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How to Model Good Sportsmanship for Your Kids

Good sportsmanship is key to a positive Little League experience, and that begins with the parents. Here are 5 ways you can model sportsmanship for your kids.

Good sportsmanship is critical for positive Little League experience. We want the absolute best for our children.

Although it would be cool if they became starting shortstops in the MLB, it's invaluable that we take this opportunity to teach them leadership, respect, responsibility, and other values that will serve them for a lifetime.

Teaching sportsmanship begins with the parents. Read ahead for five ways to set an example for your kids.

What Is Sportsmanship?

Sportsmanship is about respect for the sport. That includes respect for the teammates, opponents, players, fans, referees, judges, fields, and even the locker rooms.

It's a commitment to decency and fair play above all.

Five Tips on Raisings Respectful Athletes

There are many ways to teach sportsmanship. Here are five general ways to do with a few stories of sincere respect among athletes.

1. Show Them What is Good Sportsmanship

People learn what they see. If a child is exposed only to people to exhibit poor sportsmanship, they will only try to copy them.

Teach your child the importance of sportsmanship early by teaching them about stand up players. Instead of rooting for bullies and cheats, show them examples of exceptional sportsmanship examples throughout history.

Here are just a few examples of moments when players and organizations displayed inspiring character and respect.

Derek Jeter's Send-Off at Fenway Park

There are few rivalries in sports as heated as that between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Derek Jeter, legendary baseball player and Yankee great, has been a less than popular figure in Boston during his career. Despite this, he opted to play his final game at Fenway, home to the Red Sox.

The Red Sox brought out all the VIPs, including retired stars, to give Jeter a worthy farewell, and he took the time to say good to every player. This highlights the importance of respect despite competitive and dogged rivalries on the field.

Remembering The Chapecoense Fallen

On November 28, 2016, LaMia flight 2933 crashed near Medellin, Colombia, with over 77 passengers. Among them were nearly the entirety of the first team and staff of the Brazilian soccer club, Associação Chapecoense de Futebol. Only six people survived.

The Chapecoense team was on their way to play in the Copa Sudamerica championship match for the first time in their history. Winning this tournament is one of the highest honors that a South American club can earn.

The tragedy devastated the soccer world, and their would-be opponents, Colombia's Atletico Nacional, respectfully forfeited the match and Chapecoense was awarded the coveted trophy. The things we take for granted can be lost in seconds, and suddenly sports and wins don't seem all that important.

Pete Goss

Many great athletes don't play on a field at all. This is the case of Pete Goss, a renowned British sailor, and adventurer.

Goss was participating in the prestigious 1996 Vendée Globe yacht race that spans the Antarctic Ocean. A French sailor, who wasn't even officially inscribed in the race, shipwrecked in a severe storm.

Despite precarious conditions, he selflessly abandoned the competition to join the search. Thanks to his courage and sailing ability, he found he sailor two days later stranded on a liferaft. The French government awarded him the Legion d'Honneur for his actions.

2. Integrity On and Off The Field

Sometimes it is much easier to show integrity when everyone is watching. Teach your kids how to be respectful when the cameras aren't rolling, the crowds are gone, and when it's not the popular thing to do.

Children are often exposed to bullying. Certain hazing traditions go far beyond harmless initiation rituals. Teach your child the difference between playful companionship and cruel bullying.

Great athletes support all their teammates, from the star players to the benchwarmers. The best ones use their voice and their leadership to stand up for those who need it most.

Lebron James

We all know about King James' reign of the courts. But he is also a proud father and philanthropist.

He is an active supporter of several non-profits, and he founded the Lebron James Family Foundation. His charity funded the I Promise School, an elementary school designed to help struggling students. He would go to say this was his greatest achievement in life.

He is also an outspoken critic of social issues, such as racism and inequality. A TV personality responded to one of his statements by saying that he and other professional athletes "just shut up and dribble" instead of talk about politics. Fortunately, Lebron isn't planning on shutting up but will keep inspiring young athletes to have a voice.

