How to Teach Kids Baseball (without Losing Your Mind)

in EXPERIENCES

By Bethany Johnson

When you love baseball, you can’t help but share that zeal with your kids. For generations, parents have spent time in the backyard, teaching kids baseball basics—and while you’re honoring an all-American tradition, it can still be downright frustrating if your youngster isn’t “getting it.”

Often, parents just need an easy-to-follow progression. The secret of how to teach kids baseball is as simple as practicing a few drills and then putting the exercises together to form a complete game. Here’s how to get started:

Begin Off-Field

Don’t start out by dragging your kid to the batting cages and wishing them luck. Instead, get your little slugger pumped up by donning the same war paint athletes have worn for years: Smear on eye black for the full effect, or grab a pair of customized EyeBlacks with your favorite Major League Baseball team logo.

Talk Mindset

Once you’ve got them looking good, prepare them mentally by having a discussion about sportsmanship. Watch a couple of videos together to see what the pros have to say. The MLB.com video series has a collection of firsthand accounts from heroic players who took the high road. Start with Anthony Rizzo’s recent run-in with umpire Angel Hernandez.

Create a Mini Diamond

When you’re trying to figure out how to teach kids baseball, you may be overwhelmed by the size of the task. If you shrink the field it can have a calming, distraction-eliminating effect that reduces confusion for both of you. Lay down rags for bases, and tell your child what each position is called. Next, grab a whiffle ball and explain the plan.

Use a Progression of Drills

What is “the plan”? The plan is a set of drills that progresses to a cohesive strategy. You see, some kids struggle to connect and mobilize different lessons when the pressure is on. When you’re teaching kids baseball, you should stick to drills that will mimic what they’ll do at pivotal moments. Here’s a list of quick drills for how to teach kids baseball basics in small, digestible increments:

  • Basic batting off a tee
  • Running and stopping quickly (Time your child and have them try to beat their own time.)
  • Running and passing a base, then pivoting back to it as quickly as possible
  • Running and stopping on a base, then, at your whistle cue, continuing to the next base quickly
  • Running the full course of bases with an ear out for your whistle (on your cue, choosing to return to previous base or hustle to achieve the next one)

You can see how once the nine fielding positions are populated, your little runner will know exactly what to do. They’ll take cues from other players and make split-second decisions when it matters.

Gamify Your Practice

Next, try each of these defensive moves, one after the other, progressing only after your little player has mastered the previous skill. Gamify the practice by challenging your kid to achieve three perfect executions (in a row) before they can “unlock” the next activity:

  • Receiving soft, underhanded tosses from five yards away
  • Receiving rolled grounders from five yards away
  • Returning throws, one after another, without break

Keep the Inspiration Alive

Don’t let your child get discouraged. Instead, call it quits when they’ve had enough, and keep the excitement going by rewarding their best milestone with their favorite team’s fanwear, like these cool Los Angeles Angels Victory sneakers. Grab a cozy pair of Youth Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Jersey Slippers, too, so your kid can wear their pride into the evening.

Always Go Back to Mindset

Baseball hero Yogi Berra famously said that baseball is 90 percent mental: That’s why a goal-oriented progression works so well. The simple tasks included in the drill progression above combined with other fun motivators will ensure your kid persists and continues to try, try again.

Start to teach your kid baseball by taking a lesson in sportsmanship together. That way, you'll both stay cool when frustrations arise. Click here to check out MLB.com's best video compilation of inspiring real-life sportsmanship.

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