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Coaching Tips

10 Youth Baseball Coaching Tips

Little League Coaching Tips

Every spring, youth baseball programs welcome legions of first-time coaches. This is especially true at the lowest levels of the game, like tee ball and coach pitch. But even competitive travel clubs and some high schools use parents and volunteers as assistants.

While most rookie coaches have at least a little bit of playing experience, any coach with a few seasons under their belt can tell you there’s a big difference between playing the game and teaching it.

Many parents and rookie coaches feel lost on their first day of practice, and over the course of the season they struggle to build a program that keeps kids interested and having fun — not to mention one that helps them develop into better baseball players.

This article offers 10 easy-to-implement tips that will help you, your players, and their parents all have a better experience.

1. Make a practice plan
2. Keep players moving
3. Skip conditioning
4. Limit the number of throws
5. Throw BP underhand
6. Use a variety of equipment
7. Focus on movements, not mechanics
8. Coach all the players
9. Enforce a dress code
10. Keep it positive
11. Youth baseball FAQ

Coaching Youth Baseball (The Right Way)

Quality baseball coaching resources are few and far between. Most of the books and articles that are available either teach advanced mechanics (often based on questionable or nonexistent evidence) or are trying to sell you some gimmicky training tool or program that’s probably a waste of money.

On top of that, unlike most other major sports, baseball has a weak governing body that requires no certification for coaches at any level. Since no credentials are required, few training opportunities exist — and there’s no standardization across the ones that do.

The result of that combination of lack of information and lack of training can be seen at almost every amateur ballpark around the world. Baseball practices are often slow, boring and ineffective. You know the scene: a coach throws batting practice to one hitter while everyone else stands around in the field lazily waiting to shag balls.

Kids quit the game because practices like those are so boring. And the ones who don’t aren’t getting the high-quality experience they deserve.

I put together this list of 10 essential tips for new baseball coaches to help you run better practices that will leave your players feeling excited about the sport and eager to come back.

1. Make a Practice Plan

Effective coaches at all ages and skill levels prepare practice plans in advance, and then stick to them when they’re out on the field. Whether you’re coaching a competitive travel club, a local Little League team comprised of mostly casual players, or even a tee ball team, you should come to the ballpark with a minute-by-minute schedule that outlines (at least) the following:

  • What time each part of practice starts and stops
  • Which players will participate in which drills
  • How many repetitions each player will get from each drill

Having a practice plan accomplishes a couple of different things.

It forces you to think about your practice design ahead of time. Most amateur baseball coaches just show up to the field and wing it. And more often than not, they run the exact same practice every time: stretch, warm up, team infield and outfield, then batting practice where one kid hits and everyone else stands around shagging balls (i.e., doing nothing). Developing a practice plan gives you an opportunity to be more thoughtful about your goals for your team.

It helps you use your practice time more efficiently. Youth baseball practices tend to devolve into either chaos or lethargy. Having a set schedule in your hands will help you keep your practice moving, but also provides a time constraint for each drill or station. Knowing how much time you have for each segment of practice will help you monitor your team’s progress and avoid situations where a drill that was supposed to take 15 minutes stretches to 30 because 25% of the team didn’t complete their reps in the allotted window.

There are many other reasons to use a practice plan, and many ways to design them. I’ll be writing about those topics more on this blog in the future. 

One important thing to keep in mind is that a practice plan doesn’t have to be written in stone. It’s perfectly fine to deviate from your plan when necessary, and you should do so any time you realize that your drills aren’t working or aren’t productive. The overarching point of using a practice plan at the youth level is to be thoughtful about the structure and goals of your training session.

Here’s an example of an actual practice plan I used for an indoor training session.

2. Keep Players Moving

One of the reasons many kids think of baseball as a boring sport is because practices usually involve lots of standing around doing nothing — either waiting in line to take a turn fielding a grounder or fly ball, or standing around in the field waiting for a play while a teammate hits BP.

When players finally get up to the plate themselves, they usually get 10-20 swings before heading back to the field.

It’s true that baseball games are slow, but baseball practices don’t need to be any less active than those of other sports. As noted above, one of the key reasons it’s crucial to have a practice plan is to eliminate unnecessary downtime and keep your players moving. Doing so will help them stay focused and engaged.

