Archive for the ‘Coaching Youth Baseball’ Category

Baseball Workouts to Improve Youth Pitching

Working with pitchers in youth baseball training is difficult, simply because you don’t want to overwork a young pitcher’s arm.  Preventing injury is why Little League pitch counts are so strict.  However, pitchers do need to practice so they can have confidence on the mound.

The first thing to consider before setting up a baseball workout for pitching is how much the player has or will pitch during the week in actual games.  If games haven’t started, the pitching training can be more intense.  Most pitching training will occur during the off season.  This is why a year-round pitching program is so important.

There are two goals in developing baseball workouts for young pitchers. First you want to develop mechanics and second you want to work on velocity.  There is some debate as to which is the most important to develop first in a young pitcher – but velocity will clearly come from good mechanics and physical conditioning.

Here are four pitching drills that can be done regularly, without too much concern for stressing the arm.

SLOW MOTION
Have the pitcher pretend to throw the ball in slow motion.  Watch his mechanics and make corrections as necessary.  Once corrected, have him repeat the motion repeatedly until he is no longer making the  mistake. Watch for arm position (throwing down), rotation (is there too much or too little), foot position.  Make sure the pitcher can make his moves mechanically correct and with control.

WALK TO THE MOUND
Have the pitcher walk to the mound as if he is preparing to pitch.  Let him get the feel of the mound and what the field looks like from the mound.  Have him practice a mound approach that is uniquely his.  Tell him his mound approach should always be similar, to keep the other team guessing.  He shouldn’t vary his mound approach based on his mood.  His movements should not give anything away.  Have him get into the mental state that makes him feel confident about pitching.

METRONOME
Have the player throw a few balls to get his timing down.  Set a metronome to his timing.  Then have him make his throwing moves (without a ball) to the metronome.  Most pitchers will feel like they are moving  too slow!  Speed the metronome up a bit and have the pitcher make his moves a bit faster (up to the player’s comfort level).  This will help the pitcher keep control as he quickens his moves.

REVIEW THE RULES
So many times a pitcher is taken out when he is pitching well, because of pitch count and the coach’s strategy.  The pitcher needs to understand the rules so he isn’t mentally affected by this.  Also, the balk rules can be relatively complex when a pitcher tries a pickoff from mid-pitch.  Whether the pitcher is left or right handed can affect the balk call.  Make sure the young pitcher knows his Little League rules for pitch count and that he understands what constitutes a balk and how to prevent that call from the umpire.

These four baseball workouts for pitchers will help the young pitcher be more confident when he gets to themound in a game.

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The Catcher’s Role

In youth baseball training, the role of the catcher is often overlooked. But the catcher is a very important position and should be trained just as thoroughly as the pitcher. The catcher is the only player on the field that can see everything going on at all times. The catcher should and can be the team leader.

When coaching youth baseball, the coach should identify players that have a thorough understanding of the nuances of the game as well as leadership potential, and then train these players to be catchers. There isn’t much glory in being a catcher, but this is probably the most important position on the field.

Once identified, training catchers should include:

-How to give signs effectively. The pitcher must see the catcher’s signs from the mound. The catcher needs to know how to make his signs so the pitcher can see them but the batter can’t.

-How to properly set up on the plate. How the catcher sets up depends on the pitch being called for and whether the pitcher is up or down in the count. And the catcher should never give his position away to the batter too soon.

-Working on the proper catcher stance.

-How to watch the field so that appropriate decisions can be made once the catcher has the ball.

-Throwing. The catcher should have a fast and accurate throw to get players out at base. Overthrowing during a steal at third can be brutal.

-How to stop the ball with their body and not get hurt.

These are just the basics. Once a catcher gets good, you can move into more advanced training. In coaching youth baseball, training effective catchers can mean the difference between a killer team and one that won’t be seeing the playoffs.

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Pitching Drills for Little Leaguers

In youth baseball training, the coach shouldn’t wait until problems develop to use pitching drills. Pitching baseballs should be practiced all the time to promote good pitching habits and fundamentals. Here are some pitching drills that can be used by Little League coaches.

Before beginning pitching drills, you must know pitching mechanics. The type of pitching drills and number of throws depends on the age and strength of the player. Every coach should teach the mechanics first. This will be boring for the players but the coach must require proper mechanics of all his pitchers to prevent injuries.

Be a Better Pitcher!

Here are some great pitching drills for young players:

1. Balance Drill. This involves the pitcher “playing ball” from the mound, to get the feel of compensating for the slope of the mound. Have a “catcher” set up in front of the plate, giving a good target to the pitcher. Since the distance is shorter, the pitcher can work on his mechanics while not using his arm as much. This drill helps reinforce the wind up and throw, with balance, while throwing strikes.

