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Five More Things Youth Baseball Coaches Should Practice But Don’t
In my first book, Baseball Chronicles, one of my most popular articles in terms of feedback was “Four Things Coaches Should Practice But Don’t.”
The four things I mentioned are: pitchers who don’t practice fielding from the mound, catching foul balls near the fence, players who don’t slide and practice fielding wild balls or passing balls. In reading some of the feedback I received, many readers were somewhat misconstrued about my thesis. There must be hundreds of things that we coaches should practice but don’t. I’ve just picked four that I see popping up year after year. So, in the spirit of practicing and not just telling your players, here are five more things that come up over and over that most coaches don’t practice or go over.
1) Call timeout. About once every few years I witness a runner slide into second and he either gets up without calling a timeout or calls a timeout and the referee doesn’t acknowledge it. A smart infielder will put his ball glove on the baserunner as he gets up from his slide. And he gets called out when he slips off base just for a moment or assumes he has time. We need to teach our young players that calling a timeout in organized sports is much different than calling a timeout in your own backyard. Coaches should practice having their players slide into the base and then call a time out with the coach playing umpire. A coach should not intentionally call a timeout immediately by keeping the baserunner on the ground. Every player should go through this at least once.
The situation is the same when the batsman calls for time. Coaches should also practice this to teach players not to leave the batter’s box until the umpire gives them time.
2) Rundowns with too many throws. I am obsessed with this. We practice practicing almost once a week. Many youth baseball coaches teach runners to run back to the base they came from. I take the proactive approach that rounds are a gift to the defensive team and you have to get out of the car. The ideal number of rolls is none. And after that I teach my players not to throw the ball more than once. I use the term “sprint mode” and I teach my players when you get a runner into this sprint mode it’s hard for him to stop and change direction and that’s when we make our one and only throw. This must be practiced.
3) Baserunners get a first stop. We see it all the time. A player will hit a slow grounder and run to first base only to stop right at the base as if the base were a wall and thus slow himself down to be called when he ran through the base, he would beat her for a base hit. We tell our team to walk through first base, but how many of us take the time to practice this? This is one of the easiest things to do and once you practice this, it will stick in the player’s head. Place a cone ten feet behind first base and have your team line up. On the command “go”, they run one by one and sprint past the base to the cone. Simple, but it works and must be practiced even with your best baserunners.
4) Covering the 1st ground on the right side. Another one of my obsessions. Have you ever seen a youth baseball game when the ball is hit into right field and the pitcher is frozen on the mound? This can cause the manager to go gray during the day. We practice this by giving each pitcher a chance from the mound. He simulates the field, and I’ll throw a grounder between first baseman and second baseman. The pitcher must first run off the mound to cover it. The key here is to make sure the pitcher hits the first base line about 6-10 feet before the base and then swing it toward the base. Whoever plays baseball must guide the first baseman with the baseball. This should be practiced with a baserunner simulating game conditions.
5) Bunting at high altitudes. Every player who plays for me in our league knows that we work hard. Each player must become a skilled bunter during the season. We even practice the two-strike bunt, a strategy that most baseball purists will balk at. We always change our cues to make sure opponents don’t pick it up. Even with all this practice, it drives me crazy when a player is flagged and on the next pitch it’s over his shoulder and he offers anyway. So now the batter is put in the hole with one strike per ball outside the strike zone and the other team knows we are the ball. Coaches must tell these young footballers that when they are given the sign of rebellion, it does not mean that they have to kick at all costs. We want them to pounce on balls in the strike zone. This must be told to the players and practiced. We practice bunting a lot in batting practice and whatever coach throws, I tell them to throw balls out of the strike zone. So we practice that my players recognize balls and pull their clubs back if the ball is out of the hitting zone. Coaches have to practice it.
I mentioned in my first baseball chronicles that practices are a place to teach and games are a place to reinforce what is learned. I know of no other formula that is most effective for most youth baseball players. Even with the practice of many of these recurring mistakes, we must constantly remind ourselves that these players are still children twelve years old and under.
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#Youth #Baseball #Coaches #Practice #Dont