There are two key aspects to limiting downtime:

First, try to limit the amount of time spent in transition. It’s easy for a team to spend 10 or 15 minutes shifting from one drill to the next — especially if you have to pick up balls and move equipment around. Do your best to set up practice in a way that minimizes this time, and factor it into your schedule.

Second, design your drills so that all players have something to do at all times. Short rest breaks in between reps are fine, but in general all players should be actively engaged in training for 100% of the practice.

Here are a few tips for active drill design:

Keep groups as small as possible. If you have 10 players at practice, you only need to set up five hitting stations to have two-person teams.

Keep you drill duration short. Limiting the number of players in each group means they’re each getting more reps, so you don’t need to spend as long at each station. If you have five hitting stations with groups of two, you can easily rotate them every 10 minutes. In this practice design, each player would get 20 to 25 minutes of actual swings ⁠— which is more than sufficient for youth players.

Use a whistle. Your voice is going to get hoarse from constantly calling out station changes. Using a whistle will save your voice for actual instruction. Plus, it’s easy for every player to hear no matter where they are on the field.

You’ll be surprised by just how much this simple tool improves the efficiency of your practice — just be ready to get some snickers and teasing from your fellow coaches, who aren’t used to seeing their colleagues do anything out of the ordinary.

3. Skip Conditioning

If you’ve designed a practice plan that keeps players moving and actively engaged throughout the session, there’s no need to spend time doing conditioning work — they’ll be tired at the end of practice.

Here are two specific reasons why having a separate conditioning component in your baseball practices is a misguided idea.

First, improving the physical conditioning of athletes requires a consistent, systematic approach implemented over time. Running wind sprints and laps a few times a week will have zero meaningful impact on your players’ conditioning or athletic performance.

Second, as noted above, it’s unnecessary because it can be integrated directly into practice. Sprinting, agility and endurance training can and should be a part of your drill design. It’s better to have your player expend their energy on baseball-specific activities than on a few random exercises.

4. Limit the Total Number of Throws

Youth baseball players have always complained about sore arms, dead arms, and the dreaded “Little League elbow,” but arm injuries among pitchers have skyrocketed in recent years, and the evidence for the cause of the epidemic is building towards the following consensus:

The primary culprit is overuse, coupled with better data and training methods that have helped players throw harder more consistently and at younger ages.

Let’s be clear about one thing: throwing a ball at half effort is not the same as throwing a ball at max effort. The latter puts substantially more strain on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the arm (particularly in the shoulder and elbow). That’s not surprising when you think about the basic physics of throwing an object: more velocity requires more energy, which requires more exertion.

Still, elite baseball programs closely monitor their players’ total number of throws — from warmups to the end of practice. You probably already know that pitchers’ throwing sessions are planned on a pitch-by-pitch basis, but the same holds true (albeit to a lesser extent) for position players. College programs in particular often map out a specific number of throws per drill, or specify exactly how many throws players will make from certain distances on a given day. And the numbers are lower than most people expect. We’re talking dozens, not hundreds, of throws per day.

Youth and Little League coaches rarely exercise caution when it comes to their players’ aggregate throwing loads, with many believing that throwing as much as possible is beneficial rather than detrimental to arm health. Unfortunately, there’s no empirical evidence to support that position.

As a result, youth baseball players often make way too many throws in a given practice. If warmups last for 15 minutes, chances are they’ll make 50-75 throws before practice even starts. If you then have them make throws to finish plays during infield/outfield, throw BP to their teammates in the cage, etc., their total per-practice loan can easily clock in at 200 or 300 by the end of the session.

To avoid this, build throwing load into your practice plan. Determine how many throws you want your players to make, and then design practices with that goal in mind.

5. Throw BP Underhand

Most coaches will never admit it, but their arms are just as susceptible to overuse as players’ arms. It’s a matter of pride to be able to throw 250 BP pitches, but it’s not healthy over the course of a season.

Arm health issues aside, the most compelling reason to throw BP underhand is this: most coaches are terrible at throwing BP and waste time feeding players bad pitches.

