Youth Baseball Training Aids- Good and the Bad
When it comes to youth baseball training aids, there are thousands. Some are good; some are not. I am going to give you a couple of training aids that I find to be very useful. I will also steer you away from a couple that are just not worth the hype.
First I would like to introduce you to a few of hitting aids that I find useful. The HIT STICK is as useful as it gets. You can use this in practice off to the side to get players a lot of reps quickly or to modify their swing without having to throw or chase hundreds of baseballs.
Another great hitting aid is a tee and net. Chances are if you are just getting into coaching it is because you have a son or daughter that is starting their baseball/ softball journey. A hitting tee and a net to hit the balls into is a great investment especially if you are like me and live in a cold weather climate.
Our baseball season in the Northeast tends to start with at least one game postponed due to snow. My sons all keep their swings in tune year round in the basement doing tee work hitting into a net.
They also work great during practice because you can get the balls picked up very quickly and keep your players rotating and getting a lot of swings in. The beautiful part about tees and nets now is that they fold up rather neatly, so you don’t have to have a full-size truck and a trailer to get them around.
You can pick up all of these items at Easton.com for around $300 It may sound like a bit of an investment, but I assure you Easton makes products that if you take reasonable care of them will last you until your child starts playing ball in high school and maybe longer. I have had my tee for almost 20 years now and countless swings.
When it comes to fielding, there are a couple of things that I would recommend. The first one is an infield training glove. It is just a hard flat glove that the kids can put on their hand. When it comes to teaching middle infielders how to work the ball without closing the glove and all infielders how to field ground balls with soft hands, there is no equal.
I would also recommend that you pick up a small set of cones to use when you are setting up drills. They are great for footwork drills and for designating the area that the drill is to be conducted.
When it comes to pitching aids, we are talking about players that are between the ages of 8 and 12. Most of the players younger than eight shouldn’t be pitching yet and if they are it is because they are blessed athletes and probably need a coach to get out of their way and let them do what they do. Or a professional instructor to take them where their talent will allow.
I already talked about a great pitching aid above as a hitting aid. It is the hitting net. Easton’s hitting net comes with an adjustable strike zone target you can use for pitching practice. The hardest thing about working with pitchers is getting catchers. If you are using the net, you just need a bucket of balls and a mound.
The second training aid I would recommend is the Throw Right Baseball Model Training Aid. It teaches players not just pitchers how to properly grip and throw the ball. The training aid also comes with drills so that you can actually teach your players to throw and your pitchers to pitch.
What to avoid
When it comes to hitting I would recommend that you avoid anything that restricts a player’s movement. There are a lot of “Hitting Aids” like this. The perfect stride trainer, for example, restricts the player from over striding. Very few players do this, and most of the time you are encouraging players to stride more and be more aggressive.
For fielding, I would avoid things like the SKLZ Reacto Ball baseball agility trainer. It is useful for developing quick feet, but with younger players, you will spend most of your time watching them chase the thing. Maybe something to get into when they get older and are focused on one or two positions.
When it comes to pitching, I would recommend that you avoid bands and weighted equipment. We are dealing with kids that have yet to mature physically. There is no need to put the extra demands of resistance training on top of just throwing a baseball. If you teach them proper throwing mechanics and have them play catch a lot, they will develop strong arms at a safe pace.
I hope this article is helpful to you. If you have questions about training aids, please feel free to ask. I would love to share my opinion with you. I have tried a lot of different things through my years of coaching. Some worked some didn’t, and if I haven’t tried something, I am sure that my vast network of coaches probably has. We will get you an answer to any question at Hitting With Wood.