When developing younger baseball players, there are different techniques that can help you with different aspects of the game. Here are three tips that may help you with a youth baseball player's development:
1 - Practicing different positions
Most competitive young baseball players will have a primary position that they will stay at throughout a whole season or even their career because it’s what they’re best at (comfort for them) and what gives their team the best chance of winning (comfort for the coach). However, just because a player plays one position doesn’t mean they can’t and shouldn't practice others. It also doesn't mean it will be their best position later on after they have finished with their growth spurt. When they practice different positions they get the opportunity to use their bodies in different ways. The value of this is their body gets put in different situations which can allow them to develop different techniques - good for both long term athletic development as well as simply being more versatile. For example, if you have an outfielder, they will typically throw the ball with a long arm because of the importance of a strong throw rather than a quick release. If an outfielder spends some time practicing middle infield play however, they will have the opportunity to develop skills involving a quick release which may come in handy in some outfield situations...or if they have to play a game in the infield...or if someday a coach wants to see what they look like in the infield. In general, it would be a good idea for every player, regardless of primary position, to practice middle infield play because of the consistent opportunity to use their athleticism and put their body in different positions.
2 - Encourage kids to throw from different arm slots
Learning to throw a baseball from different arm angles can help a player with a couple of different things. It can help them learn skills that they can use at different positions and help teach their bodies how to adjust in a split-second when it really counts. Every position will require players to throw different ways based on the amount of time they have to throw the ball and what position/angle their body may be at at a given time. The more they get to throw from different angles, the more their bodies will understand how to adjust to different throws.
3 - Understand that everyone is different
Although you may think a certain technique is "correct", it doesn’t mean that it’s the best technique for every player...or that it is the only way that is "correct"...or that it is even "correct" at all. Every player will have their own way of doing things based on the current make up of their bodies in terms of strength, mobility and simple structure. Your job as a coach is to try and make what comes naturally work to the best of their ability. This doesn’t mean you can’t adjust something an athlete does, but it means don’t try and make them something they’re not - not today, anyway. For example, if you have a pitcher that has a unique leg kick, don’t change them to make them look normal unless you really feel that it is having a negative effect on outcome or is dangerous. If the player is doing something that’s natural to them, consider finding a way to get the best out of their natural movement instead of trying to tear them down and build them back up from scratch. It may never work out and it may not be the right course of action anyway.
If you can be open to understanding that all players are created differently, have developed differently, and can be helped by being put in different situations and practicing them as well, you may be able to help develop youth baseball players more effectively than by pigeon-holing them and forcing technique that may or may not be relevant or optimal.
Kevin Hussey - The Baseball Zone
Image courtesy of coaching-athleticadministration.ohio.edu