Here are some of the problems with bad overhand BP:

You throw too many bad pitches, which wastes time.

Your lack of control encourages hitters to swing at bad pitches, which leads to bad swing mechanics and teaches them the wrong hitting approach.

Your pitches have an unrealistic downward trajectory. Most of the time, you’re standing too close to the plate, which can significantly change the path of the ball and its angle at the point of contact. Plus, if you’re throwing to young kids, you’re much taller than them, which just exacerbates the problem.

You don’t throw the ball hard enough to simulate actual pitching. If you’re standing 35 feet away from an 11 year old who is 12 inches shorter than you, you’re going to be inclined to dial it back so as not to hurt or intimidate them. That results in loopy, unrealistic pitches.

Underhand BP shouldn’t equate to soft BP.

Throwing underhand doesn’t mean throwing soft. To the contrary, utilizing this approach (sometimes referred to as front toss) will allow you to feed your players a consistent stream of fast, hittable strikes that have a relatively accurate similar downward trajectory to actual pitches.

Just move an L-screen to about halfway (or a little bit less) between the mound and the plate, and feed firm, straight pitches around the hitting zone. You’ll save your arm and your hitters will have a better experience.

6. Use a Variety of Equipment

It’s OK if you don’t have access to all the latest training gear — you can run a fun and efficient practice with cheap, easy to find objects. Here are some of the essentials that should be in your coaching toolbox:

Small plastic cones: use them for showing the proper routes to fly balls and grounders, and as place markers for drills. These cones, which cost a couple of dollars each on Amazon, will help keep your players where they’re supposed to be and your training session properly spaced.

Tennis balls: use them for bare-hands fielding drills, and hitting drills where limited space is available. At about $45 for a bag of 60, it’s a small investment that will significantly expand your ability to run a dynamic practice.

Practice golf balls (about $10 for 30) and an Easton Thunder Stick (about $50): a go-to drill, especially for young players, is simply hitting plastic golf balls with thin bats. It’s essentially stickball, and it’s great for developing hand-eye coordination. There’s a number of commercial options on the market, but you can also use basic dowel rods from Amazon or a local hardware store.

7. Focus on Movements, Not Mechanics

There is limited consensus — even among professional coaches — about what constitutes proper baseball mechanics. If you’re someone who hasn’t studied the science of the game, doesn’t have a background in a field like sport performance or biomechanics, and only played baseball at the high school level or lower, chances are you don’t actually know what’s right and wrong.

Here are just a few concepts that are widely-taught by youth baseball coaches but flat-out incorrect:

  • Back elbow up
  • Hit the ball on the ground
  • Never take the third strike
  • Squish the bug
  • Swing level
  • The list goes on…

The good news is that it doesn’t really matter. At the lowest levels of the game, you should be focusing on teaching movements rather than mechanics.

What do I mean by movements?

Movements are general and mechanics are specific. If you’re an econ major, think of movements as being the macro level and mechanics as being the micro level.

The mechanics of hitting are complex, but the movements required to successfully execute those mechanics are simple. Most coaches skip the movements phase and try to teach mechanics first. And it doesn’t work.

You’ve probably seen this approach in action: a coach will take a kid who has never swung a baseball bat before, stand him or her up at the plate, and start by explaining how to hold the bat, how to hold the elbow, how long of a step to take, etc.

Then, they expect the kid to remember and execute that list of instructions in a coordinated fashion.

The result? A stiff, awkward and robotic swing that is completely out of sequence.

That’s because the player’s brain is trying to process too many new things at the same time, and because he or she doesn’t have the basic movement patterns in place to actually string those instructions together.

If you need to learn about what constitutes good swing movements, check out The Hitting Vault and Driveline ⁠— two solid resources.

8. Coach All the Players… Even the Bad Ones

There are some coaches who are advocates for equal playing time. I’m not one of them! It’s important for kids to learn to work for the results they want. The opportunity to pursue a goal in the face of challenges and adversity is one of the most valuable aspects of participation in youth sports. So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with divvying up playing time based on skill.

But in practice, every player should be treated equally. And all too often, that’s far from the case. Some coaches tend to view “bad” players as distractions that take reps and practice time away from the “good” players ⁠— the ones who carry the team and who they assume will move on to the next level.

