Friday, November 12, 2010

Teaching Mechanics in Youth Baseball - Is It Important?

By Mickey B

Next to having fun, teaching mechanics is the most important thing a coach can do for his youth baseball players. Some of you dads who are coaching only because nobody else volunteered, might be wondering just what in the world does mechanics have to do with baseball. The answer is...Everything! Mechanics simply means the correct form and movements required to properly hit, throw, or field a baseball. It also applies to running the bases. Watching Major League ballplayers can give you the impression that there is no one way that is considered proper. Every batter seems to set up differently and go through all kinds of unusual gyrations, each pitcher has his own style of wind up, and infielders throw from every conceivable angle. Remember, they are professionals who are perfectly grounded in the fundamentals, and at the point of attack their bodies are in the proper position. The only exception to this is when an infielder has to perform some miraculous feat of athleticism in order to make a play. Also, bear in mind that they get paid a lot of money to do this. That being said, here are some reasons for teaching mechanics in youth baseball.

1. You want to avoid injuries, especially when you are working with kids. Sore arms, particularly elbows, are one of the most frequent problems in baseball. This is usually caused by the player starting the throw with his body before his arm is in the right position. Consequently, he has to drop his elbow in order for the arm to catch up with the body, resulting in his hand getting under the ball and putting a twisting motion on the elbow. If this is done repeatedly, the player will be complaining about a sore arm by the middle of the season. Hitters develop problems with their wrists from an improper grip. They can also hurt their backs with a crazy swing and lack of balance. I mentioned running the bases earlier. I can't tell you the number of times I have seen broken legs or sprained ankles caused by hitting the base wrong or sliding improperly. Most of these injuries can be avoided through the use of good mechanics.

2. Everybody likes to be a winner. Kids are no exception. Yet, I never coach winning or losing. I don't have to. My teams win more than they lose because I concentrate on mechanics. By learning proper skills, my players make more accurate throws, get more hits, and commit fewer errors from mishandling the ball. Don't get me wrong, they are definitely not perfect. They are still growing and can be quite uncoordinated, but they are learning how things should be done. One thing that helps is lots of praise from the coach when they show improvement. I should probably point out that your players will not be as devastated by a loss as you and their parents will be. Remember, they are there to have fun. However, they also want to learn how to get better, and they will improve if you teach them proper mechanics.

3. As a youth coach, one of your major responsibilities is to get your players ready to compete at the next level, like moving from Little League to Babe Ruth. We lose a lot of young ballplayers at this stage every year for a variety of reasons. Some haven't gone through puberty yet and cannot handle the larger field. Others discover girls or different activities that stimulate their interests more than baseball. But sadly, a large percentage leave the game because they can no longer compete with the other players. They were never taught proper mechanics. The throws are longer so they have to throw harder and, as a result, get a sore arm. The pitchers are faster and they can't get the bat around fast enough to hit the ball. They get discouraged, and they quit. You can help prevent that by teaching them the appropriate skills now. I have seen Little League all-stars fade into oblivion on the bigger field because nobody gave them the correct coaching. They made the all-star team on natural skills that weren't enough for the tougher competition that they faced at the next level.

As you can see, these are some very important reasons to teach mechanics in youth baseball. some side benefits for your players are that, without mentioning it to them, you have shown them that success can come with proper execution. They are also learning that hard work has its benefits. This goes for you too, coach. Are you prepared to work hard, also? Do you know what the proper mechanics are for baseball? Don't worry, there are many websites devoted to teaching mechanics. Look for sites that talk about the power triangle, and avoid sites that emphasize pushing off the rubber with the back foot. This is something that a pitcher does, but it should not be taught that way, especially to still developing children. Now, go have fun with your kids!

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