Baseball Sliding Techniques to Practice
Instead of cancelling baseball practice the next time the field is too wet to play on, hold the practice and work on sliding and the various baseball sliding techniques. It will be one of the most fun practices of the season. Have players wear old uniform pants, not their gamers, because they may get muddy beyond cleaning, which will not make mom happy.
Baseball sliding techniques are much more creative these days. Part of that reason is ballplayers are arguably more athletic today than years ago, so applying a tag for defensive players is not as easy as setting the glove down in front of the base and letting the base runner tag themselves out. Another reason that plays into that is the use of video replay challenges now used in major league baseball. In the old days, when the ball beat the runner, they were almost automatically called out. However, now, with the ability to review the play, it is worth doing one’s ultimate to avoid the tag with the hope of getting the safe call.
Therefore, players often find an innovative way to get around a tag. For example, some baseball slides may have one hand approaching the base, and as the tag is being applied, they pull the hand away before reaching around to the bag with the other hand. Also, the base runner may stop before getting to the base going in feet first and jump over the tag. Once again, creativity rules the day more now than in the past and it works occasionally.
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However, the creativity doesn’t always benefit the runner and often prevents them from getting to the base, the goal, in the quickest manner. Another major flaw of the innovation or wrong baseball sliding techniques is the runner coming off the base after touching it, which leads to them getting tagged out after initially being safe. This action of coming off the bag tends to happen more when they slide hands first with them going over the base and failing to maintain contact with it.
I believe all baseball players should learn to slide feet first into bases. That method of sliding is the way I always slid and felt like it was the quickest and safest way to slide. It also prevents the defensive player from using their body to block the base because they fear the spikes on the baseball shoes. When players are known to slide headfirst, as mentioned, the defender will not be afraid to block the base and prevent the runner from being able to reach it.
I recognize that all baseball players are different. Whichever way players learn to slide, the practice of various baseball sliding techniques is required to avoid injury and for safe calls, especially on close plays. It may be best for hands first sliders to occasionally go in feet first, so players cannot depend on them going in headfirst every time. In that way, they prevent the ball receiver from being too aggressive with blocking the base.
Baseball sliding techniques to Know
One could argue that how to slide in baseball is very much the least practiced aspect of the game. That is unfortunate because knowing how to slide in baseball properly can help a team win more baseball games. Youth coaches should also make sure they review the sliding rules for kids, as they differ from the MLB slide rule. Takeout slides and aggressively going into the catcher at home plate are not permitted at the lower levels of baseball.
Coaching sliding is a lot like coaching hitting for most coaches – they coach the way they did it. Sometimes that is an excellent coaching strategy, but other times not so good, as the same style does not fit all players equally. For example, coaching a big, powerful, 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.
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 other players 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.
Many injuries are prevented if more time was spent practicing how to do a baseball slide that helps players be safe and stay safe. The most attention should be to players who want to go in headfirst, and they must practice how to slide headfirst in baseball practice in a safe way. This practice is best on very wet surfaces, so in the grass after it rains or with one of those slick sliding mats that are available in the marketplace.
Coaching Baseball Sliding
Coaches should explain the reason for sliding – so players can get to bases as quickly as possible without overrunning 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 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 prevent possible head or neck injuries.
Baseball Sliding Techniques to Learn
The following are how to baseball slide methods that give base runners options when approaching the bag. With experience, players will learn which way is best, depending on the direction of the throw and the positioning of the defensive player receiving the ball.
- 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 the risk of injury may be higher 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.
- As mentioned above, players can also slide and stop before reaching the base or tag, and then attempt to jump over the tag. This technique is obviously a last-ditch effort when the ball beats the runner by a considerable amount.
Common Baseball Sliding Mistakes
- Indecision on whether to slide is never good – when in doubt players should slide.
- Landing on the wrong body part, which often leads to injury. Coaches must review correct sliding methods so they can recognize the best way to do it. Coaches should have a player who slides correctly to demonstrate for everyone, or do it themselves.
- Using the wrong sliding method for the situation. Sometimes players attempt a hook slide when they would have been to the base sooner by going straight into the bag. As implied above, the ability to use the pop-up slide so little time wastes for advancing is always a strong option.
- Slowing up before sliding – this is very common with inexperienced or scared players.
- Bad timing or technique – 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 later arrival to base
- Spikes too high is unsportsmanlike, risking injury to the fielder
- Wrists or hands down on the ground to ease their slide may lead to an injury to wrists, hands or fingers
A final reminder – 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 best and especially for beginners.