When you design your practice plan, you should strive to avoid this type of skill bias and actively seek to fully incorporate your “bad” players into the training program. Doing so will help them improve while also building both a more cohesive team and a more fun environment for everyone involved.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every player should do the exact same thing. Especially at lower levels like 12-and-under Little League, you may have a team with players across a dramatic range of skills and abilities ⁠— from a 12-year-old all-star who’s been taking private lessons for six years to a 10-year-old who has never touched a baseball bat before.

It’s perfectly reasonable to run players through drills appropriate to their particular skill level, so long as you’re not using those drills as a way to segregate them from the rest of the team.

9. Enforce a Dress Code

Lots of coaches try to run their ballclub like it’s a military regiment or their own personal fiefdom. In some cases, they sincerely think that’s the right approach. In other cases, I suspect it’s because their team is the only sphere in which they have any meaningful power or control.

Regardless of the rationale, it’s a poor way to teach the right lessons and get the most out of your players. People tend to learn better when they feel positive and are having a good time. So, it’s helpful to be self-reflective about whether you’re letting your ego influence how you run your team.

With that said, there’s truth to the idea that sloppiness leads to sloppiness. In my experience, sloppiness of dress reflects sloppiness of attitude ⁠— which can easily bleed into your team’s on-field activities.

I recommend setting and enforcing a very basic dress code: baseball pants, tucked-in shirts, and forward ballcaps. Some players won’t like it at first, but over time they’ll come to appreciate being part of a program that respects them enough to demand a little extra attention to detail.

10. Keep It Positive

Negative reinforcement never works. It doesn’t help your players get better — it only breaks their spirits, demotivates them, and leads to fear, self-doubt and anxiety. Whether your focus as a coach is on performance (i.e., development and winning) or on building life skills like sportsmanship and teamwork, negative reinforcement undermines your efforts.

I never criticize players for mistakes or errors. They’re trying to perform up to your expectations. Players don’t want to let a ground ball roll under their glove or make a boneheaded move on the bases. Nobody is more embarrassed by a mistake than the player who made it. So keep your frustration in check and don’t exacerbate their sense of failure.

With that said, I do criticize my teams when I feel they’re showing a lack of hustle, a lack of effort or a lack of focus. I don’t care if a player messes up a play, but I care deeply if they don’t finish a play or only go after a ball at half-speed.

That criticism should be corrective rather than coercive. Your goal should be to get players to change their behavior on their own, not to force them to change it in order to avoid punishment (like running laps).

Here are some rules to live by for keeping it positive:

Never criticize players under the age of 10 for any reason. If they’re being lazy, picking daisies, digging holes or doing whatever… well, have you ever met a 9-year-old?

Keeping it positive doesn’t mean accepting a lack of focus ⁠— it means recalibrating your practice in a positive and productive manner. Call the team in and regroup. Better yet, change the drill! And remember: if you’re using a good practice plan, those kids will always have something to do and won’t have time to get bored or distracted.

Never criticize performance. Instead, set the expectation for a high level of effort. Errors and mistakes are fine, but being lazy and goofing off aren’t. Of course, the line between performance and effort isn’t always that clear cut. For example, I hate dropped baseballs ⁠— in warmups, when shagging, everywhere. They’re a scourge!

While dropped baseballs are technically a physical mistake, I classify them as the product of poor focus. As such, I will absolutely stop practice to refocus the team’s attention on avoiding that particular form of sloppiness.

Never criticize individual players. Singling a kid out, even once, can sour their experience and make them hate coming to practice. Hold your team accountable as a unit, and if you need to talk to one player about something like unacceptable behavior or a bad attitude, do so in private.

Related: Youth Baseball and Burnout — Why Pushing Too Hard Can Harm Kids’ Mental Health.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the questions commonly asked by youth baseball coaches and parents.

What Does a Youth Baseball Coach Do?

