For all practical purposes, at that age, those are as good a measuring stick as any other, because there are no other developed skills on which to base a decision, except desire. Catching is probably the most skill difficult, physically strenuous and mental demanding position on the field, therefore get it out of mind if you think you can train another Molina in a year or two.
Coaching a youth catcher Must be limited to the very basic skills required to be a catcher without getting injured. We'll begin with the protective equipment.
1. Sizing a catcher's protective equipment. Unfortunately catching equipment is somewhat expensive, even at the younger ages and sizes, but that's the nature of the beast. If you're very lucky the "Wanna be catcher" will have his own equipment, or the league provided gear will fit.
A. Beginning with the skull cap or helmet, insure it fits adequately snug as you can't have it moving around on the player's head through normal action. This is not only very annoying for the player, but a recipe for disaster because it's not properly protecting the head for which it's designed.
B. The Face Mask, which is adjustable, must be tightly strapped to the helmet or skull cap, insuring it doesn't slide around on its own obstructing the player's vision. Be sure the protective bars of the mask are not in the line of sight of the player, either move the mask up or down or acquire a different type of mask.
C. The chest protector comes in many different styles, designs and material and as with most things in life, the more expensive the better quality. Your task as a coach is to insure the chest protector is properly fitted and is in good shape with no broken straps or missing padding.
D. Shin guards, similar to chest protectors come in many different styles. Insure the shin guards properly fit, bends in joints where they're suppose to, no broken straps or missing ringlets, and be sure to teach the proper method of putting the guards on, hooks to the outside of the legs to avoid them from hooking to one another.
2. Now that your player is reasonably protected gear wise, let's teach him how to catch safely.
A. Catchers should always be taught to squat on their haunches when catching, as some youngsters will drop to their knees, exposing their thighs to injury, when they become fatigued. The coach must monitor and correct this as bad habits quickly develop, but are hard to correct.
B. A catcher must be taught to always protect his bare hand. Two distinct methods of teaching this are, always hold the bare hand Behind the catcher's mitt, or tuck their thumb into their shoe while creating a fist. Either method will keep the bare hand (throwing hand) out of immediate danger.
C. Teach the proper distance a catcher should maintain between he and the batter and the tendency to stand up or raise while too close or when the batter may be swinging, either in play or practice.
Teaching a player wanting to be a catcher, the basic safety principles of catching is the coach's first job. Besides wanting our players injury free, one bad experience could wreck a potentially great catcher's career behind he plate, either physically, but more than likely mentally.
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