Teaching Kids Baseball- How and Why
I know the title says How and then Why but I am going to approach this the other way around. Mainly because in most things if you have a good reason why the how will take care of itself. Everybody has a why. I will list a few of the bad reasons why and then give you a good one. In case your real why is one of the bad ones.
I have seen coaches that are coaching a youth baseball team for many reasons here is a short list of some of the worst ones I have come across
- The guy that coached my kid last year was terrible
- Nobody else wanted to do it
- This is the only way my kid gets treated fairly
- I know more about this game than anybody else
These are a few of the really bad reasons to be coaching a youth baseball team. There is really only one good reason to be coaching. You love to teach the game of baseball. If you think of all the things in your life that you are good at you probably love those things. In this case you can have a couple of things working for you. Your love of baseball and the fact that you might have a child playing on the team and chances are you love them too.
How do you go about teaching kids baseball. That part is a lot harder. Kids like fast, exciting and colorful things. Baseball by nature is not that. Baseball is slow, methodical, and strategic. The best part of baseball is that when it is played right it gets fast, exciting and yes colorful. You as a coach have to get the kids’ attention and keep it long enough to get them to the good part. At the same time you have to teach them all the slow, methodical, and strategic parts.
Most coaches do this with tricks. We call them drills. You make a drill that teaches your players to catch. See my sock ball drill. This will keep them thinking about the fun of catching a sock ball and not the fear of getting hit in the face by a baseball. While teaching this skill you have to make it fun. So you add levels or challenges. Just like in a video game. Can you throw it farther, faster or higher. Keep increasing the difficulty as they get better so the drill stays fun. This applies to all drills.
Don’t stay with any one drill too long. I know this one is hard with a bunch of 5 & 6 year old kids it is easy to stay on the how to catch drill for a couple of practices, but the fact of the matter is they will get bored and stop trying. Move on to something completely different. Work on base running for a while and then maybe go back to a little catching while you are working on a throwing drill and then finish off with hitting. If you are always changing what they are working on they will get a little better at the whole game over time.
You only have a limited time to work with players. It is important that you have a plan for the time you have. Write down what your goals are for each practice. Write down what drills you plan to do to accomplish those goals. Then write down how long you plan to work on each drill. You can see an example of this in my post about practice plans.
Because baseball is a difficult sport to master it will be important for you as a coach to inspire your players to take it upon themselves to improve. I have given out countless baseballs to players so they could go home and practice. It is a small price to pay to get a child to put down their Xbox controller and go outside. Give them homework. Some individual drill to work on at home. It could be as simple as tossing a ball in the air and catching it 20 times. For some younger players this could take all afternoon. Always give them something that will challenge them. These things may be different for each player on your team. Some players are more advanced than others.
The most important part of teaching kids baseball is to remember you are teaching for a lifetime. Baseball is a sport that will be a brief part of most of your players lives. The lessons of baseball can last a lifetime if they are taught properly. Learning values, teamwork and how to be a good friend are all things that were impressed upon me by my coaches as I grew up playing the game of baseball. During every practice and every game there will be multiple opportunities for you to teach your players life lessons that they will carry with them and probably pass on to their kids or players one day. Use those chances while you have them.
Please feel free to comment below if you have anything you would like to add. If you have had success with something share it with all the followers of Hitting With Wood. The more we share the better off all the kids will be.