Just like in professional baseball, youth teams usually have both a head coach (often called the manager), and one or more assistant coaches. The head coach/manager is the primary person responsible for coordinating everything associated with both practice and game-day activities. Some of the responsibilities shared by all head coaches include:

— Making a practice plan.
— Overseeing training sessions.
— Ensuring player safety and injury prevention.
— Determining a batting order for each game.
— Assigning players to positions and allocating playing time.
— Making pitching changes.
— Implementing in-game strategy, such as bunting, stealing, etc.

Depending on the type of team, its resources, the commitment of the parents and other external help, many coaches also have to deal with things like:

Transportation: Not all kids have access to reliable transportation to and from games. This can be an especially big problem if you’re coaching a travel ball team, and you should be aware that it can be a prohibitive factor for players from less well-off families. Coaches sometimes have to organize or provide transportation to and from practices and games.

Logistics: Getting in the car and driving yourself to your destination is one thing, but if you’re coaching a travel ball or all-star team, be prepared for additional headaches. It often falls on the coach’s shoulders to book hotels, manage carpools and find vans/buses.

Interpersonal problems: You’ll have kids who don’t get along, parents who don’t get along with each other, and no matter how well you do your job – trust me on this one – parents who don’t get along with you. Being a baseball coach (even at the t-ball level) requires a high degree of emotional intelligence and the ability to smooth over combustible situations.

You my have noticed something missing from this list: instructing players in baseball fundamentals.

The plain fact of the matter is that most youth coaches put the cart before the horse; they mistakenly think the job is primarily about teaching kids how to catch fly balls and run the bases.

No matter what level you coach at – from baby ball to the pros – your effectiveness at managing these administrative tasks and interpersonal challenges will determine your success in every other area.

I recommend that you go into your coaching career understanding that these challenges are central to the job, and that only when you manage them effectively will you have a cohesive team and a stress-free environment that’s conducive to learning and development.   

What’s more important – winning or development?

Most coaches – especially the ones who want to sell you lessons, systems or products – will tell you the answer is development, hands down. Their logic (which makes sense) is that Little League and travel ball games don’t matter; that some stupid plastic trophy or a medal is irrelevant, and what really counts is making sure you’re helping your players consistently improve and move on to the next level.

My take on this question is less black and white.

When I was a kid, I cared deeply about winning. I can remember being devastated when my 10 and under Little League team (Dixon-Cottrill Realty) lost the final game of the season to our arch-rivals (Ballard Plumbing), and failed to “win the league” by finishing with the best record. That was one of the most intense games of the most intense season in my life, and I absolutely relish those memories. For me and my teammates, winning absolutely mattered.

And of course it did. When you play a game, your goal is to win. That’s the whole point. It’s patronizing to suggest that children don’t care about winning. They care about it just as much as we do.

Learning to compete is important. And so is learning how to win and lose with grace, dignity and respect for your opponent. When we eliminate the competitive elements from our sports, we deny our children the opportunity to learn these lessons. We take away their opportunity to play for something that matters, to learn to handle the pressure of staring down Ballard Plumbing’s best hitter in the bottom of the 6th with your teammates cheering you on.

And we deny them amazing memories. For the overwhelming majority of youth baseball players, these games will be their last. Most will never play beyond Little League. A few will go on to high school. Almost none will play in college. For them, these are the highest stakes. These are their glory days.

And I think we should embrace that. I think we should strive to help them understand the joy of victory and the sting of defeat.

Coaches who preach development only are stuck in a bubble. They want to coach every player like he or she is an elite athlete, when almost none are. Still, I understand the inclination to say that we as coaches should not decide who does and doesn’t have elite potential, and that if we focus too much on winning we can make decisions that deny players the opportunity to focus on development.

But it doesn’t need to be an either or choice. It’s possible to run your training sessions from a development-first perspective and then play to win on game day.

How long should a practice be?

A typical baseball practice runs between 90 and 180 minutes. In my opinion, most youth programs should stick to a two-hour time slot. For younger players – especially those ages 10 and under – 90 minutes should be completely sufficient if you’re utilizing a well-designed practice plan.

In my opinion, there are almost no circumstances in which a practice should run longer than two hours. Your players will be fatigued, which means they’ll be practicing the wrong movements and putting themselves at heightened risk of injury.

What kinds of gear do you need for the season?

