Baseball Skill Development – Coaching in Detail
Baseball coaches, who recognize and devote themselves to the smallest details, are the best coaches. As with all baseball skill development, when coaches allow even slightly wrong actions, correcting the bad habits later becomes much more difficult. Often, coaching attention goes to the big, powerful body muscles, but attention to the small muscles, as the hands and fingers are significant, too. Coaches should instill the right hand and finger positioning for all baseball skills, beginning with players as young as 6 years old.
Recently I talked of the importance of coach’s attention to players’ feet at the first few practices. At the other end of the spectrum are players’ hands positioning, which also play a key role with baseball skill development. Incorrect hand positioning, even off as little as a half inch, influences negatively the outcome of hitting, throwing, base running and fielding. It takes a good coaching eye to recognize when players’ hands align incorrectly, but good coaches look out for those half-inch differences. Of course, much patience by coaches and players is necessary with correcting the hands positioning because they are difficult fixes.
Another coaching technique I wrote of recently, the stop and check method, is crucial for coaching correct hand positioning. Players learn to work quickly with all baseball skills, but corrections are rarely possible, when working fast. At the first practices, coaches should have players slow things down and stop actions to check their hand(s) positioning.
Baseball Skill Development – Key Hand Positions
Hitting Grip – It looks simple but getting youth players to set the bat in the upper palms and fingers is difficult because most players do not feel stronger with the right grip. Instead, they mistakenly believe setting the bat in the whole hand and squeezing tight helps them.
Hand Height – Having players begin the hands at shoulder height is best, but, as with the correct hitting grip, many players feel less strong than setting the hands higher.
Throwing Grip on Ball – Having the fingers off line on the grip minimizes accuracy and speed. The ability to grab the ball with the center of the ball equal distant between the middle and forefinger with the thumb as close to under the ball as hand size allows, is best for young players.
Fingers on Top – Although side arm throwing is not necessarily wrong, teaching players to keep their fingers on top of the ball on their forward arm action and release is best.
Fielding Ready Position – Having their hands over each knee, with their thumbs pointing toward the batter, in normal hang down position when the body is relaxed, is best.
Catching ball position – Keeping the throwing hand directly under and in front of the glove for catching line drives and fly balls and directly over and in front of the glove for fielding ground balls is ideal.
Sliding – Hands positioning is also important for sliding. Throwing the hands up in front and above the chest on player’s slide prevents hand and wrist injuries.
Finally, a phrase I often tell players alludes to the idea that doing something close to right is not good enough. Coaches should insist players’ hand positioning for all baseball skill development is 100% correct.