Quick Tips Presented By T-Ball America

Teaching T-Ball Today
Playing Baseball and Softball for Life!

T-Ball America is the national youth sports organization dedicated to the development of the game of t-ball. T-Ball America wants to make the game of t-ball fun for the participants as well as instill an interest in both baseball and softball so kids will continue to come back to play every year. Providing the resources to put kids in a position to succeed, T-Ball America offers a variety of programs and services. It is the center for information on how to improve existing t-ball programs and establish new ones. T-Ball America is happy to work with national, regional and local youth baseball leagues, civic or community groups, parents and kids.

* T-Ball America is a Youth Sports Club company.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Four Things Coaches Should Practice But Don't!

For t-ball, the season is ending for coaches, parents and players. Some coaches may have been turned off with their first coaching experience and they are one and done. Others cannot wait to move up to the next level and put their coaching prowess to work. I want those coaches to consider the following article and make sure they file it away. If they follow the principles, they will become better coaches!

It is amazing how youth baseball teams, as well as older and more competitive organized leagues, do not practice many of the basic fundamental aspects of the game. From my standpoint, the reason I practice certain things other coaches may not is because I’ve been burned by other teams and have lost games and championships because of it. In my 25 years of coaching youth baseball, the list of things that should be practiced is long, but some situations come up over and over again.

Here are four of them:

1)    Pitchers not practicing fielding: This issue is incredible to me, although it took a few years before I started to have my pitchers practice fielding. When youth baseball teams practice fielding, usually it will include every position but the pitcher. Youth baseball coaches need to put pitchers on the mound in practice and include them in fielding drills. Coaches also need to rotate the pitchers.  Have the pitcher go through his pitching motion without the ball. The coach then throws or hits a baseball to him, and not always right at him. It can be to the left, center, and right of the pitcher. Coaches can also put one or more runners on base and declare how many outs there are and continue hitting to the pitcher, forcing him to decide on the spot which base to throw the ball to depending on the situation. The pitcher should also be accustomed to knocking the ball down, instead of fielding it cleanly, so he knows how much time he has to re-establish himself and complete the play without panic. The drills work and also get pitchers familiar with game situations.

2)    Catching a foul ball near a fence: I swear I’m the only one in my league who takes this seriously, probably because I’ve seen more catchable foul balls hit the ground than any team in my league. The scenario usually starts with a pop fly just foul of first base. The ball moves deeper into foul territory. The first baseman looks like he has a beat on the ball as he gets closer to the fence or dugout. At the same time, however, he looks like he is hesitating the further he moves into foul territory. Then plop! The ball falls right near his feet about 12-24 inches from the fence. We all know the consequences of giving away outs in youth baseball. This stuff kills me. How can coaches rectify this? At least once a year, usually before the season, I do the “Fence Drill” with my team. I start the drill on the first base side, having the players form a line behind each other, approximately 6 feet from the fence in foul territory, parallel to first base. I’m located by home plate. I throw pop ups as close to the fence as I can and instruct my players to track the ball. As they do this they should come right near the fence. They put their arm out to feel for the fence, either with their glove hand, if they are right-handed, or free hand for lefties, and then proceed to track and catch the ball. This is getting the fielders used to feeling for structures while keeping their eyes on the ball. It makes them more comfortable and helps limit the fear of getting hurt. I then move the line closer to fair territory, eventually moving the line where every player is a first baseman and has to hustle to feel for the fence first before catching the ball. I then move the line to the third base side of the infield. Is this drill fool proof? Absolutely not! But I did notice a few more catches over the course of a season if we practiced this drill. 

3)    Players not sliding at every base: This is a tough one. I’ve seen major leaguers not slide and cost their team runs. The Yankees-Oakland A’s 2001 American League Championship series comes to mind when Derek Jeter made that great backhand flip to home and Jeremy Giambi didn’t slide and cost his team a run and possibly the game and series. You can preach to your players to slide but they will continue to forget. As youth coaches, we have to remember that these are 10, 11, and 12 year-old kids and their retention is different than a high school player. But this is also something that you can practice instead of just telling the player when it comes up in a game. I want my players to slide on a force play even if they know they will be thrown out. Having a reputation, even on the youth level, that of being a team that always slides might become a potential distraction for the opposition and the fielders might bobble a throw to them at the base. When we practicing sliding, I take my team in the outfield grass and have my players remove their cleats. I have a diamond set up with throw down bases. We go through a few scenarios rotating players having them slide in the grass and this process helps. We reinforce for them to slide during the game from the coaching box. Again, not fool proof, but very effective.