If you’re coaching Little League, the essential equipment is usually provided, including bats, helmets, baseballs and catcher’s gear. However, this equipment is usually well-worn and way past its prime, so you may find yourself wanting to invest in some upgrades.

If you’re coaching in a more advanced league, such as a travel club, most players will have their own gear and you’ll only need to provide balls and whatever else is necessary for setting up practice.

Can you coach baseball with zero training?

Yes, you absolutely can. In fact, almost all baseball coaches have zero training.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

First, baseball’s governing and professional organizations tend to be fairly weak, disorganized and decentralized. The prime example is USA Baseball, which is the official organization of amateur baseball in the United States. USA baseball has virtually zero interaction with state high school athletic associations, Little League, AAU, etc., which means it doesn’t have much leverage to impose standards (let alone a coaching certification system).

In my opinion, that should change: too many bad coaches have hindered or harmed players’ development by teaching downright dangerous movements and mechanics, and too many kids have quit the game because of programs being poorly run.

Second, it would be difficult to develop a sport-wide coaching certification program because there’s very little agreement within the baseball community about what constitutes “correct” fundamentals.

In an ideal world, USA Baseball, the American Baseball Coaches Association, and other key players would collaborate to develop a set of science-based best practices and developmental benchmarks, which could then serve as a baseline for coach certification and evaluation.

What should your first priority be as a baseball coach?

Your first priority should be the safety of your players — both in terms of preventing injuries stemming from things like on-field collision and those stemming from bad mechanics and overuse.

A very close second should be fostering a love for the game. Chances are that none of the kids you coach will ever get paid to play baseball. But you have an opportunity to build their love for this great cultural institution.

What’s the best way to allocate playing time?

At the Little League level, players should all play about the same amount of time. It won’t kill your star shortstop to sit for a couple of innings so that a less talented player can get two at bats instead of just one. When it comes to competitive teams at higher ages and skill levels, the best players should play the most.

However, I think that every player should be given equal treatment in practice, and that playing time should never be set in stone. I am constantly re-evaluating my lineup, and I’m constantly looking for ways to help non-starters get more playing time.

Why do kids hate playing the outfield?

Because in youth baseball, the outfield is boring. Few balls get hit there, so there’s not much to do. It also tends to be where coaches put their weakest players, so being sent to the outfield is disappointing. Plus, you’re just a long way away from the action.

Your goal as a coach should be to make the outfield a desirable and prestigious position. And that happens in practice. The better your drill design is the more fun your players will have, and the more they’ll understand that outfielders always have an important role — not to mention the chance to make huge, highlight reel plays.

But most coaches don’t bother. They just stick the “bad” players out there and hope they don’t screw something up.

How do you make a baseball practice fun and useful?

When it comes to keeping baseball practice fun, keep it active and upbeat. When it comes to making it useful, the key is make sure you’ve designed your practice in a way that gives each player enough reps to actually improve.

Most of the time, kids get 20 or 30 swings over the course of a two-hour practice… that’s not even remotely enough. You goal should be that players are constantly moving during drills, with only brief pauses in between reps.

Written By

Jim Malec is the founder and editor of Chalk and Clay. A DC-based writer, editor and content strategist, he has more than two decades of baseball coaching experience at levels ranging from t-ball to semi-pro. He can be reached by email at [email protected].



  1. Joe Salcido

    January 13, 2023 at 1:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with a Dad who is all-in on coaching his son’s 8U team this Spring. I’m certainly going to implement these components into our practices, but more importantly, into our philosophy as we approach this great game! I’m nervous but optimistic that we’ll have a great time growing together both in baseball and in life.

    Joe Salcido
    El Paso, Texas

    • Jim Malec

      January 13, 2023 at 3:09 pm

      Hi Joe! Thanks for reading and for leaving this nice comment. I wish you and your team the best of luck this year. Let us know how it goes, and if you have any questions or need a sounding board for ideas, feel free to send me an email.

  2. Scottie Stone

    February 23, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Lifesaving article right here! I turned down coaching my son’s 9U team twice before being approached by the commissioner a third time. The team wouldn’t have a coach if I didn’t step up. I haven’t coached since Tball so I am starting from almost scratch. This article has been a ton of help and will, at the least, provide me with a foundation to build on for these kiddos.

