Youth Baseball & Softball
- Emphasize fundamentals and basic rules of the game and explain the WHY behind each drill.
- Emphasize sportsmanship and team camaraderie.
- Always provide positive encouragement - "sandwich" constructive criticism between compliments.
- Communicate with parents regularly - email with weekly schedule.
- Remember - "you" are AYBS - keep that in mind with dealing with parents and prior to complaining to the Board.
- Always follow the opening and closing procedures for each field.
- These suggestions apply equally to baseball and softball unless otherwise indicated.
B. Basics of Conducting a Practice
- Prior to your first game, it's difficult to accomplish everything your team needs to cover in a single practice, so plan your routine over more than one practice to build incrementally on what they are learning.
- Instruct your players to arrive 10 minutes early (or set practice 15 minutes before you intend to start drills so you'll have more players there and warmed up when you truly wish to start).
- Ensure your players are warmed-up:
- Stretching and rotator cuff exercises
- Throwing - start short and increase distance
- Light running - jog around field
- Maintain the kids' attention by keeping them busy as mush as possible - use multiple stations focusing on separate drills switching every 10-20 minutes - enlist parents to assist. For example:
- Hitting, IF, OF and pitchers/catchers
- If only hitting, heavy bat - tee - soft toss - live pitch
- During the season, plan practices at different sites or hold batting-only practice (especially if your team is in a slump offensively).
- Identify and work with pitchers and catchers early and often - consider having them show up 15-20 minutes early for additional drills.
- Have live pitching pitch to live batting as much as possible.
C. Basic Skills to Emphasize
- This often overlooked basic skill is very critical in Minors and Triple A. It's very important for a young player to develop proper throwing mechanics - it's often too late by the time the player reaches the Majors (assuming he or she stays in the sport) to correct improper mechanics. The same fundamental throwing mechanics apply in almost every live play situation.
- Turn body 90 degrees to target - both arms up - aim over front elbow - show ball up high and behind.
- Plant rear foot 90 degrees to target, stepping forward straight at target with opposite (front) foot.
- Bring throwing arm forward in "L" position - elbow remains shoulder height or higher.
- Follow through with throwing hand pointing at target.
- Use the Four-Seam Grip for all throws.
- Emphasize short, quick compact swing.
- Swing completely through the ball.
- Emphasize focusing on ball as it leaves the pitcher's hand. Look for a pitch in the "strike zone." Little League Rule 2.00 states: The strike zone is that space over home plate that is between the batter's armpits and the top of the knees when the batter assumes a natural batting stance. While waiting to bat on deck, watch the pitcher's motion and focus on the ball leaving his hand.
- If a batter has two (2) strikes, he or she should choke up and try to make contact with the next pitch unless it's way out of the strike zone. Swing at anything close when you have two (2) strikes - never take a "called" third strike - if it's close enough to be called a strike, it's close enough to hit.
- If the count is 3-0, take the next pitch in most situations.
- Work with and try to improve a player's natural swing by making sure the swing basics are followed - it's difficult to "break them down and start over" with a player's swing.
- Start with "ready" position.
- Player should move forward through the ball - "Right - Left in - Right - Left out" for right handers (opposite for left handers).
- Breakdown with mitt on the ground, knees bent, butt down and head down. Keep the ball in front - don't let the ball get past.
- Both hands should be out in front of the body to field the ball- non-glove hand on top.
- Once ball is fielded, bring both hands up to belly.
- Come up (while still moving forward) planting rear foot 90 degrees to target.
- Separate hands in standard throwing procedure, aim, step and throw at target.
- Fielders should know where the ball should go on each play. Get the lead runner first if possible but at least get an out.
- Defensive Fundamentals
- Cutoffs and relays
- 1st and 3rd defense
- Bunt defense
- Base Running
- On a single, emphasize running through the base and hooking to the right into foul territory.
- On a double, emphasize "banana" turn at first, stepping on inside of bag and pushing off toward second base.
- Pick up the 3rd base coach halfway to 2nd base on a hit ball to the outfield.