Kobe Bryant

The entire world was shocked by the sudden passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Vanessa, and the other passengers on that fateful helicopter crash.

Athletes, coaches, owners, and fans came together to mourn and show respect. Kobe was admired for his dedication to excellence and skills on the court. However, it soon became evident he was so much more than a basketball player.

His efforts off the court include charity work, empowerment of underprivileged children, and he even won an Academy Award for producing Dear Basketball, an animated short film.

3. Don't Be That Parent

If you ever attended or participated in youth sports, you definitely know who we are talking about. There is always at least one person making a complete mockery of themselves and the sport.

They scream profanities at the referees for every call that doesn't go their way. They sometimes even get into fights with other spectators and, pathetically, child athletes.

Naturally, your child will mimic your behavior to a certain degree. So, take it easy with the jeering and the unnecessary gloating.

4. Priorities

It seems somewhat ironic. However, one of the surest ways to foster sportsmanship is to teach that sports aren't everything.

Kids must know that there are a lot of things more important than winning trophies and setting records. Otherwise, they are less likely to value respect and honor.

Try teaching your kid a hierarchy of values. They have to know that, among other things, respect, family, responsibility, and education are more important than sports. This will help them put things in perspective when they lose or fail to meet their goals.

5. Positive Reinforcement

Remember that everyone is human and makes mistakes.

If you play sports, you have likely been there before. Maybe someone on the other team has been talking badly, and, in the heat of the moment, you commit a reckless foul, penalty, etc.

If our kid does this or gets into fights, the natural tendency might be to punish them. Modern psychology tells us there is a better way to educate our kids.

A Love For The Game

Good sportsmanship makes the game better for everyone. Sure, talking a little smack or doing a little dance after a play isn't going to hurt anyone.

Just make sure your child knows the difference between good fun, competition, and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Check out this blog for more articles Little League and being and baseball parent.

Are you interested in changing your coaching strategy but do not know where to start? Review these little league coaching tips and improve your game.

Active kids have lower health risks, have higher test scores, and are more likely to go to college. Plus, being physically active has shown to increase brain power, happiness, and overall health.

Thankfully, there are over 21 million kids, ages 6 to 17 who actively participate in team sports.

It makes sense that a team coach will play a huge role in a child's life. They have a huge responsibility when it comes to being a role model. That being said, they also want to win.

So when it comes to league coaching, what is the best strategy? Keep reading to learn 10 tips you can use to be a better coach.

1. Make Sure You Have Clear Expectations and Rules

As a little league coach, the kids you coach will need to know what is expected of them, both during practice, during games, and every time in between when you are together as a team.

If you make a rule that practice can't be missed unless a player is sick or has a legitimate reason provided by a parent, then stick to that rule.

If you have a rule that there is no talking during drills, stick to that rule. Whatever guidelines and rules you make for your team, stick to them, and make sure that your kids know exactly what they are.

Make sure that consequences are also communicated and consistent.

2. Set the Tone with Your Attitude

As a new coach, you'll earn a reputation fairly quickly. Set the tone early on with a positive attitude. If you expect your team to behave during practice and on the field in the middle of a game, the only way you'll get results is if you demonstrate that same disposition.

Make sure that bad attitudes warrant punishment, whether it be running an extra lap or doing push-ups. It doesn't have to be overly harsh, but it does have to be consistent and meaningful.

3. Don't Yell

While it's essential that team sports have structure demand perseverance, you don't have to get there by yelling. The best teachers, parents, and leaders of children refrain from yelling as much as they can.

Your team will respect you more by looking up to you rather than being terrified of you. Plus, team sports are a way to let loose and have fun, which leads us to our next tip.

4. Have Fun and Offer Rewards!

The same way that adults do, kids love rewards. And they love a chance to work harder in order to reap those benefits. Even if it's a pizza party at the end of a long month of practice or the chance to dictate the first drill before a big game, offering rewards for dedication and good behavior is one of the best teaching practices.

Having fun with your team will encourage them to want to work harder, show up for practice, and give their team their best.

5. Know ALL Your Players

Take the time to know and understand each one of your players to the best of your ability. If you want to win, you'll need to know what to say and how to treat each and every one of your kids.

Some kids need constant encouragement and validation to do their best, whereas others need distractions and responsibility.

Get to know your kids and even though you might have favorites, do your best not to show it. Nothing is worse than feeling like a weak link both on the field AND in the eyes of an adult that you look up to.

6. Feed Their Dreams

Maybe you're sure you have no chance of winning a particular game. But don't say that to your players. Encourage them that they can do anything they set their minds to. And if you lose but they played hard and worked as a team, it's almost as good as, if not better than, a win!

Teach them that hard work, dedication, teamwork, and a positive attitude can help you accomplish almost anything, even getting into the Little League World Series!

7. Build Confidence Whenever You Can

Use the hamburger method if you need to give constructive criticism. For example, if you need to tell a player something that they keep doing wrong, lead with a positive. Give them an example of something they do right, whether it's on the field or something they do for the team.

Being able to recognize positives in a child will encourage them to want to work on the other things. The last thing you want is for a player to feel hopeless. You want to encourage them both as players, team members, and as human beings as much as you can.

8. Work on Your Game and Stay Connected

This may be an obvious one, but make sure you know the ins, outs, and rules of the game. You don't want to be racking your brain when a star player asks you a difficult question.

Make an effort to apply your team's actions to real-life situations and sports history. Get them excited about the history, news, and players of your sport. And if you played in your past, give them details and stories of your journey as a player.

9. Take Advantage of Active Parents

Coaching can be overwhelming. But there are plenty of people more than willing to help. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by involved and needy parents, use them to your advantage.

Your job is to focus on the kids and try to win. So if parents offer to help with anything else under the sun, let them. It'll make your job easier.

Little League Coaching Is One of the Greatest Jobs

As long as you have the right tools and a positive attitude, little league coaching can be one of the most rewarding and exciting jobs in the world.

Be consistent. Be honest. And make an active effort to get to know your players, both as people and as athletes. And don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

Do you want to create a more unified team? What better way than to give your players custom baseball trading pins! Check out our design tips here.

Coaching little league for the first time? Don't worry! You'll be a great coach as long as you follow these essential little league coaching tips.

In 1939 Little League was established by Carl E. Stotz...who probably didn't realize how big it would become!

In recent years, there have been more than 2.6 million playing Little League Baseball worldwide.

That's a huge amount!

Maybe your kid is part of a team and you've been asked to coach it, or maybe you've volunteered...either way you might be regretting your decision.

Its true, coaching isn't a walk in the park, but don't worry! We've got some great coaching tips to help make your team a success!

Coaching Tips

We've done the research and come up with some coaching tips that will make you a successful leader!

Keep reading for our top 5 tips...

1. Know the Rule Book

Maybe you know baseball. You've been to Little League matches, maybe you even played in a team yourself in your younger days. But it's not that simple.

Rules, regulations, and policies are always being updated. You must be up to date with these changes. If you don't you might end up red-faced when trying to argue a point.

Don't forget to always carry the rule book for reference.

Just knowing the rules isn't enough, make sure to read up on the latest techniques and strategies to keep your team on top.

2. Health and Safety

Safety is essential. You are supervising someone else's kids after all.

A "Safety Officer" should be appointed to oversee your team. They are responsible to keep on top of health and safety rules and regulations.

An up to date first aid box should be fully stocked and easily accessible during both practices and games.

You should be familiar with all of the players' medical backgrounds and personal circumstances and have phone numbers of their parents on hand, just in case of an emergency.

You should also choose appropriate times for practicing, i.e. not under the beating midday sun or during torrential rains. And be sure your players all warm up before every practice session and game.

3. A Good Attitude

You need to see this as "not just a silly game", but a chance for the kids to learn teamwork skills and make friendships for life.

