Baseball Sliding Techniques to Practice
Personally, I believe all baseball players should be taught to slide feet first into bases. However, that is the way I always slid and I recognize that all baseball players are different. Whichever way players learn to slide, practice of various baseball sliding techniques is required to avoid injury and for safe calls, especially on close plays.
Coaching sliding is a lot like coaching hitting for most coaches – they coach the way they did it. Sometimes that is a good coaching strategy, but other times not so good, as the same style does not fit all players equally. For example, coaching a big, strong, and potentially power hitting player to slap the ball to the opposite field makes no sense. Forcing players, who are not comfortable going feet first, is not good coaching.
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The same goes for sliding – forcing players, who are not comfortable sliding feet first, is not good baseball coaching. Some players are comfortable going in headfirst and others feet first. At one of the early practices of the season, youth baseball coaches should explain the various sliding techniques, including feet first and headfirst sliding, and then have players practice the method they are most comfortable, allowing for experimentation for those unsure of which method they like best. As implied, just because a coach slid a certain way, and believes that is the best way to slide, coaches should allow players to develop the sliding technique that is most comfortable for them.
Coaches should explain the reason for sliding – so players can get to bases as quickly as possible without over running the base. That may seem obvious, but many youth players believe it is to avoid tags and do not realize that without the slide, players must slow too much in order to stay on the base.
Advanced baseball players should know more than one sliding technique to avoid tags. Additionally, all players should slide feet first into home at the higher levels of baseball, when catchers can block the base, so they avoid possible head or neck injuries.
Baseball Sliding Techniques to Learn
- Straight in bent leg slide – this is the most basic slide. Most players feel more comfortable with one leg going in straight and that is fine to avoid injury, but being able to slide with either leg the straight one is most valuable.
- Pop up slide – the pop up slide is simply a continuation of the bent leg slide, when players continue up to running position after the slide. This method allows runners to slide late, the desired way, without over sliding the base and puts runners in position to advance quickly to the next base.
- The fade away slide is another form of the bent leg slide that is useful for avoiding tags, especially when players can go right or left, depending on the fielder’s positioning.
- The hook slide – similar to the bent leg slide but more difficult to perfect, as the runner has one leg straight as the leg closest to the base hooks the bag on the edge.
- Headfirst slide – as mentioned, although risk of injury may be greater with this sliding technique, some players are more comfortable with it.
- Slide by closest hand grabs base – at times when the fielder has the base blocked it may be necessary to slide to the side of bag and try to touch it with the hand closest to the base. This one works best at home plate as the runner does not have to stay on home base, just touch it as they go by.
- Slide by and grab with hand further from the base, as they take away the other hand – this is a slide for when the runner is going to be out and tries to fake out the tagger by showing one hand and pulling it away as they grab the base with the opposite hand.
Common Baseball Sliding Mistakes
- Indecision on whether to slide is never good – when in doubt players should slide and use the pop up slide so little time wastes for advancing, when the situation call for it
- Slowing up before sliding
- Bad timing – sliding too early usually leads to an out as players slow too much and sliding too late leads to injury or going past the base.
- Lead leg not straight, leading to a late arrival to base
- Spikes too high is unsportsmanlike, risking injury to the fielder
- Wrists down to easy their slide may lead to injury to wrists, hands or fingers
- Using the wrong slide technique may mean the difference between out and safe
Finally, sliding is a skill practiced too little, leading to outs that can be avoided. Coaches should have players practice sliding more. Practicing baseball sliding techniques with spikes off and on wet surfaces is a good idea for beginners.