Wednesday Web Gems – Quit Coaching Safe during Baseball Practice

So often, at the major league level, infielders field groundballs with little effort and throw the ball to first at three-quarter speed, getting the runner out easily. That is not an often seen scenario at the youth levels of baseball. Weaker arm strengths and shorter bases are two obvious factors why that is not often seen in youth baseball.

However, another reason for this is that coaches “coach safe?” Coaching safe is the situation where coaches praise kids for fielding balls, without insisting that they do it quickly. They fail to understand that the reason players at the major league level do things in slower motion is that they have practiced the correct fielding fundamentals at such a quick speed and have become so smooth; they can slow it down some in games.

Baseball Practice Habits

I often ask players, “When a player hits the ball do they walk or run to first?” Of course, I am being facetious while making the point that just fielding the ball and making an accurate throw is not good enough.”

In practice, I always insist that ballplayers treat every play, as if the fastest player in the league is running, on every ball hit to them. I am constantly telling them that I would rather them make an error in practice with the attitude of having to throw out a fast runner than making the play by playing it slow and safe. Of course, I have to live with that and remain encouraging when kids make errors, as long as they made them working quickly.

The overall point is that players should not become satisfied with catching and throwing balls with accuracy, unless done quickly and fundamentally correct. The great John Wooden summed that idea up with his phrase, “Work quickly, but don’t hurry.”  The more players practice working quickly and fundamentally sound, the less they will hurry when it matters, in games.

Baseball Practice Coaching One Speed

Coaches should not coach safe but coach to challenge players to work faster. Of course, every ball player develops at different paces, so coaches must know which players and when to challenge in this manner. Ultimately, it helps all players to practice as they play so that they can play as they practice.

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