You should try to be organized. i.e. have a file for each player including all of their information. Liaise freely with parents, informing them of your schedule and any big events that might be coming up.

Be confident, in control, and firm, yet fair. Respect all the members of the team and try to become like a family. This way your team will operate smoothly and you'll be on the road to victory!

Be an appropriate role model, because whether you like it or not, your players will all learn from your example, for good or bad. So watch your language, your tone and be respectful to all, especially during games. If you're kicked out of a game because of your bad attitude, your players may inherit your bad traits.

Be a good winner AND a good loser!

If you lose, don't try to shift blame onto the umpire, the other team or even your own team. Talk about how you can improve, but leave it at that, don't be bitter.

If you win, win gracefully. Always remember to teach the kids about good sportsmanship, they will all learn from your example.

4. Practice and Game Time

Practice should be limited to 2 hours only, and the final 30 minutes should be something fun. The practices should also be well organized and planned out to save time.

Don't overdo it, you don't want to overwhelm them. Try to stick to the basic skills every week, and then have 1 or 2 advanced skills scheduled per practice.

When its game day you need to motivate them. You can do this by making time for your team's rituals and routines. This all comes down to your organization skills. Your team needs to feel organized and well prepared. Then they have a better chance of winning!

5. FUN!

Make sure your team has lots of fun! The purpose of being on a Little League team is so they can learn many important skills like teamwork, patience, good sportsmanship and more.

But they are young and want to enjoy themselves too! Take the team out for treats, or have a pizza party. Make sure your team are happy and having fun!

Are You Ready?

So are you ready to start coaching? Following these 5 coaching tips will help you to be the best coach you can be! We also have other articles and resources available.

It's not just about winning the game it's about the memories you all make along the way. A great way to remember those moments is by having customized pins to trade. Check out our awesome selection!

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The second baseman on any team, whether in Major League Baseball or in Little League, needs to be a dependable and reliable member of the infield. It is important to remember when coaching this position to stress fundamentals and smart positional play.

Here are 6 elements of the position for your youngsters to master for long term success fielding the 2B position:

  1. Ready Infield Stance
  2. Receiving & Throwing
  3. Covering 1B on Bunting Situations
  4. Turning a Double Play
  5. Cutoff Man Duties
  6. Training

1) Ready Infield Stance

Just like with any infielder, being ready to field your position is vital for success and error free play. A second baseman should be ready to go in any direction before the pitch is even thrown. Make sure you instruct your second basemen to keep their knees bent, their weight on the balls of their feet and their heads up. They should have their glove low to the ground and ready to trap any ground ball with their throwing hand. Make sure that your Little Leaguer is not standing too upright, or they will have limited mobility.

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A good way to enforce correct positioning is to incorporate infield positioning into your stretching routine at the beginning of practice. Player's should practice being ready to field a ground ball for about the length of time of one pitch, around 10 to 20 seconds, then stand for five seconds. Repeating this process 10 to 15 times during stretching time will commit the routine to muscle memory, allowing your player to find this position without ever having to think about it.

Once a game begins, the second baseman should be told to line up in generally the same spot every play except in double play or late game infield-in situations. They should be halfway between where the first baseman is situated and the second base bag. If there is a double play opportunity or he is responsible for holding a runner on base, you should train your second baseman to line up five steps off of the bag and slightly behind the base path on his side of the infield.

2) Receiving & Throwing

An essential skill for any infielder to learn is how to receive a ground ball. If your second basemen are trained to be in proper position to field a ball, the catching and throwing process should naturally follow. Make sure that your players get plenty of practice fielding ground balls so that they will feel comfortable with the five step process of:

  1. Looking the ball into the glove
  2. Trapping it with their throwing hand
  3. Raising the ball to their chest while transferring the grip to the right hand
  4. Pivoting and locating the first baseman's glove
  5. Striding directly towards the target and making an accurate throw

Another aspect of throwing the ball that should be stressed is when the second baseman has the opportunity to field the ball during a double play opportunity. You should let them know that an underhanded toss to the shortstop may sometimes be easier to catch and transfer than a hard throw when there is little distance to cover. They should toss the ball to the shortstop's chest to allow for an easy catch and release that will give his defensive partner an opportunity to turn a clean double play without having to reach for the ball.

3) Covering First Base in Bunting Situations

In the event of a bunt to the right side of the infield, the second baseman must cover first base. It will be the shortstop's duty to see that second base is taken covered. This will require quick reflexes and knowledge of the situation. It is vital that your infielders know when a bunt is possible, and it should be the shortstop's duty to yell loud enough for the second baseman to hear that a bunt is on.

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In order to get an out at first base and prevent your second baseman from being stepped on or end up in the baserunner's path, you must emphasize that their left foot needs to be pressed up against the side of the bag and not on the top. This will allow them to stretch towards the play if the first baseman or catcher throws the ball to first for the sacrifice out.

4) Turning a Double Play

A double play situation can be dangerous for a second baseman because they are going in blind to most of the action. It is essential to simulate double-play scenarios often in practice for player safety and helping your infield turn these game changing plays successfully.

If you have taught your second baseman to place themselves five steps off of the bag, they should be in good position to move and get to the bag in time to receive a throw on a ground ball from the left side of the infield. He should take a quick, arced route to the back corner of the bag. This will put him out of the base runners path and should keep him in a position to field a throw without a collision. The second baseman should plant his left foot on the back of the bag and step towards the throw with his right foot. This will allow your second baseman to catch the ball and force out the runner all in one simple step.

The next step is to throw on to first base for the second out. If you have taught your Little League second basemen the proper approach to the bag and good receiving technique, the throw should flow out of the back end of this process. They have already caught the ball, forced out the runner, and their momentum is taking them through the base and away from the base runner's slide. The next step is to shuffle-plant their right foot at a 90 degree angle towards first base, turn their hips to locate the first baseman's target and make a strong throw to get the trailing runner.

5) Cutoff Man Duties

Even though a good portion of the cutoff responsibilities are relegated to the shortstop, it is important for the second baseman to know when he is responsible and where he should be if a ball is hit to the outfield.

On any single to center or left field, the second baseman needs to cover second base in case the runner makes an attempt to stretch a base hit into a double. If the ball is well struck to right field, however, the second baseman should position himself halfway between where the ball is fielded and second base.

Should there be a long drive to the gap or down the line, a two man relay might be necessary. If the ball is deep to right, the second baseman should go deep onto the outfield grass to be the first man in the relay, leaving enough distance between himself and the shortstop, or first baseman on a ball struck down the line, to make a hard and accurate throw to the second cutoff man.

6) Training

There are many different training drills to help a Little League second baseman become better and more comfortable at fielding the position. One great part of baseball is that many of the important skills are valuable to learn for all position players. This will allow a coach to break down his practice in a manner where every player is receiving valuable instruction time. All players at a young age should practice fielding and throwing the ball around the infield. One incredibly practical drill that helps players stay focused and ready for anything on the infield is known as the pickle drill. A lot of times, you will see young ball players play this at home, before and after practice and whenever there are not enough participants to simulate a real baseball environment.

The drill is easy to set up. You designate one player as a baserunner, and have two even lines of fielders on one base and another line of players on a base 90 feet away. The object is simple; the fielders must tag the runner out before he reaches either base. The key is that only the player with the ball can leave his base to chase the runner down. Once a player has thrown the ball, he must hustle back to the end of the opposing line and wait for his turn to come around again, or until the base runner has reached a base safely. There are numerous ways to turn this into a game or an exciting routine that will help your fielders learn how to make quick and accurate throws on the run.

As always, keep your practices as enjoyable as possible. Playing a game such as baseball should never be a chore; it should be fun for players, coaches and parents alike.

