Thursday, October 1, 2009

How to Teach Ballplayers to Catch a Ball in One Or Two Sessions

By Jack Perconte

I've said this numerous times, but as the saying goes, "Doing something almost correct and doing it correctly is the difference between success and failure."

There is nothing more important in baseball and softball than being able to catch a ball correctly. Unfortunately, a great percentage of kids learn the wrong way or get hurt trying to catch the ball, then quit before playing much baseball. Additionally, it often takes a great amount of time for ball players to learn how to catch because they are not taught efficiently and/or correctly. If taught correctly, players have a chance to become outstanding fielders with the chance of advancing up the ladder of baseball. Additionally, by following the correct process of learning how to catch a ball, players can learn to catch in a very short time, even in as little as one or two 20 minute sessions.

A few initial suggestions: Do not teach players using a normal "hard" ball. Tennis balls or any similar softer balls will work. Also, the greater number of softer balls available, the quicker the learning process will be. Along with faster learning, more balls will promote less boredom and less wasted time picking up missed balls. At first, players should just set balls they catch to the side instead of throwing them back to the coach. If a number of balls are unavailable have the player stand in front of a backstop (i.e. wall or net) so they do not have to chase missed balls.
*Also, make sure their glove is not a cheap vinyl one and be sure it is broken in so it can squeeze easily. (Adult should use it for a time if it isn't broken in.)

Quick Learning Process

1. From close range (4 or five feet away) the coach, who is on one knee, flips balls continuously upward towards the fielders face area.

2. Players should start with elbow slightly below shoulder height, out to side of body and with glove slightly higher than elbow.

3. Balls should be flipped upward or straight with no loop on toss. Putting an arc on ball will naturally cause player to turn glove under which is incorrect for balls above the thigh level. Players will get the idea of keeping glove up and not underhanded pretty quick because it will bop them upside the head if they turn glove under - thus the reason for using a softer ball. Coach should remind players to keep elbow out to side (outside body slightly) when catching balls in face area.

4. After throws towards face and when player gets used to keeping their glove up with fingers pointing upward, the coach can start to flip balls a little right of face, left of face and then lower etc. Players will get the hang of moving glove in front of ball in this correct, glove-up manner.

5. After awhile, have the players begin with their hands down at their side before the ball is tossed to learn to raise the glove up in the correct catching manner.

A couple extra points:

* Once again, the greater number of balls will allow the coach to rapid fire balls to the learning player so in a short amount of time they will get numerous attempts to catch balls.

* Coach should point out incorrect attempts at catching balls until players begin to self-correct.

* Generally, the toughest ball for a player to learn to catch is the ball that comes just to the outside of their glove side or the ball right around waist high. On the ball outside their glove side, players should be taught to rotate their catching elbow in towards their body and push out towards ball slightly. On balls around waist high, players should be taught to bend their knees slightly so they can keep their glove in the upright manner. Reminder, all balls above thigh level should be taught with the glove fingers pointing skyward.

* Eventually, coaches can flip balls to player's knees and ankles where they will then turn the glove under as if fielding a ground ball.

* Coaches should not insist or even mention using two hands to catch balls until they are very proficient with catching with glove hand only. Two hand catching usually confuses young players. Teaching players to use two hands when catching should only come after they become adept at using the glove. Two hands is for getting rid of ball quickly and not catching it. Eventually, getting rid of ball quickly, and thus two handed catching, will become necessary, of course. Additionally, as they get more proficient coaches can begin to back up and stand up. Continuing to use softer balls for a while will allow coaches to challenge players with straight balls and not looped balls. If players revert to underhand catching on balls above the waist area, coaches can go back to initial practice drill.

* Finally, as they get the hang of catching the ball with the glove only," have players add their second hand for good throws (inside body- right at them) and one hand (glove only) for balls they reach for. * When teaching players to use two hands, make sure they place their bare hand slightly out front of their glove when catching as opposed to behind the glove, which most players do. Finally, teaching players to move there feet in order to get to and get in front of thrown balls is essential, and the last piece to learning to catch a ball correctly.

Former major league baseball player, Jack Perconte gives baseball hitting tips and batting practice advice for ballplayers of all ages. His baseball hitting lessons advice can be found at is the author of two books, The Making of a Hitter and Raising an Athlete - his parenting blog can be found at

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