No matter the level of baseball or whether your child is playing in a league or not, summer is a great time to develop baseball fundamentals. Along with the essential baseball skills of fielding and batting, it’s also important for you as a parent to teach your child the life-long skills of sportsmanship, mental toughness and teamwork.
If your child is just starting baseball at this age, this is an ideal time for you to work with them to develop coordination, learn basic skills and enjoy the game more. The main objective at this age is to grow their enthusiasm for the game.
There are three basics to reinforce: ball, base and backup. Players should learn the importance of getting and fielding the ball in their glove, covering the bases, and backing up their teammates.
As they develop, they should learn the basics of how to swing the bat, how to catch and how to pitch. Hitting a moving baseball is very difficult to do, especially for younger players who may have never played. Get down on one knee as you pitch and ideally throw overhand softly, instead of underhand. This helps your batter identify the ball from a level closer to his eye level.
Have them pitch to you also for a change. You can never spend enough time out on the field practicing these basics. The more they play the better they will become at the game. Be patient and positive during practice and games.
Get outdoors to baseball games of any kind, whether it’s a minor league outing or a local league featuring older players. It’s a great way to spend time together and your child to observe and gain confidence from watching experienced baseball players.
As players move beyond coach-pitch and reach the age where young baseball players are pitching to each other, the challenge is keeping everyone developing at the same level. While it’s tempting to rely on the most experienced or natural pitchers, now is the time to let every child on the team have a chance at pitching and develop confidence. You might find a pitcher you never thought existed.
Have everyone try pitching first at practice. Pitching for the first time in a game can be intimidating for a young player. The most important thing is to get the ball over the plate and throw strikes.
This is also the time for you to stay involved as a parent. Be involved as a coach or at a minimum, pay close attention to the coaching your child experiences. Coaches at this level can either inspire young players or cause a player to dislike the game.
Parents and players should be able to count on coaches to be fair, consistent, organized, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and dedicated. Coaches should count on players to be there each day, work hard, hustle, follow instructions and make good decisions away from the field.
Your child needs to believe that they can achieve success at a particular position or in some element of the game. It’s not just about hitting impressive home runs and throwing strike-outs. Maybe they can learn to do a perfect bunt, steal bases or make a long throw to home plate from the outfield, those small yet remarkable baseball accomplishments that gives a player a boost of confidence and the fans in the stands something to cheer about.
This is also the stage where a player needs to understand that hard work makes for a better player. You will find that many players have natural talents, but that it takes hard work to maximize those talents and be a strong baseball player consistently.
Sportsmanship is critical to being an athlete and a fan. Make sure that the players know to cheer every single player on the team. While it’s satisfying to get behind the star player who makes the great plays, it can be equally rewarding to encourage a beginning player or even a struggling player as they break through to making contact with the ball or a make surprisingly good play in the field.
Teamwork doesn’t just happen by putting together a baseball line-up for the season. It takes nine players on a field to play the game, and they all know they need to work together to make big things happen on the field. The scores and the standings truly are secondary. Teamwork means that the team is thrilled with a loss because it was a well-played game, no one held anything back and they all played to the best of their abilities.
What you are teaching them is how to deal with life. As a parent, you want your child to learn to deal with dropping a fly ball in the outfield or striking out at the plate against a great pitcher, even if that was the play that would have won the game. You want a coach that encourages every player, and recognizes the small accomplishments that happen all the time on the baseball field.
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