands to accommodate the height of the throw.
Base Running: First Base
In my opinion it’s senseless to even consider teaching running techniques to a 5 or 6 year old. There are only 3 rules to teach when running to first base.
1. Do Not watch ball, only look straight at the Base.
2. Run straight to the base, touch it, (Don’t Jump on it or slow down) and run past the base.
3. Always listen to the Coach’s instructions.
I’ve thrown a lot at you to teach, but your players will be well on their way to becoming good solid baseball players upon learning these skills. Remember: