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Youth Baseball- <7 years old

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#1 MEC

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:09 PM

My son is 6 year old played t-ball last year. This year, he is going to coach pitch. I have been taking him out to hit baseballs and this week I started to have him throw the ball and work on accuracy. I started to toss him the ball and play a little catch this past weekend and he was stabbing at the ball and did not know whether to hold his glove up or down to catch. I tried to help him but I was having a difficult time trying to give him advice on how to catch a baseball. I ended up throwing "to" his glove which doesn't help him.

Hitting wise, I try and tell him to turn his hips at impact to have his belly button face the pitcher. Squish the bug with the back foot, etc.

Throwing- I set up a trash can behind the backstop and he has a target to throw at (general area) for accuracy.

Does anyone have any advice on how to teach a kid (6-7 years old) how to catch a baseball?

#2 wutang112878

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:32 PM

Does he need more general catching skills or is just the glove the problem? For example, could you toss him a tennis ball and he can easily catch that with 1 hand? If not, thats probably a good place to start. Then slowly start introducing the glove.

I remember when I first put a baseball glove on and it just felt awkward for a while. So I would start with something as close to the 1930ish gloves as possible to ease the transition to todays larger bulkier ones. Like literally maybe ask him to play catch with a glove on his left hand.

#3 MEC

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:43 PM

[quote name='wutang112878' timestamp='1298928759' post='3381398']
Does he need more general catching skills or is just the glove the problem?

You might be right. He can catch a football, tennis ball with little problem but when he puts the glove on, he doesn't know whether to catch using the glove as a "basket" or "upright".

#4 IpswichSox

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:49 PM

Does anyone have any advice on how to teach a kid (6-7 years old) how to catch a baseball?

My son had the same issue. It just takes practice, practice, practice to make it second nature, like breathing. In addition to playing outside, I also used a Nurf-like ball in the house, pracitcing for five minutes in his room before bed time. I'd throw five above his waist and five below his waist, and then announce that I'd do five at his waist that could be glove-up or glove-down.

There were times when my son would try to catch a ball at his chest with his glove palm up, the ball would bounce out of his glove and hit him in the chest or face, and I'd think to myself, "My son has no natural baseball abilty." Then I realized he was 5 years old, and I needed to relax. Practice several times a week, and in less than a month you'll see noticable improvement to where it begins to become second nature to him.

#5 wutang112878

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 04:58 PM

So I would break this down into small steps.
  • First get him used to the glove without having to think about up and down
    • To do this with it pointing down, I remember what helped me was fielding a lot of grounders, the slow rolling ones. Throw them just fast enough that there is enough of a challenge for him that its not boring.
    • Move onto playing catch, but just throw the ball at shoulder height or above so he is forced to point the glove up. Try to throw it to his glove side, I remember freezing a few times and taking one off the dome
  • Once he is used to both, then introduce him to the waist rule, anything above your waist you catch with the glove pointing up, anything below the waist you catch with it pointing down.

#6 TheYaz67

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:10 PM

Another tip is that kids this age have a hard time "squeezing" the ball in the mitt - both timing wise and having enough hand strength to really "catch" the ball. Most kids learn how to first catch with two hands - so remind him to keep that second hand close by and track the ball with the glove and other hand and use both to catch the ball, and it will help his success rate in actually keeping balls in his glove (which will help prevent frustration).

The other advice above is also good - they need to get that recognition skill going as the ball is in the air on its way that triggers the decision to catch palm open for low or lift up the glove to catch it higher (which is the harder of the two skills obviously)....

#7 MEC

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Posted 02 March 2011 - 05:17 PM

Thanks everyone. I think I am going to practice with him just catching above the waist and not confuse him.

The practice before bed is a good idea- the more practice, the more second nature it becomes.

I didn't mean this thread to be just about cathcing. If anyone has good drills for this age group, I am all ears. I plan on coaching this age group starting in the spring.

#8 JesusShuttlesworth

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Posted 03 March 2011 - 01:33 PM

At this age you just want to keep it simple, I think someone else may have said it but lose the glove and have a pass with a tennis ball. Instinctively he's going to turn his hands the right way, just get him used to that and introduce the glove later. He's trying to figure out how to "use" his glove.

For swinging I really like taking the bat and putting it behind the kid's back, having him pin it against his lower back with the bat in the crook of his arms at the elbow, put him in a batting stance, stand in front of him and tell him to punch you in the stomach. His body will move perfectly so he'll know what it feels like, that way you don't have to try to break down swing mechanics to a 6-year-old.

#9 behindthepen

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 03:27 PM

playing catch at this age is dicey for a couple of reasons, at least for the long-term development.

First, Dads have a tendency to lob the ball to the kid. The kid sees that, and thinks that's how he's supposed to throw. It takes a long time to unlearn that throwing motion.

Second, learning to catch isn't natural as others have mentioned. I think catching tennis balls and wiffle balls with no glove will really teach them good fundamentals, and every hardball that hits a kid in the chest or face is chance for them to decide they won't like it.

I like the idea of trying to make relatively long throws into a trash can. I have found that long toss is one of the best ways to ingrain good throwing mechanics at a young age, and it's easy to turn into to a fun game. Remember that in the end, accuracy is just good mechanics, so find ways to focus on learning good mechanics as opposed to insisting on accuracy.

Playing regular catch with a tennis or wiffle ball is probably more valuable than with a glove and hardball, and again, find a way to turn it into a game. let them naturally discover 'above/below the waist' without a glove.

Another thing that is great at every age is grounders with no glove on. Kids need to learn to get their fingers on the ground to catch grounders, and if you roll a ball back and forth on the ground you can introduce that concept, as well as lateral movement, and it can be done at any distance and speed. Again, very easy to create a fun competition.

#10 SoxFanSince57

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 04:53 PM

Wonderful thread. Brings back many fond memories. You Dads are great. Told my wife and kids about the thread. They asked me if I posted anything and I said "no those guys nailed it".

Just doubled back to reinforce that the most important thing is "having fun" first and "learning" as distant second. Don't lose sight that our children will come to love the game if they see it as fun and it makes their dads and them laugh together and play like children together. If your primary concern is helping you child to find enjoyment playing with you, you will have bonded for a lifetime.

The learning, the skill development, the mechanics and the specific exercises will become increasingly important over time. But at 5-8 just concentrate on the foundation - having fun with dad. Build that foundation and many joys will follow. Without that foundation, no one can build a house.

If your kid fails 5 times, just tell him/her "good try", "almost", "nice effort". When you kid hits a feeble ground ball that gets past you, don't walk to get the ball, run to your kid, pick him/her up and run around the imaginary bases with your child on your shoulders yelling at the top of your lungs "what a hit" "you hit a home run" "we have to tell mom that you just knocked the ball out of the park-let's call mom out here"! Yahoooo!

EDIT: Dad's certainly didn't spend time helping their kids soften up their gloves when I grew up and I managed just fine. But when my kids grew up in the 80s, I spend hours making the kids' gloves as soft and pliable as I could. I really made sure the gloves were "kid ready" particularly at the 5-8 age range. I oiled them, shaped them, made sure that there was a good pocket and that their little fingers could "easily" close their gloves. One shouldn't wonder why little kids don't catch a ball that is thrown right in their glove if you inspect 90% of what parents give their kids to play with. If only Dick Stuart's dad had helped soften up his glove as a kid...

Edited by SoxFanSince57, 14 March 2011 - 07:53 AM.

#11 JimBoSox9

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 09:34 PM

One thing I'd recommend is to play short-distance catch with him on his knees. Most beginners have a certain glove position that they're most comfortable with, and they move their body to match the location of the throw instead of moving the glove. Getting down on the ground prevents them from doing that and he'll have to move his glove to the different locations. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and he'll eventually develop a natural feel for how to hold his glove based on where the ball is. Have him catch on two knees, then throw back on one knee (throwing side knee down). Keep a pile of balls next to you so he doesn't need to stand up and go get every ball he misses.

#12 Archer1979

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 07:10 PM

Good advice so far in the thread. One other thing to be aware of is that the ability to figure out the trajectory of a ball as its going up to its apex and down is not fully developed for a lot of younger kids. In other words, don't get discouraged if he's having a hard time on long toss or pop-ups.

#13 SoxFanSince57

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Posted 17 March 2011 - 12:48 PM

Good advice so far in the thread. One other thing to be aware of is that the ability to figure out the trajectory of a ball as its going up to its apex and down is not fully developed for a lot of younger kids. In other words, don't get discouraged if he's having a hard time on long toss or pop-ups.

That brings back laughs. That trajectory thing causes problems catching AND throwing.

When my kids were young, I strategically positioned myself five feet from the side of the house so when the kids threw the ball I didn't have far to run. I always told them to throw it hard and not to worry (where the ball landed). Of course we had aluminum siding. Needless to say the wife really appreciated the "pings" she heard in the kitchen and the dents that pepper the entire side of the house. I continue to tell her "they aren't that noticeable". I have also planted a row of Crape Myrtles (my wife's favorites) so she doesn't bring up that transgression too often any more.

I have long since pulled the mound out of the grass and the baselines are nowhere to be found, but I do smile when I look at those dents and the good times we had.

Edited by SoxFanSince57, 17 March 2011 - 12:54 PM.

#14 Bucknahs Bum Ankle

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Posted 06 April 2011 - 10:30 AM

Good stuff in this thread. I've signed on to coach my son's PreK tee ball team (this is the first year our town is doing PreK), so it's going to be 4 to 5 year olds. I helped coach my daughter's 6 year old TB team last year, so I have somewhat of an idea what I'm in for. I'm imagining lots of chaos and disinterest. My primary objective is to make sure the kids are having lots of fun and hopefully learn to love the game, not boring them with a bunch of drills they probably won't get anyway.

We had our first coaches meeting last night and one thing I was really glad to hear is that they want us to play some kickball with the kids during practices. This is great on a couple of levels. First it helps them understand basic base running skills (like starting off up the 1st base line), without having to worry about hitting skills too much at this point. Second it actually helps with fielding fundamentals for ground balls, which is pretty much all there will be at this level anyway. The position you naturally get into for fielding a kickball is exactly what you want them to do with a glove to field a baseball; knees bent, hands out, butt down. The emphasis for fielding will be to have them let the kickball roll up their arms and cradle it. This will teach them to stay down and be sure to have control of the ball before getting up to make a throw.

The other thing I'll want to emphasize is throwing fundamentals. I think that's a big aspect of the game that gets overlooked at this stage. If I could give them all little hammers to throw, I think that would work really well. The added weight and leverage makes it pretty hard to throw one without using good form (but I imagine some parents wouldn't be too happy). With a nice light baseball (especially the ones used at this level), it's really easy for kids to get all kinds of out of whack, long arm it and end up either zinging it in some random direction or just end up feebly pushing it forward. I think I'm going to have them practice throwing up a line and focus on getting their feet in the right position, stepping toward where they want to throw. But again I want this to be fun for them, so I think the idea of having them trying to toss it into a bucket is a really good one. Maybe even make it into a contest to see who can get the most in a row.

Any other tips or advice for coaching kids this young would be greatly appreciated. This should be interesting ...