- Emphasize listening and watching base coaches - avoid watching the ball.
- With two (2) outs, run on anything. With no outs or one out, run on a ground ball and tag up on a fly ball. When you walk at the plate, run to first.
- Must slide in any close play or risk being called out. When in doubt slide!
- Pitching - Pitchers need more time to properly and gradually warm up than non-pitchers.
- Initial wind up - minimize step back.
- Come to comfortable balance point with knee up.
- Separate hands in sweeping manner to "goal post" position.
- Shoulders aligned north-south toward the plate.
- Maintain weight on rear leg.
- Stride toward the plate landing on ball of front foot - avoid landing on heel.
- Rotate shoulders as throwing arm comes forward - throwing elbow kept at shoulder height or higher.
- Release should take place out in front of body forward of glove hand.
- Finish low with follow through - pitching hand finishes near opposite hip.
- Swing throwing hip and rear leg around to fielding position.
- Basic pitches include Four Seam fastballs, Two Seam cross-stitch fastball, Two Seam straight-stitch fastball and change-up. Emphasize Four Seam (primarily) and Two Seam grips for fastballs. Emphasize fastballs and change-ups only - AYBS strongly discourages the teaching of curveballs for younger pitchers.
- Know the strike zone.
- Throw to the target your catcher gives you - throw to the catcher's glove.
- Pitch from the stretch with runners on base or if having control problems.
- Pitcher covers home on passed balls and wild pitches.
- If a pitcher has a good fastball and a change-up with decent control, nothing more is needed at this level.
- One foot should start on the rubber - one foot may start off or behind the rubber. Once the pitcher starts the delivery, all motion must generally be toward home plate.
- Grip the ball at the "C."
- Pitcher should attempt to drag rear foot.
- Key is that the pitcher may not hop or lunge toward home plate.
- Make sure protective equipment is properly fitted and secure (cups are mandatory for boys).
- Throwing hand should be in a clinched fist, preferably held behind back or leg while in stance to avoid injury.
- NEVER TURN YOUR HEAD ON THE BALL. You're protected in the front and less likely to get hurt if you do not turn. Keep your eye on the ball - you can't catch the ball if you don't see it.
- Crouch on the balls of your feet behind the plate. Don't be too far back - you should just about be able to reach out and touch the batter.
- Set a clear and steady target for the pitcher by holding the glove (palm open) toward pitcher. If pitcher is throwing in the dirt, raise your target to compensate, and so on. Keep target low for good hitters. Low and away in the strike zone is a tough pitch for most batters to hit.
- Mix target locations to keep batters guessing. If you get ahead of the hitter (e.g. 0-2 or 1-2 count), don't set a target right down the middle of the plate; consider throwing off-speed change-up or Two Seam straight- stitch fastball. If you are behind (e.g. a 3-0 or 3-1 count) give your pitcher a good target right in the middle of the strike zone.
- Throw the ball back sharply to the pitcher, but make it easy for the pitcher to catch the ball - you don't want to needlessly tire your pitcher.
- On a pop-up behind the plate (any pop-up in front of the plate is the pitcher's or one of the infielders'), if possible, turn your back to the field as your stand, look up and locate the ball first, then, if necessary, pull off and toss your mask aside so you won't trip over it.
- If there is a play to the plate (when the ball is hit, not on steals, passed balls or wild pitches), the catcher should step out and take a position directly in front of home plate to be in position to receive the ball if it's thrown to the catcher. Get the mask off for plays in the field.
- On a throw to second base on a steal attempt, using the Four-Seam grip, throw right at the second base bag slightly on the first base side of the bag. Generally, the shortstop should take that throw.
- When making a tag out on a runner at the plate, be sure to put both hands on the ball if at all possible and hang on to it!
- Drop to your knees to block pitches in the dirt - do all you can to keep the ball in front of you.
D. Coaching Reference Materials
- If needed, do not hesitate to refer to coaching instructional materials - there's an abundance of very helpful online and print resources.
- Helpful online resources include: