As coaches, we stress fundamentals as well as advanced skills while we teach our players, but sometimes in our quest to be the best, we may push our players too far and too fast.
I have seen coaches who have their 8 and 9 year old players practice performing double plays. I'm sure it's happened somewhere at sometime, but in my many years of coaching I've never witnessed a shortstop to second to first double play turned by 8 or 9 year olds. I'm not saying don't expose them to the fundamentals of turning a double play, but don't use half the infield practice time trying to perfect it.
Based on the premise we may push too hard, too fast, let's exam two very basic infield drills which must be mastered.
1. For young players, 6 through 10, at this stage of the game neither you nor the players know for sure where they will eventually find the position they are best suited for, therefore it's important to include All your players in infield practice. Position them as you determine their talents. In other words I wouldn't put a player with a rocket for an arm at second base, but rather at third or shortstop.
2. The Most important skill you can teach an infielder is proper fielding position, because without this skill they'll never become a good infielder.
3. It may sound silly, but it's important you stress to your players a ground ball is just that... it's on the ground. Once they fully comprehend that, the reasoning for the proper fielding position becomes clearer.
A. Player should place feet at shoulder width apart....
B. Knees are bent, upper body leaning forward....
C. Arms are extended, glove in front of the body and visible...
D. As the ball approaches the fielder he should be moving forward to meet the ball, maintaining his low posture...
E. Watch ball all the way into the glove.
These are the basic positions required for a good fielding stance. Drill these into your players no matter how old or how good they think they are.
The second suggestion, which goes along with the fielding stance, is the importance of keeping the ball in front of you. Demonstrate, then practice, that if the ball is kept in front of them, they are still quite capable of throwing the batter out. This teaches two skills.
1. It teaches the player, if possible, to always get in front of the ball when trying to catch it. This will increase his fielding ability a 100% over trying to field the ball on his side.
2. It teaches the fielder to not give up on a booted ball, but to continue the play in an attempt to throw the batter out. How many times have you seen a player quit on a ball, conceding the runner the base, because he didn't field it cleanly?
Sometimes returning to basics is the best way to move forward.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player, who since retiring has dedicated his life to teaching baseball to youth, shares his advice on running baseball drills on his exciting info packed website: www.learn-youth-baseball-coaching.com