The shortstop is usually considered a team leader and the captain of the infield. The duties and responsibilities often go beyond simply fielding ground balls and throwing out runners. They must be aware of game situations, be responsible for communication between players and take charge when it is unclear who should be fielding an in-between pop fly. When teaching Little League shortstops how to play the game, it is important to coach them how to be a smart and reliable leader on the infield.

There are 5 areas of Focus when coaching up little league shortstops:

1) Communication

Before every at bat , the shortstop needs to assess the current situation. If there is a runner on first, he needs to make sure that the second baseman is aware of who is going to cover the bag in the event of a steal. If there is a runner on first, the shortstop is usually the player with the best view of the runner, so he should yell "Going!" loud and clear if the runner breaks with the pitch.

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There are many more situations besides steal attempts in which the shortstop must make his voice heard. If there are runners in scoring position, he must remind his outfielders how many outs there are so they can be reminded of the urgency of the scenario. It is also the shortstops responsibility to take charge in the event of a popup that is in between positions. A shallow pop up in the middle of the diamond should be his responsibility, and he should call for it loud and clear.

It will be necessary to train your shortstop to be vocal and constantly remind his teammates of current game situations and be loud enough to be heard to prevent confusion and possible infield collisions.

2) Positioning

Another key to successfully coaching a young shortstop is getting them to fully understand how important it is to be in the right place on every play. Whether it is being ready to back up the third base following a bunt, or covering second on a steal attempt, most outs that a shortstop makes are due to him being in the right place at the right time to make the play.

On a normal bases-empty play, train your shortstop to line up halfway between the third baseman and the second base bag. A good depth for a shortstop to play at will be three to four steps behind the baseline. You will see major league shortstops line up much deeper than this, but as you train your young ball player you have to keep in mind that there is a huge difference in skill sets between major leaguers and Little Leaguers. A young shortstop may not be able to make a hard and accurate throw from deep in the infield, and the ball generally will not be hit too hard that they cannot field their position from a moderate depth.

If there is a runner on first and less than two outs, then you must train your shortstop to be in a position to turn the double play. Playing at his normal depth and relation to second base will not give him enough time to reach the bag before the runner on a ground ball. In this case, the shortstop should take three or four steps closer to second base and line up in the base path or one step behind the base path should there be a runner on second and he is responsible for holding him close.

If the bases are loaded, or there are runners on second and third, you should make sure that your shortstop is playing either at normal depth or closer depending on how many outs there are and the urgency of making a play on the runner at the plate.

3) Turning Two

Teaching a Little League shortstop how to successfully turn a double play can be tricky. This is very often a play where there will be contact with the runner, and you should train them to make the turn properly in order to prevent injury to the fielder or runner.

It will take quite a bit of practice in order for a young second baseman and shortstop to get the rhythm and timing of a double play, so repeated practice will be key. Start by hitting grounders to your shortstop and having him field them cleanly and toss them to the second baseman at chest level. This will allow the second baseman to take a normal stride to the bag and pivot without having to stretch for the ball. An errant toss could cause the second baseman to miss his tag on the base and result in zero outs instead of two. It is also important for the shortstop to make a good throw to his second base partner for the second baseman's safety. The play is in front of the shortstop, but during a normal double play the second baseman's back is to the runner, and a throw into the second-base base path may result in a dangerous collision.

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If the ball is hit to the second or first baseman, then it is very important that your shortstop has had plenty of practice with his footwork around the bag. In order to complete the double play, you must teach a technique that will:

4) Being the Cutoff Man

Another important responsibility of the shortstop is to be available to receive a cutoff throw from the outfield. In a situation with no runners on base where the ball is hit to left field, the shortstop should position himself halfway between the left fielder and second base. If there is a runner on first, the shortstop should be taught to receive the throw halfway between the outfielder and third base.

Once the situation becomes more complex, so do the demands on the shortstop's cutoff duties. If there is a hit to right field with runners on base, the shortstop must be the cutoff man so that the second baseman can perform his duties at the second base bag. In this situation, the shortstop should receive the cutoff on the infield inside the base path between first and second.