2. Stay-closed Drill. This is another drill that helps reinforce good mechanics. Again, the catcher will position himself six or so feet in front of home plate. After warming up, have the pitcher stand sideways on the mound with his feet spread the approximate width of his stride. Next, have the pitcher shift his weight to his back foot to throw the ball to the catcher. You want the pitcher to develop good tempo by smoothly transferring his weight from back to front. The goal of this drill is to make sure the pitcher’s head stays on line with the target and to have his head down as he finishes the pitch (have him take his hat off and pick it up at the end of the drill to reinforce this). The goal is to throw efficiently, not hard, in this drill.

3. On-your-knee Drill. This drill reinforces the hip and trunk rotation needed for a mechanically correct delivery. Have a right-handed pitcher place his right knee on the ground, with his left shoulder closed and pointing toward the catcher. Have the catcher set up in front of the plate to make the drill easier. Have the pitcher “rock back” and throw the ball. Make sure the pitcher keeps his head in line and finishes the delivery properly. This drill is good for developing curve balls and changeups.

Making pitching drills part of your regular practices will improve your team’s pitching consistency and help prevent injuries as well!

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Using Resistance Bands to Increase Strength, Flexibility and Prevent Injury

There are many ways a youth baseball coach can increase flexibility and strength, and reduce the risk of injury, in his players. One way is to require that players perform exercise routines on their own time. Youth baseball players may not be ready for a serious weight lifting routine as their bodies are still forming. Large rubber resistance bands can be used instead of weights to increase strength and flexibility.

The bands can be purchased at any sporting goods store or on the interent and come in different sizes and thicknesses. Each type of band will have its own resistance. If training is for flexibility, less resistant bands can be used. Higher-resistance bands can be used to build strength.

Different band routines can be used to accomplish different goals. Here are some examples of specific objectives for which band routines can be established:

1. Pitching
2. Batting
3. Running speed
4. Flexibility and injury prevention
5. Long Toss

The specifics of each routine should depend on player age, strength and skill. The coach should work with each player individually to determine the youth’s goals and the specific areas where improvement is needed. A resistance band routine can then be created to accomplish the desired changes. The coach should encourage the player to record his routine in a notebook so progress can be tracked.

Working with resistance bands is easy and can be done anywhere with minimal preparation. A player can keep his bands in his bat bag so they are always with him. This type of exercise will significantly reduce the chance of injury, improve baseball performance, and lead to healthier kids overall.

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Five Baseball Rule Myths

In youth baseball, the kids are just learning so funny things can happen! Sometimes it may be hard to understand the umpire’s call. Sometimes it may even be hard for a volunteer ump to make the correct call!

Here are FIVE baseball rule myths:

1. NO HIT ON BOUNCED PITCH MYTH. A pitch is any ball delivered to the batter by the pitcher. It doesn’t matter how it gets there, the batter may hit any pitch that is thrown. However, a pitch that bounces before reaching the plate may never be called a strike or a legally caught third strike. (If the ball does not cross the foul line, it is not a pitch.)

2. THE HANDS ARE CONSIDERED PART OF THE BAT MYTH. The hands are part of the player’s body. If a pitch hits the batter’s hands the ball is dead, unless he was avoiding the pitch then he gets first base. If he swung at the pitch, it is a strike, NOT a foul.

3. BATTER’S BOX SAFETY ZONE MYTH. The batter’s box is not a safety zone. A batter can be called out for interference while in the batter’s box, if the umpire judges that interference could or should have been avoided. The batter is protected when in the box for a short while -  until he has had time to react to the play. After that, he could be called for interference if he does not move out of the box and the umpire determines he interferes with a play.

4. BALL HITTING BAT SECOND TIME MYTH. Is the batter out if a bunted ball hits the ground and bounces back up and hits the bat while the batter is holding the bat? Not necessarily. The rule says the BAT cannot hit the ball a second time – when the BALL hits the bat, it is not an out. If the batter is still in the box when this happens, it’s treated as a foul ball. It would be an out if the batter is out of the box and the bat is over fair territory when the second hit occurs.

5. DEAD BALL WHEN UMPIRE IS HIT MYTH. The ball is only dead if an umpire is hit by a batted ball before it passes a fielder. On any other batted or thrown ball, the ball is alive if the umpire is hit with the ball.

These are just some of the many baseball rule myths out there. If the coach knows the rules well he can teach his team how to prevent errors.

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Youth Baseball Training Tips for Beginning Coaches

If you are new to coaching youth or Little League baseball and are stuck on what to do, here are some general tips to get you started. Coaching the game at this level is harder than most expect, because they think that it is just a group of kids wanting to have a bit of fun. While it is very important to have fun, you must consider the desires of the kids to win and the expectations of communities and parents today.

