As a youth coach, your primary responsibility is to instruct the kids on your team how to play the game of baseball. Most leagues will allot a specified amount of time to use the fields and cages for practice, usually one or two times a week for about an hour per practice. You will quickly discover that this is not nearly enough time for most kids to learn and grow.
Unless your parents are adept at coaching, you are going to need to give guidance to your players and their parents how to practice at home.
Baseball is an every day game. To truly learn, players should practice their fundamentals (throwing, fielding, hitting, base-running) as often as they can. Every player needs repetition to cement movements (muscle memory) and knowledge of the game. If a player practices less than four times a week, they often retain so little from the previous practices that its almost like starting over at each practice.
In order to find more time for practice, you can encourage all of your players and their parents to commit to practicing at home several days a week. We advocate the80/20 Rule, 80% of practice is done at home and 20%of practice is done with the team, which you canread about here.
At your very first team meeting talk to all the parents and players about practicing. Just like with musical instruments, they may take a lesson once a week, but they are expected to practice several days a week on their own. Its the only way to improve. Thats why we send our children to school for so many days out of the year. By learning, practicing and doing, we can truly grow and advance our skills in whatever we apply ourselves to, baseball included.
Regardless of age or skill level, give your players instruction on what they can do at home, either on their own or with a parent or sibling. The more fun you can make it, the more they will all want to make sure they find the time to practice at home. You can even give rewards if you feel so inclined. The rewards dont have to be bigbaseball stickers for their helmets, bubblegum (with parents permission, of course) anything that makes them want to try harder and take the initiative to practice on their own will have tremendous rewards for each player and the team as a whole. Hold parents and players accountable. At every practice ask players how many days they practiced since you last saw them.
Below are examples of skills players can practice at home:
Broken down to its most simple form, base-running is really sprinting. In their backyards, players can mark out a distance of 60 and practice sprinting as fast as they can for the length of the base path they play on in baseball making sure to run hard all the way to the base.
Not everyone has a yard large enough to hit off the tee, but everyone can practicing taking practice swings with a bat. This will give them both muscle and muscle memory. Have them take 100-150 swings a day, but tell them to really focus and think about their swing, dont be goofy and lazy.
If players have a tee (or one of many hitting devices on the market) at home, its an excellent way for them to practice actually hitting the ball and keeping their eyes on the ball. Also encourage them to hit with a good balanced stance. If they dont want to chase balls, encourage them to get a hitting net.
Before sending them off to practice pitching on their own, be sure to show your players proper mechanics. Also be sure to set a pitch limit for them and express how important it is to not overthrow their arms. Once those ground rules have been established, tell them to find a wall (or if they are allowed to hang a net or even a sheet that they can throw into), make a target and take 20 pitches a day from their full pitching distance and try to hit the target as often as they can.
After demonstrating at practice how to properly throw and catch line drives and field ground balls, have your players go home and find a wall or use a bounce back screen and throw the ball for themselves as much as they want. As they get better, tell them to challenge themselves and throw the ball at an angle and force themselves to move their feet and move to field the rebounding ball properly, just like a game situation.
Learning how to hold the ball and how to transfer it between their glove hand and their throwing hand as quickly as they can over and over will greatly add to a players fielding ability. Something as simple as throwing the ball up with their throwing hand, catching it with their glove hand and transferring it back to their throwing hand quickly will give them confidence in handling the ball and being able to find a good grip before throwing.
Things players can do with one other person:
As simple as having a catch may seem, the more players feel comfortable catching and throwing, the more confident they will feel fielding balls in games.
Once kids are comfortable playing catch, they should practice catching fly balls. As this can be a daunting task for many kids, find softer balls like tennis balls or tee-balls and throw them fly balls. You can also use a tennis racquet to hit balls to them. Make sure they are shown proper form at practice, how to get under the ball and catch with their glove up in front of them to the side of their face (as opposed to holding their glove to the side or with their palm facing up).
Make sure to emphasize technique to your players and parents. Getting in quality reps, as opposed to a ton of unfocused, poor quality reps, is key. Quality reps at home several times a week will lead to great improvements on the field and as a team as a whole.
A common misconception by parents entering their kids into youth baseball is the team…
After interviewing scores of youth baseball coaches, the consensus is in. Below are Godog…