There may be times when there is a deep double or a ball gets past an outfield where the shortstop and the second baseman will have to coordinate a double relay. In these cases, the shortstop should always be the deep cutoff man on extra base hits to the left side of the diamond and the second cutoff man in the infield if there is a long drive for extra bases to right field.

A good rule of thumb to ingrain into your young shortstops is that a halfway marker between the outfielder and the next potential destination will almost always be the best place to prepare for the cutoff throw. Just remember that they cannot stand in the base path if a runner is present, this could lead to an obstruction call or dangerous collision.

Once the shortstop has the ball in glove, if in the outfield, you will want to train them to take immediate steps toward the direction of home plate, simultaneously assessing the current baserunner situation. Although the next destination for the ball can vary based on the action of the baserunners, the pace could deter a runner from advancing, and the forward momentum created by moving towards home plate will increase the velocity and range of the throw.

5) Training

While we have mostly covered positioning and the mental aspects of the game in this discussion on coaching Little League shortstops, the physical side of the game is not to be ignored. In a Little League ballgame, the shortstop will generally be involved in more plays than any other position of the diamond. In order to have them ready, you should incorporate fun fielding drills into practice. Kids love to be active and stay on the move. A good way to teach players to have good positioning and be able to react quickly is to have them throw a tennis ball against a brick wall, receive the grounder and then aim for a mark on that same wall. The ball will be constantly returning to them, forcing them to urgently return to a ready position. This also allows a coach to have multiple infielders working on their skills at the same time, and will give your Little League player ample opportunity to practice away from the baseball diamond.

Since the shortstop position can be mentally and physically demanding, it’s often best practice for Little League coaches to not allow any player specialize at the position. At a young age, players will have fun playing all over the field and be able to learn the mental aspects of the game from every angle.

When coaching and mentoring young little league baseball players, there are a lot of unique fundamentals that must be taught to each position. One of the most under-coached positions, especially by coaches with limited experience, is the little league catcher position. The catcher plays a vital role in every game, and his skill set is much different than that of an infielder or outfielder. What follows are ten basic to advance skill sets and tips that should help you be aware of what must be addressed for your young player to succeed at the position and get maximum enjoyment from the game.

1. Make sure your youngster is comfortable: Even the best instruction can be ineffective if the young catcher being coached is uncomfortable. In order for a player to move naturally behind the plate all of the equipment must be fitted properly. Loose knee pads, an oversized helmet or a tight chest protector can cause awkward movements and prevent your young player from being able to have fun and maintain proper positioning behind the plate. Ill-fitting equipment can also frustrate young backstops, causing them to be more concerned with their comfort level rather than focus on training. If you are not familiar with catching equipment, you may wish to seek assistance in proper sizing and fitting from a local sporting goods store that specializes in selling baseball gear.

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2. Start slow: When your Little Leaguer puts on the pads and mask for the first time, it is important to realize that this is a new experience for them. The catcher’s glove is nothing like what they have ever used before. Start easy by simply playing catch with all of the equipment on before introducing the crouch. Once you have introduced the crouch, make sure they get plenty of reps catching with a batter in the box. It is not necessary to have the batter swing at any pitches, but having them in their field of vision will help them get used to game situations.

3. Do not over specialize: Old school coaching theory suggested that finding a player’s position early in their Little League career was vital to their success at the higher levels. Current methods find that allowing young players to play all over the diamond will produce a well-rounded, more complete athlete. Giving them some outfield and infield time will also protect their growing bodies from the demands catching can put on developing knees. If you have a catcher that has the potential to pitch a few innings during the season, allowing him to do so can be an incredible benefit to their development.

4. Positioning: It is important to make sure that your catching proteges understand proper positioning behind the plate. They should be in a comfortable crouch on the balls of their feet with their legs shoulder width apart and crouch approximately two feet behind the plate. Their gloved hand should extend slightly forward to give the pitcher a target, but not far enough to enter the strike zone. Their left elbow should be relaxed, never resting on their leg and ready to move to catch a pitch. The throwing arm should be tucked behind the lower back to protect it from being struck with a foul tip or swung bat. They should be instructed to maintain a low position during the entire pitch to allow an umpire to view the strike zone and be ready to move in either direction if a pitch is off the mark.

