Follow Up To Coaches Clinic

Yesterday we held our Super Sunday coaches clinic.  Thanks to all the coaches that attended.  I have gotten many requests to post some overview of what we covered.  So here we go…

Teaching How To Catch

  • It is natural for all kids, especially younger/new to baseball, to have a fear of catching the ball.  The best way to start is with a tennis ball and no glove.  Less risk of getting hurt and no big floppy glove on their hand.  As they get better, introduce a baseball and glove.

Fielding

  • In much the same way, kids can learn a great deal with no glove and a tennis ball, soft baseball or baseball.  Then as they learn you can introduce the glove.
  • They need a ton of reps.  So start with them rolling balls to a partner to get a lot of reps in.  Then you can do drills such as put them all in a line at shortstop.  You throw them a ground ball from a short distance (the mound) and they field the ball and run it back to the bucket.  They get reps, conditioning, and fun.
  • You can also make this a game…if they miss the ball they are out.  Of if the ball gets to the outfield grass they are out.  You could put kids at short and second and make them teams.  You roll a ball to short and then to second, the group with one kid standing wins.
  • You can also put all the kids at their spots in the infield (outfielders and catchers pick an infield spot, it helps them as well).  Stand on the mound and throw or hit a ball to all the kids at third, then short, then second, then first.  No throws.  They just put the ball in the grass behind them or in an empty bucket.
  • You can do the same while hitting the ball from home plate.  No throws, just lots of fielding reps.  You can make it a game as well.
  • You can then also do combo drills, especially if you have two coaches.  Meaning one coach hits to third and he throws to first.  The other hits to short stop and he throws to second.  Then you can do short stop throws to first and third to second.  First base to third and second to short.  On and on.  The balls should go on the grass or into a bucket after they get caught as opposed to throwing them back in which creates havoc.
  • As for outfielders, you can hit them pop ups with tennis balls, throw them or hit them with a fungo.  I would likely work on outfield with the whole team.  If they say “coach I don’t play outfield” you say “You do for this drill!”

Throwing

  • Teach in stages.
    • Drill 1:  Players sit on butts and throw to a partner.
    • Drill 2:  Two knees and throw to partner.
    • Drill 3:  One knee (lefty on left knee, righty on right).
    • Drill 4:  Standing feet apart, chest facing partner.
    • Drill 5:  In landing position with front foot toward partner.
  • For kids having a hard time, have them do the first half of the throw to where their front elbow faces their partner and the throwing arm elbow is as high as the shoulder, with the ball directly above the elbow and a loose wrist.
  • Most kids who throw poorly do so because the ball doesn’t follow the right path.  Out of the glove, the ball should simply drop down in a relaxed manner.  It then rises up by a pulling of the elbow/tricep/shoulder as opposed to the ball leading the way up.  When the ball leads the way it causes “an early arm” and you lose both accuracy and velocity.
  • In essence the feet turn the hips, hips turn the shoulders, shoulders unlock the elbow, elbow unlocks the wrist.
  • You can also do throwing game…How many throws without a drop.  How many times back and forth in 30 seconds or first two partners who get the ball back and forth ten times.

Pitching

  • The kids who throw well can all be taught to pitch.  In it’s simplest form pitching is throwing but only adding in a leg kick for power.  Many kids and coaches make it too complicated.  It doesn’t need to be “mechanical”.
  • Kids who generally have an issue do so because of their lower half, specifically their feet not stepping in line.  A good drill is to have them use a hat or a towel and work on hitting that into an object (a partners mitt, a bench or bleacher) in front of them as it teaches them to be in good direction.
  • For some advanced techniques teach kids that pitching is the same movement as throwing a football as far as they can, but instead of a QB throwing the ball up and over the defense, they just hold on to the ball and throw it down hill to the catcher.
  • Be wary of giving too much mechanical advice to pitchers in games.  It’s like you getting golfing advice on the course during a round.  It makes you want to quit or hit someone in the head with a golf club.

Hitting

  • The biggest problems stem from both not truly seeing the ball and poor head position.  Kids should look at the pitcher the way they would look at a tv set and then build their stand around their head.
  • Kids often pull their head out because they want to see where the ball went as opposed to keeping the head and eyes down.
  • Kids that have timing issues, are always late or early or don’t swing enough, it is advisable to widen their stance so that they need to have minimal action to start their swings.
  • Most issues with the swing itself are what we call barring the lead arm.  Meaning kids will straighten their front arm before contact and thus have long swings with little power.  One arm practice swings or many other similar drills can help this.
  • Same with pitching, be careful of too much mechanical advice while hitting.  It is hard enough as it is without you coaching them “while” they are hitting.  Coach them off a tee or in the cage or drills.  Use video when possible as one image beats many words.