4)    Practicing fielding a wild pitch or passed ball with a runner on third base: Usually not a game goes by without a wild pitch or a passed ball in youth baseball. When there is a base runner on third base, he has a better than 50% chance of scoring if he has just average speed. Let’s break this down from the defensive end. The pitcher throws the ball past the catcher. The pitcher recognizes this and rushes home to protect against the runner on third from scoring. His head is going back and forth between the base runner coming from third and the catcher getting ready to make the toss. Many times the toss from the catcher is off target or the pitcher swoops down to tag the runner without the ball.  Very few coaches practice this other than to yell out to the pitcher, “Cover home if the ball gets by the catcher,” when the situation comes up in a game. To practice this, set up the positions with a runner at third. Plant a ball behind the catcher without him seeing it. Have the pitcher do his wind up without the ball, and when the coach yells, “go,” the base runner breaks for home and the catcher locates the ball while the pitcher comes to cover home. Here we are setting up a practical situation and the catcher is practicing his toss and the pitcher is getting used to the runner coming at him while trying to secure the toss and tag. Coaches should rotate both pitchers and catchers during this drill.

These are only four situations out of many that need to be practiced. In youth baseball, coaches tend to teach during the game. Practices are the place to teach and games are the place to reinforce what we conveyed to the players. With this formula they become familiar with the situation and give your team the competitive edge on the field.

Check out Marty Schupak's best selling book:

 
All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available free, at Amazon Prime and Hoopla.
Keyword: Schupak Sports


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Young players have a hard time not throwing the bat down after hitting the ball. Many players will run to first base with the bat or will dangerously throw the bat toward the dugout or the fans.
One technique coaches might try during practice is to place one or two cones on the first base line. Make sure they are spread out. When the player hits the baseball off the tee and runs down the line, he must carry his bat and drop it either near the one cone or between the two cones.
 
Coaches can also place a baseball glove where the batter should lay down the bat. Some teams will put a parent halfway between home and first and the player will have to hand the bat to the parent as he runs down to first. Whether it is a cone, a glove, or a parent, coaches should be prepared that this is a regular issue when it comes to t‒ball. This is also an issue in the older leagues, which is why it is imperative for coaches to try solving the problem at a young age. Having a prop or person will condition the players to be aware to do something with the bat after the hit. Coaches can remove the cone, glove, or parent during the season if the team doesn’t throw the bat.
 
Related Resources:
This drill is from Marty Schupak's best selling book:

 
All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available free, at Amazon Prime and Hoopla.
Keyword: Schupak Sports

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

T-Ball Changes To Consider

Good news for baseball fans! In the younger age groups there has been a slight uptick in baseball participation. Hopefully this will continue! Baseball is fortunate now to have two rookies
Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger who may become the face of Major League baseball. Everything adds up. Baseball has also been pushing their “Play Ball” program to try and increase participation. We’ve seen baseball lose players to lacrosse and soccer over the last decade. Until we see lacrosse players switch to baseball, it is still a big challenge to retain young players. 
  Retaining players all starts in t-ball. Leagues have got to give their t-ball coaches the best instruction possible. Remember that t-ball will be the first involvement on an organized team for many. I’d like t-ball to consider four small changes.

1.Softer balls and no gloves. Yes, you saw it right! How about the first quarter of the season have the players play the game with their bare hands. Combine that with a softer and maybe bigger ball. Remember that catching balls bare-handed is the best way to learn fundamentals. After say four or five games, players then play with their gloves.

2. Make bases 20% bigger. I’ve been a huge proponent of this for a long time. Bigger bases means less collisions. Also let’s color or label each base. My idea is to make them red, white and blue. Some t-ballers will know the color of the flag before they understand baserunning. First base is red, second is white and third is blue. Home can also be white. Also write right on the base in huge letters 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Home.

