Teaching a Child to Catch
Teaching a child to catch can be a very difficult endeavor. This take a great deal of time and patience, which is the fundamental building block in a child’s first year of baseball.
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One of the most difficult things to teach a child is how to throw and how to catch. There is no easy way to teach these fundamentals, it’s a matter of time and patience. The more that you play catch with a child, the easier it becomes for them to be accomplished in catching and throwing a baseball.
In most cases, the demon that you are battling is the fear of the baseball. Most children seem to have innate fear of the ball being thrown at them or the fear of being hit by the ball. This is a critical moment, and what happens in this initial phase can impact the speed of a child’s baseball development. Should a child be plunked by the ball at this point the fear of hit by the ball is magnified, and it is extremely hard to overcome that fear. As long as the child isn’t hit by the ball, and begins to catch the ball, confidence overcomes that initial fear. Now, you may ask, how is it possible to teach a child to catch without being hit; the answer is really quite simple. Again, it is a matter of steps.
- Spacing. We do not teach a child to catch by throwing across the infield. I start by standing approximately ten feet away from the child, making sure that I have their undivided attention, and looking directly at me.
- I have them hold their glove in an upright position with the glove open. I have them open and close the glove so they can begin to feel the action of the glove.
- Before tossing the ball, make sure the child is focusing on you and the ball. Toss the ball to the glove. Try to aim for the pocket that is the easiest place to catch the ball.
- Encourage the child. Make sure that he or she knows that they are making progress.
Should the child continue to have trouble, go behind the child and hold the glove up and in an open position. Have another coach throw the ball and help the child catch the ball by closing the glove when the ball strikes the glove.
I should note here that the glove is an important element in catching the ball. Although the T-ball gloves are cute, small an inexpensive, they are also very difficult to catch a ball. They have a tiny pocket and almost zero flexibility. A better choice would be the Wilson EZ Catch which has a very deep pocket and a flexible hinge that make a ball easier to catch.
As the child becomes more proficient in catching the ball, continue to move back, but continue to throw to the glove side. This will give the child the confidence to catch the ball. As experience grows have the child move the glove to the ball. This takes time and patience. Make every effort when playing catch, whether you are a coach or parent to try to throw to the glove side. When a child is hit by a ball, it normally takes a prolonged period of time to gain back the confidence to overcome the fear of being hit.
Long and the short, a quality catching period, especially for first year players, will increase the player’s ability dramatically. Building a child’s confidence is the key, and patience is required. Take your time and you will be rewarded.