Final Word

  • As stated on the coaches corner before be wary of your words.  Your words are what they “think”.  If you say “don’t think of the easter bunny on a hover board” all they think of is the easter bunny on a hover board.  So if you say “don’t lose this hitter” when they are pitching, they think “don’t lose this hitter” and the mind hears, “lose this hitter”.  So simply say “go after this hitter” or “attack this hitter” or “trust your pitching and your defense”.

Feel free to reach me at mazzoniw@sacredheart.edu

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9 Keys To Indoor Training

With the cold weather coming up and our only chance to practice inside, click on the image below to see an article I wrote for the New England Baseball Journal.

2015-11-14 09_20_56-New England Baseball Journal - November_December 2015 [30 - 31]

Welcome to the Coaches Corner Blog!

Black Rock

I am excited to be the coaching coordinator for Black Rock Little League.  I would like to use this forum to pass along some coaching ideas from time to time.

However, as this is the first post, I want to say a few things…

  1. Thank you for coaching!  In my time with Black Rock LL we have had some wonderful coaches and quite frankly, without coaches, we have no league.
  2. While I will pass along a lot of what I know, I want to make sure you understand this, it took a long time of trial and error to learn a lot of the things I know now.  I did things wrong for years!  But one of my best qualities is knowing I don’t know everything.  I constantly learn from players, others coaches, clinics, tv announcers, articles…you name it.  If you know of a great concept, drill, etc., pass it on to all of us.  I might put right into my next practice at SHU!
  3. Feel free at ANY time to reach out to me to run any issues or ideas past me.

Okay.  With those parameters out of the way, here are a few of the basic things I would like to pass along to all our coaches.

TERMINOLOGY:

  • Be aware of your words.  Meaning, kids listen to everything you say and take on your personality.  One thing I always try to do with the younger age is BE POSITIVE. Meaning I both try to make every practice and game fun, but also I try to use words in the positive tone.
  • So for example, a kid of yours keeps swinging at the high pitch.  Can’t lay off it.  Drives you nuts.  If you say to him or her “Don’t swing at the high pitch”, the only thing he thinks of is hitting the high pitch.  Why?  Our minds don’t hear don’t.
  • Here’s is an example…Don’t think of Santa Claus on roller skates.  What did you do…you thought of Santa Claus on roller skates.  If I don’t want you to think about Santa on roller skates, I say…Think of The Easter Bunny on a moped.  So to that kid I would say, “Look for the low pitch”…”see the ball down”, etc, etc.

SKILL BUILDING:

In practice, I use this general formula for each skill, event that I am doing.  So let’s take ground balls…

  • First is break into its simplest form:  this is rolling ground balls to the kid with no glove on.
  • Next I would roll ground balls to them with their glove on.
  • Then I would hit them ground balls at their position.
  • Then I would have them throw to the bases.
  • Then I would make it a competition.  For example, whoever fields 5 balls cleanly and throws them to first.  They love it.

PLAN FOR DOWNTIME:

  • Since baseball can be slow with the younger ages (a kid at the plate who needs a lot of swings to make contact or a pitcher who won’t throw strikes), any times you keep the other players busy, the better off you will be. Of course you need help from your other coaches, but it keeps them engaged.
  • Here is an idea. Have a bucket of tennis balls and a racquet. In between each batting practice pitch, have a coach hit a pop up to an outfielder. Go from left, to center, to right. The first kid to catch 5 pop ups wins.

PROPER WARM UP:

  • When warming up the players, good to start with a light, short jog.
  • Then get them loose from the ground up. Legs, spine, upper body. Generally you should do dynamic (moving) exercises first, then static (holding) next. For example, high knees, lunges, butt kicks, toy soldiers, etc. Then more of holding movements, toe touches, groin stretch, etc.

MAKING EXERCISE FUN:

I try to never use physical activity as a punishment. Rather it should be fun.

  • You can time kids home to first, home to second, home to third, and home to home on the stop watch. They love it.
  • Team relay races, they love it.
  • Sprints where the winner is done, the rest keep going.

If you need to discipline a child, the best thing you can do is take away the sport from him or her for a bit. Sit in the dugout, banned from a practice, have to sit an inning in a game.

Contact info:

To reach me: 203.260.4932. MazzoniW@SacredHeart.edu

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