3. An alternate bigger ball. Players even at 5 and 6 will vary in ability. Let’s use a bigger ball for some or even everyone for a few games.

4.Bat 1-12, them 12-1. I started this in our t-ball league which played 3 innings. My theory was the number 11 and 12 hitters don’t experience the baserunning. After they get to bat, it’s time to take the field. 

    T-Ball is one of the most fun organized games around.  There are tons of what people of my generation would call “Kodak Moments.” I’ve seen people who never even smile have a small change in their personality and look like they are having fun!  Fun can be contagious. Parents who are competitive will have plenty of time for that in a couple of years. Let’s tweak t-ball to keep players playing the great game of baseball.


Related Resources:



All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available free, at Amazon Prime.
Click here:  Schupak Sports
Also available at Hoopla FREE through your local library!


Sunday, June 16, 2019

T-Ball Tip

Discussed already is the need to separate skills with young t-ballers in early season practices. It is better to have players throw without catching, catch without throwing. Here is an easy drill:
On a fence make a line made out of blue painter’s tape. You can make the line long or short but the longer, the more kids can do the drill at once. The player(s) that are going to have a ball in their throwing hand about 20 feet (or shorter to start) from the fence. The coach will either yell “high” or “low.” If the command is “high” the players must try and throw the ball above the blue tape line. If “low” is yelled out, the players try to throw the ball below the blue line. Make sure a soft covered t-ball is used and spread the players out wide.This drill can also be easily done in a gym.


Teaching T-Ball Today!
Playing baseball and softball for life!
We put t-ball players in a position to succeed!




All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available FREE, at
 Amazon Prime.
Click here:  Schupak Baseball
Also available FREE through your local library at Hoopla.
Keyword: 
Schupak Baseball

Friday, May 31, 2019

Circle Fielding Drill

A big role in catching a flying baseball scientifically is something called ‘binocular vision’  which  some scientists think is not fully developed until age 7 or 8 in most kids. T-Ball coaches should recognize this and may be try alternate drills in practice to catching a fly like just having the player’s glove make contact with the ball.
Now the T-Ball Drill of the day:
Circle Fielding Drill
Goal
Learn how to catch ground balls
Equipment
You need anywhere from 2 to 4 soft covered balls you can you also use balls larger in size than the baseball size
Description
The circle drill is a fun drill that we use with older kids with their gloves however in t-ball it is recommended to do this drill without gloves at first. Not using gloves will motivate younger
t-baller’s to catch the ball with their hands and upon feeling the ball into their hands to squeeze it. I recommend the no glove theory as long as the balls used are safe. It is an excellent precursor to using gloves.
1. If your team has 12 players make a circle or form a circle about arm’s length apart.
2. To start the coach should take the position in the circle and when he says “go” the coach will throw a ground ball to another player in the circle
3. Upon either catching the ball or just stopping the ball whoever that the ball was thrown to will pick it up and throw it to another person in the circle
4. A player can throw to anyone in the circle but never to anyone right next to him on either side.
5. The coach will count the number of balls that players field cleanly.
6. The goal for all the players is to catch the ball cleanly. However the coach should emphasize that stopping the ball can be just as good an option.
Important tips
A challenge in this drill is to use two baseballs. Coaches can subdivide the players into two smaller circles. One of the advantages of having to multiple circles is that you can divide the players by ability and adjust the circle size the same way. Coaches can challenge the circle giving one point for just stopping the ball and two points if they catch it cleanly. Once the players are doing well playing this game without gloves, coaches can then have the players get their gloves. Coaches should make it a point that players have to throw overhand. Spreading the players out enough in the circle will help but not guarantee uncertainty about who will catch the ball if it goes in between two players.
Benefits
In games like the circle game t-ballers are learning to follow instructions and learning to keep their heads down when catching grounders.
For complete drill and more free tips go to:


T-Ball America
Teaching T-Ball Today!
Playing baseball and softball for life!
We put t-ball players in a position to succeed!

All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available FREE, at
 Amazon Prime.
Click here:  Schupak Baseball
Also available FREE through your local library at Hoopla.
Keyword: 
Schupak Baseball

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

T-Ball Tip- Stop The Ball Goalie Fielding Drill

This drill is from Marty Schupak's newest t-ball book:
T-Ball Drills: For Ages 4-7
Available January 1st, 2020
Stop The Ball Goalie Fielding Drill 
Goal
Teaching players to move their feet on ground balls.
Equipment
Cones and a bucket of balls and gloves.
Time
5-10 minutes.
Description
This is a drill kids love. Parents and coaches can use this drill in a team practice situation or at one’s home. It is so important that young kids even as young as tee ballers learn the concept of trying to keep the ball in front of them. This combined with the concept of moving their feet will become beneficial habits once they get older.
  1. Two cones are set up 10 to 15 feet apart depending on the age and ability of the players.
  2. One player will stand between the two cones.
  3. Coaches should have a player backing up. Either the player that just went or the players that is going next.
  4. The coach will throw ground balls between the cones, and the player will try to stop the ball with his glove. The object it to keep the ball in front of him. This is similar to a hockey goalie stopping a puck.
  5. Coaches can use a time limit or a predetermined number of balls.
  6. For t-ballers it is encouraged to use bigger balls at first.
Important Tips
It is important to adjust the width of the cones by age and/or ability. Coaches should toss the ball on the ground without a regular pattern so the players will not anticipate which side he is throwing the ball. Coaches should also allow the player to get somewhat set between each toss. We want players to move their feet toward the ball instead of just reaching for it. A great concept to teach young players is that many times successful fielding plays are made without catching the ball cleanly. Keeping the ball in front of them gives them almost as good a chance of making the play as catching it cleanly. Coaches can set this up as a competition which kids love giving one point for each stop. For older players this drill is a dual purpose drill combining the stopping of the ball with general conditioning. Doing this drill for an expanded period of time making the space of the cones wide can be very taxing physically for older players.
Benefits
Teaching players why it is important to move their feet toward the ball instead of just reaching for it. Also we are conditioning young players that stopping a moving ball can be just as effective as catching it.
All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available FREE, at
Click here:  Schupak Baseball
Also available FREE through your local library at Hoopla.
Keyword: 

Monday, May 27, 2019

Color Ball Reaction Drill

This drill is from Marty Schupak's newest t-ball book:
T-Ball Drills: For Ages 4-7
Available January 1st, 2020

Color Ball Reaction Drill

Goal
Get players to react on visually recognizing the color of a ball.

Time
2-4 Minutes

Equipment
A plastic golf balls with 2 different colors.

Description
This may be the most advanced drill you’ll see for t-ball players. When I first introduced this drill it was for my team of 10, 11 and 12 year olds. I adjusted it a little bit for t-ball players so instead of catching the ball the player just has to slap or knock it down to the ground.  It is still very challenging for kids this young but don’t be reluctant to expose them to it especially the older kids on the team. This is an excellent at home drill that you should make your parents aware of. The two color plastic golf balls I used were white and yellow. I used the wiffle ball type with the holes in it.
  1. Take 2 different colored plastic balls about golf ball size.
  2. Say yellow and white using about 6 for each color.
  3. Explain to your players when the yellow ball is tossed, he has to use his left hand.
  4. When white ball is tossed, he has to use his right hand.
  5. The coach or parent will toss the ball underhand about 10 feet from the player.
  6. The player must recognize the color of the ball and knock it down with the appropriate hand.
  7. Go through using all of the balls.
Tips
Adjust the distance depending on the ability of the player. You can also help the player out tossing the ball extra high and if you see he is unsure, yell out the hand to use. You can try this drill with larger balls but make sure they are soft. If you want to challenge the better athletes (usually done after t-ball) designate one color for left, one for right and one to let go. As long as the ball is non-threatening and soft, there is nothing wring with letting hit the player’s body. Or you can do 2 colors for one hand and only 1 color for the other.


All of Marty Schupak sports instructional videos are available FREE, at
 Amazon Prime.
Click here:  Schupak Baseball
Also available FREE through your local library at Hoopla. Keyword: 
Schupak Baseball