Hard Ball Talks
Date: October 26, 2015
Guest: Coach Ray Bennett, Assistant Coach of the St. Louis Blues. You can learn more about Coach Bennett and the St. Louis Blues at www.stlblues.com.
Topic: We see often the underselling of our youth in their youth sports experience, Coach Bennett dialogues with us on this topic. Coach Bennett has a wealth of experience and perspective, not only from his time coaching in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and the Los Angeles Kings, but also with his work in the Canadian National program and junior hockey. Coach Bennett brings unique perspective as a father of two children who have grown through the junior hockey system in the United States.
Hard Ball Talks
Date: October 12, 2015
Guest: Elliott Finkelstein, Director at Triple Crown Sports. You can learn more about Elliott and the professional events that Triple Crown Sports hosts at www.triplecrownsports.com.
Topic: With an increasing number of youth clubs forming, more and more tournaments and events popping up, it is critical for us coaches and parents to take a more active role in the assessment of finding the right experience for our athletes. Events have the ability to be a contributor to the right experience in youth sports or a deterrent. Elliott took some time with us to discuss sports events, tournament experiences, and his overall passion to improve the youth sports platform.
Hard Ball Talks
Date: August 28, 2015
Guest: Coach Pete Hoffman, Former High School Coach at Collinsville High School in Collinsville, IL, Co-Founder of the Extreme Baseball & Softball Club, and Current Head Coach of the 10U Extreme Softball Team.
Topic: Stories, examples, and advice to parents and coaches on providing the 3D experience in youth sports.
To purchase the 3D Coach – Capturing the heart behind the jersey written by Jeff Duke referenced on tonight’s call please click here.
WHEN: Sunday, August 2nd
- Understand firsthand how a college coach evaluates talent
- Learn the responsibility of club and select teams in
developing recruitable players.
- Gain perspective on the number of high-level scholarships available each year and how they are distributed Nationally.
By Coach Brett Swip
If you missed Part 2 of this blog on catching the ball, you can click here to read and see the videos. Today’s portion of the blog will give you ideas on drills and progressions to better prepare your youth athlete for catching a pop-fly and fielding a ground ball. Again, progressing them to feeling confident about these skills is the key. These are two of the fundamental skills to playing defense and some of the most under-coached skills. Commonly, when we coach these skills, we put the players in their positions or in a single-file line and hit them pop-flys and ground balls from our bat. These videos will provide you with other variations to develop the skill safely, creatively, and allow the athletes to have fun in doing so.
Remember this picture from the movie, Sandlot!?!?
Instead of praying that you don’t cause a black-eye with one of your athletes trying to catch a pop-fly, take them through a simple progression to teach 2 important tips to catching a pop-fly.
1) Getting their feet to the ball before putting the glove up in the air.
Put a helmet on your athlete, throw a wiffle in the air, have them run to where they think the wiffle ball will drop and let the wiffle hit them in the helmet. Kids love this drill and it is a great way to drive home the idea of running to the fly ball before sticking their glove up in the air. Teaches them great hand-eye coordination and depth perception to help them catch pop-flys.
2) Catch the ball with two hands near their chest.
Most athletes will not get their feet to the pop-fly and then they will just stick their glove out away from their body like a basket and hope the pop-fly lands in. Instead, teach them to catch the ball near their chest. First, stand close to the athletes and let them work on getting their feet to the ball and catching the ball barehanded. Then scoot back and give them an oven mitt. Finally, finish up by giving the athlete their gloves and throwing traditional pop-flys.
Putting it together
Pop-fly Circle Drill – put 5 cones on the ground in the shape of a big circle, have them start at one cone and throw a ball in to the middle of the circle, they run to the middle and catch the fly ball, then they go to the next cone. Repeat at each cone for a series of 5 fly balls from different angles. You can space out the cones farther and farther apart as they get more confident in this skill.
When we were kids, we remember our baseball or softball coach telling us to field groundballs with our head down, butt down, out in front at the top of the triangle, and with our throwing hand near-by . . . . . . but when we hit a groundball to the athletes we are coaching, we end up with them trying to field it on the side, one-handed, with their head pulling up and us hoping that it doesn’t take a bad hop and hurt them. Instead of immediately putting a mask on them when they are fielding to keep them safe, take them through a roundball progression that will build the muscle memory that you are looking for them when you hit a groundball. Below is a progression that we use for our youth players all the way up to our collegiate athletes.
- Knees No Gloves
- Stool No Gloves
- Standing No Gloves
- Standing No Gloves Transitioning in to throwing
- Then add paddles or oven mitts
- Then add gloves
- Then add force outs
- Then add tag outs
- Then add throws to bases on the field
Stay tuned for the final Part 4 of this youth practice plan which will introduce coaches to hitting drills and baselining drills that will surely help the athletes score more runs and enjoy the offensive part of baseball and softball.
By Coach Brett Swip
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 slowly. 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!
Over the next two weeks, I’m going to put out a few blogs on ideas for practice planning with your youth baseball or softball team. With youth practices in full swings, it it critical that coaches keeps drills fun, creative, instructional, and game oriented. Implementing a few of these ideas will help you see improvements in the key areas of the game with your athletes. Athletes that get better at baseball and softball have fun playing the game for a long time.
After you have your team jog and stretch at the beginning of practice, have them get in the routine of warming-up their arms. This will assure that they remain injury free and build up a stronger throwing arm. Instead of just having them play catch at different distances to warm-up their arm, I suggest adding a fun progression to keep them engaged while learning various throws that will come up during the game. At the end of this progression, their arms will be warm and you will have exposed them to key situations on the field.
Develop a throwing progression that encompasses these throws:
1. Stand sideways towards your partner and get the arm to move in a circular motion (separate hands in a down and out motion then up to throw). Also have them work on shifting their weight to their back leg and then to the follow through.
2. Continue to stand sideways towards your partner and use a shuffle to throw.
3. Now, stand normal towards your partner and learn to “step and throw” (walkthrough version of a crow hop).
4. Finally, imagine fielding a ground ball towards your partner and then incorporate the step and throw.
Stay tuned for Part 2 which will give you fun and creative drills to help your players better catch the ball. Difficulty catching the ball is a big reason youth teams lose games and kids lose their love of this game.