The first step to successful youth baseball coaching is to get your team playing together. Make sure that they are all familiar with each other and can trust and rely on their team mates. This can be accomplished through group activities, like taking them on field trips or having BBQs.

Get the parents involved in youth baseball training during practice, before and after games, and at home. They will love being a part of the team and will also give support at games and buy appropriate equipment for their children. You will also find that they can be a big help with drills and splitting up into groups for practices.

Include in your youth baseball training cardio drills, such as running, strength drills, and fun, baseball related games that can be played to get the kids in shape.  Structure these activities to improve baseball performance while having fun.  There are a variety of internet based programs under “resources” to the right that can help.

Make sure that you run youth baseball training practices to improve individual skills and also get all the kids involved. Find each child’s strengths and focus on those rather than focusing on weaknesses.

Encourage pre-season youth baseball training by providing parents with resources to help them help their kids get ready for the upcoming season.  That way you can focus on team building during practice rather than basic fitness and skills.

There are a wide range of youth baseball training camps in most parts of country as well as baseball “academies” and clinics.  Encourage your players’ parents to invest in these.  This gets their kids professional coaching.  They will learn more about the game and have a chance to play with kids from around their area.  Or you can run one yourself in conjunction with a local “expert.”  People with professional baseball experience love teaching kids what they know.

 

These are just a few tips for a new coach to follow.  For more specific information, visit the resources section of this page for some awesome, internet based youth baseball training programs.

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Teaching Good Nutrition to Your Youth Baseball Players

Eating the proper foods is a key element of youth baseball training. When coaching youth baseball, the coach should encourage players to be well hydrated when they show up to practice and to bring snacks so they don’t get hungry during practice. You should also encourage proper nutrition while at home and emphasize to the players that this will help them play better baseball.  

When kids are young, their food choices are mostly made for them.  As they grow up and begin to make their own choices, they need to be taught about food and its impact on the body.  This way they can make better choices for themselves, to be healthier and stronger.  Parents’ nagging often falls on deaf ears.  But most players listen to their coaches!  A coach can be a great ally for parents in helping their sons eat better.

Here are some basic nutritional facts that should be taught to youth baseball players:

1. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle.  Kids must eat protein to build up their strength.
2. Carbohydrates provide quick energy.  Kids should understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates and be instructed to choose complex carbohydrates.
3. What types of food provide protein?  You would be surprised to find out that many kids don’t know the answer to this question!  Make sure your players can tell the difference between a protein and a carb.
4. Explain that there are bad fats and good fats.  Some fat is essential to the body’s well being.  If kids maintain a well balanced diet of healthy foods, they will most likely get the fats they need.
5. Let kids know that the less processed a food is, the healthier it is.  Fresh fruits and vegetables and unprocessed meats should be their first choices. 
6. It is becoming more widely accepted that eating more, but smaller, meals is a healthier way to eat.  Have kids try to plan to eat healthy six times a day. 
7. Breakfast.  This is the most important meal of the day and should never be skipped.  Breakfast should include a healthy protein and well as some carbohydrates.  A multivitamin is beneficial as well.

If kids understand some basic facts about nutrition, and these are emphasized by their coach, they will be more likely to follow a healthier diet.  It may not be perfect, and given they are kids it won’t be, but if they end up chosing a banana over a candy bar just a few times a week it will make a huge, long-term difference.

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Coaching Youth Baseball – Preventing Injuries

Youth baseball coaches have many duties. An important one is to reduce the risk of injury to players during practice and games. There are several things a youth baseball coach can do to help prevent injuries to their players. Some involve practice and pre-game routines, other involve teaching the players what they can do on their own time to keep their injury risk low.

The coach should require the following before all practices and games:

1. Significant stretching. The coach should establish a stretching routine for his team early in training so that players will know what to do before practices and games. The coach should ensure that adequate effort is put into the stretching routine by all players.

2. Running. The coach should require a certain amount of running at every practice and before every game. This cardiac warm-up will get the players ready for the physical activity that is to come.

It is important that the warm-up routine be well defined and communicated to the players. All players should start at the same time. The coach needs to be involved in these activities, not spending this time visiting with parents.

During practice, the coach should always watch a player’s form in all activities. Improper form should be addressed and worked on until corrected. Proper form in pitching, hitting and throwing the ball will substantially reduce the potential for injury.

The coach should encourage, and perhaps require, the players to do some training on their own. This could involve the following:

  • Age appropriate weight training or band work.
  • Calisthenics, such as sits up, pull ups and push ups.
  • Cardio work, such as jumping rope or bicycling.
  • Yoga. Most kids will think this is silly, but yoga can increase flexibility and therefore reduce the risk of injury.

If a coach is diligent, he can reduce the risk of injury in his players significantly. This will lead to more enjoyable games for all involved – players, coaches and parents!

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