5. Positioning with runners on base: Once your player has the basics under control, it’s time to move on to more complex fundamentals. One of the first intermediate skills that they should learn is how to adjust their position with runners on base and how to react when they attempt to steal. It is important that they adjust their normal positioning by extending their right foot slightly forward while still on the balls of their feet and their back should be as vertical as possible while still remaining in a low crouch. This position will allow for a more natural and powerful throwing motion if a runner should attempt to advance.

If a runner does break for the next base they should lean forward to catch the pitch and rise from the crouch just as they catch the ball. This technique will take many repetitions to get right. It is important that they do not lean into the pitch or rise from the crouch too soon or they may be called for interfering with the batter or be struck with a bat should the batter swing.

6. Pitches in the dirt: No matter how accurate your pitchers are they will inevitably miss the target badly from time to time, especially when they begin working on breaking balls. Your catcher needs to be prepared to block these errant throws to prevent runners from advancing and to protect the umpire from being struck.

To be fully prepared to block a ball in the dirt, time should be set aside to work on this skill in practice. Make sure your catcher is in proper position and throw balls that will land in front of them. Make sure to start with slower pitches to ensure that your player gets used to moving in either direction. Before moving on to harder tosses, make sure that they have mastered sliding to both sides. Proper technique should be to slide to their knees rather than jumping. Both feet should remain on the ground with their lead knee hitting the ground first and sliding towards the ball. Their back knee should immediately follow and their body should remain square so that the ball with hit their body and fall directly in front of them.

7. Fielding your position: Being a successful catcher incorporates more than receiving pitches and throwing out base runners. The first defender to a bunted or foul pop-fly in the home plate area is often the catcher. It is important not to neglect this aspect of the game during practice.

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The most confusing issue when it comes to defending the catcher position is what to do with the mask. On a short bunt or play directly in front of the plate, the mask should always be left on. Taking time to toss away the mask in order to field a bunted ball will waste precious seconds and leave your player’s throwing hand in poor position if a bare handed pick-up of a slow moving ball is necessary. If the batter should hit a short pop fly around the plate area, the mask should come off and be tossed into foul ground away from the play. The ball in flight will be much more visible without the mask, and your catcher will be able to hear directions from their teammates should he not be able to locate the pop-up. These two scenarios should be incorporated into practice sessions so that there is an instant recognition of what to do during gameplay.

8. Blocking the plate: If there is a play at the plate, the catcher needs to be prepared to receive the ball. If the ball is struck to the right side of the diamond, the backstop should use the first-base corner of the plate as a reference point and stand no more than a foot off of that corner. The opposite is true for a ball hit to the third-base side of the field. In general, it is not legal for the catcher to block the plate unless he has the ball in his possession so he should stand blocking the front corner of the plate, but leave the harder to reach back side visible to the runner.
The catcher should give his fielder a large target, but keep his knees bent so that once they receive the ball they can get as low as possible. The throw to the plate should be caught firmly in the mitt, and covered tightly with the throwing hand. In order to prevent injury to your catcher, and have them in an ideal position to get an important out, it is important that they square up with the third-base line, and get low to apply the tag.

9. Repetition: As with any training, practicing and enforcing catching techniques must happen regularly, even when a player becomes proficient. Taking the time during the season to reinforce basic fundamentals will prevent bad habits from forming, and help your players to be ready to build off of their basic skill sets.

10. Advanced strategy: Once your catcher becomes adept at the fundamentals of the position, it may be time to give them more responsibility. Young Little Leaguers are often much more savvy concerning game strategy than they are given credit for. Allow your more experienced catchers to call pitches, and let them call a pitch-out if they feel a runner is going. This will develop the mental aspect of their game and help raise their confidence levels.

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