Practice Plan For Beginning Youth Teams – Part 2 – Catching the ball

By Coach Brett Swip


If you missed Part 1 of this blog on throwing, you can click here to read and see the videos.   This portion of the blog will help you build confidence and good habits in your young ballplayer around the skill of catching the baseball or softball.  Difficulty catching the ball is a big reason that youth teams lose games and their interest in the game itself.  Coaches are tempted to throw the glove on the young athlete and begin chucking hardballs at them to play catch.


  I strongly discourage coaches of young teams to start this way.  Many habits and fears are started because of the lack of understanding on how to use the glove to play catch properly and safely.  


 Add this catching progression to your first few practices and you will see a significant improvement in confidence and skills when the ball is coming towards them.  These are also great reminders for moms and dads playing catch with their child at home or at the park.
Catching the ball is the most important fundamental to conquer at a young age.  Develop a catching progression that encompasses these fun and creative ways to learn to play catch:

1) As coaches, we must first learn to recognize some of the common problems that young athletes have when playing catch.  

 

  • Stepping backwards when receiving the ball – young athletes commonly move away from the throw when it is coming in.  This puts them in a very defensive, non-athletic position that leads to fear and potentially injury.
  • “Chicken-winging” their elbows – young athletes commonly try to catch a ball with the wrong part of their glove because of a tendency to “chicken-wing” their elbows when they try to receive the throw

2) Help young athletes progress confidently when catching the ball by using various balls.  This will help develop hand-eye coordination and teach them the proper way to use two hands when playing catch.   The glove is truly meant to be used as a padded barehand, so start barehanded throwing these balls stock-footage-smiling-boy-playing-baseball-while-standing-upright-in-the-countrysideslowly.  This will teach them the fingers-up and two-handed approach to catching.

  • Deflated basketball
  • Deflated volleyball or 16″ chicago ball
  • A nerf type ball
  • A tennis ball
  • A baseball or softball

3) Once you see the confidence start to increase when they catch barehanded, put a paddle on their hands to help with the idea of using a backboard that will then help transitioning in to their throwing hand.  An oven mitt is another great tool to train the proper way to use a glove.

 

4) Once they have mastered this progression, now is the time to begin teaching them to play catch with their glove.  Athletes will typically use their glove as a basket or grabbing tool.  They make the mistake of thinking that the glove is made to single-handedly receive the baseball or softball.  The glove is made to be supported by the 2nd hand in a similar manner that they would catch barehanded or with a paddle.  

Encourage your player to play catch at home at least 3 times per week (the ability to throw and catch is where games are won at this age) – the inability to throw and catch is the main reason that kids quit baseball and softball at a young age.  Stay tuned for Part 3 which will display some common pop-fly and groundball mistakes that athletes typically make and some drills to help build great habits!