    • Jim Malec

      February 23, 2023 at 5:33 pm

      Best of luck, Scottie! You’re gonna do great. Let us know how it goes. Coaching kids of that age can be a real challenge. Of all the tips here, I’d focus on keeping it fun, keeping it positive and keeping them active. They’ll get bored and distracted quickly, so I’d opt for shorter, more active practices when possible.

  3. Chris W.

    April 4, 2023 at 11:40 am

    Thank you for such great insight. I am a new coach of a 9/10u kid-pitch rec team, and though I think I know the game of baseball pretty well, I have found out very quickly that this level and position of leadership is tougher than it looks. I appreciate the suggestions, and I have taken many notes from this article.

    • Jim Malec

      April 5, 2023 at 1:10 pm

      Thanks for reading, and good luck!

  4. Keith Mitchell

    April 4, 2023 at 3:15 pm

    This is absolutely spot on, needs to be a mandatory read before signing up to coach!! I am coaching 9u travel and 10u rec, these are words of gold!!

    • Jim Malec

      April 5, 2023 at 1:11 pm

      I appreciate it, Keith! Very kind words.

  5. Philip Moser

    April 25, 2023 at 4:12 pm

    Very helpful article! I need to do a deep dive on two of the myths you listed:

    1)Hit the ball on the ground (hit the top half of the ball to keep from popping out)

    2) Never take the third strike (I thought this was gospel unless you’re in the MLB)

    Can you point to more resources as to why those are bad advice?



    • Jim Malec

      April 25, 2023 at 4:31 pm

      Hi Philip,

      Thanks for reading, and for the comments/questions.

      With regard to your first question: From a swing development perspective, grounding out is not a better result than popping out. It only seems like a better result because, in youth baseball, ground balls (especially hard ground balls) are more likely to produce positive results. This creates feedback bias; everyone likes scoring and getting on base, driving in runs and winning games, so we are incentivized to coach to the desired result.

      The problem is that if we want to build movement patterns (and swings) that scale, we should be teaching kids to hit line drives. And line drives are, by definition, balls hit in the air. We produce line drives by matching the plane of the pitch. Chopping down at the top half of the ball can sometimes produce line drives too, but this is inconsistent, difficult to replicate and not the way elite hitters approach the ball.

      This video from Driveline explains in somewhat simple terms the concepts of attack angle and launch angle: — there’s a significant amount of data and resources available on this topic, so it shouldn’t be hard to find if you want to dig more. Driveline is way out in front when it comes to the science on this, so that’s a good place to start.

      I would not explain these concepts to an eight year old (at least not in this way), but they’re essential for understanding why we don’t want to swing down on the ball.

      With regard to your second question: This is more of an opinion that I have developed over time than a hard and fast rule. From a development perspective, the last thing I want to teach hitters is to chase questionable pitches. Instead, I want them to be disciplined and attack the pitches they can hit properly. Telling them to never take the third strike encourages a lack of plate discipline and induces bad swings at bad pitches. And at the end of the day, I’d rather have a kid stick with his or her approach and take a called third strike than take an off-balance hack at something off the plate and hit a dribbler down the first base line.

      We assume that that taking the pitch means a lack of aggression, which we deem “worse” — but better plate discipline will lead to more consistent overall results.

      • Philip Moser

        April 28, 2023 at 4:03 pm

        Thank you for your thorough response! This is quite helpful!

        As a follow up to the end of your answer to the taking with 2 strikes….do you think it’s a good idea to teach 9-10 year olds have a different approach with 2 strikes than they do otherwise….ie (shorten up, just make contact, etc.)? Is that too complicated?

        • Jim Malec

          April 28, 2023 at 4:31 pm

          My personal view is that it’s not a good idea. Other coaches will disagree with me on that, and if you took a poll, I would probably be in the minority. But at the end of the day, I don’t agree with changing your swing based on the situation; I want kids to take good swings at good pitches, and if they do that consistently, they’re going to have above-average results. I think when you start messing with the variables — especially at that age — you make everything more difficult and teach the wrong lessons. (You don’t see pro hitters slapping at balls with two strikes.) Again, it goes back to my earlier statement about coaching to results; the whole point of “just make contact” is to try and avoid making an out. But honestly, I would rather see a good swing and miss at a good pitch than a little slap that produces a dribbler down the line. That might be a Little League single, but fast forward five years and it’s just a ground out.

          These are good questions and this is just my take.

          • Lawdog

            February 15, 2024 at 2:49 am

            A different perspective on this is that in the lower levels (double A typically) encouraging kids to shorten their swing and get the bat on the ball for any contact with 2 strikes on them helps develop their bat control. Later on as they continue to develop and infield play becomes better you can focus more on line drives and hard hit balls. But at the double A level I am a firm believer is swing normal on the first two strikes and then any contact on thereafter helps the team. Remember too, hitting is only one component of offense you are teaching them at this age. Once they get on, even with a dribbler, now the player gets to improve their base running.

            Additionally, besides fun (which is critical at this age) success keeps kids coming back. Telling a 7-9 year old great swing when they struck out is a much tougher sell then their peer standing on first with a two strike swinging bunt.

            Just one man’s opinion.

          • Jim Malec

            February 15, 2024 at 7:45 am

            What’s up, Lawdog! Thanks for the comment.

            You make a valid point about bat control, though I think it somewhat contradicts your second point (about the motivating factor of success). Expanding the hitting zone with two strikes means that the player is going to swing at lower-quality pitches, which increases the likelihood of failure (whether that’s a strikeout or a low-quality batted ball). Separately from that, it’s a very hard habit to un-teach later.

            So I disagree with your take a bit, but I still appreciate you adding to this conversation and think it’s helpful for people to consider both sides of this!

  6. Brad Smith

    May 1, 2023 at 12:10 am

    I wish my son’s 6-U coach would use these principles. I volunteered as an assistant coach for the team at the first practice. A few other dads did the same. We never had a plan from the start. The head coach made it clear it was his team and other dads were dead wrong about everything. This alienated all the dads and it’s been me and the head coach every practice and game. I haven’t played baseball in 30 years, so that doesn’t make me the best coach. I just try to follow the HC’s lead about throwing, hitting and defensive drills. I serve as the catcher since it was coach pitch and coached in RF. HC’s kid plays pitcher 2 of 3 innings, and 1B, SS, 3B have been permanently assigned to 3 kids with no rotation. We have 2 kids that have verbally stated they hate baseball to HC and me during practice/games. So they are in the OF 99% time. HC never talks to any of the parents about their kids play or behavior. The HC tries to run they team like a pro ball club as well. I have talked to others dads and they agree his ego is too big for 6-U or even his other 8-U team. My kid has played pitcher and 2B during games and practices, but is in RF with me. He has good focus for the first inning but typically is goes downhill from there. Our league practiced 2 times a week up until games. Not we have 2 games a week and no practices. We have 3-4 high performing players but have only 1 win out of 6 games mainly due to defensive errors. I think most if not all kids are on edge and have some anxiety about games. I am looking forward to 7-U ball next spring but I’m gonna have to request not to be on this HC team again. It’s not fun as a player or a parent at times.

    • Jim Malec

      May 1, 2023 at 9:15 am

      Hey Brad. I’m really sorry to hear about your experience so far. Unfortunately, what you’re describing here is all too common. (I would say it’s more common than not.) A lot of dads use youth ball as a way to boost their own ego.

      Practice plans are extremely important at all levels. But when it comes to 6-U, the reality is that kids of that age should hardly be playing baseball in the sense of standing around at positions in a simulated game. The idea that you would have six-year-olds “playing the outfield” is crazy, and of course some of them are going to end up hating it — they’ll be bored to tears.

      Practices at this level should be broken down into short segments (~15 minutes) that build skills and movements. Think of things like catching ground balls and easy pop ups, simple hitting drills, agility work that teaches balance and lateral movements, etc. The kids should almost always be occupied and actively participating in each segment.

      Furthermore, you should gamify as much of the practice as possible. Make it fun, make it fast, make them laugh — they’ll love the game. This should not feel like work, or a chore. They’re six.

      I hope you’re able to find a better and more enjoyable situation next season.

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