Foremost expert on early learning sports development. Founder at Chicago-based Coach Pickle's Jelly Bean Sports.
How to Coach Baseball Fielding
The "alligator" position is an age-old coaching tradition for baseball fielding. Taught for generations, this is when a child opens their arms wide and chomps the baseball as it enters their glove. The technique creates a fun visual that young children can connect with and offers a basic enough introduction for them to easily remember what they've learned. Unfortunately, it only offers them one part of a broader process and leaves them incomplete in their thinking about fielding.
It seems so simple, but it is an example of how to effectively teach young children to field a baseball. Without help, it can be tricky to fix young children's thinking in a way that works so that they remember what you teach them. In this article, the goal is to keep sports simple and make learning fun.
I'll set you up for coaching success as I share our fielding process and the fundamental movements to keep in mind when teaching young children how to field a baseball.
- Teaching Time: Four minutes.
- # of Steps: Three easy steps.
- Level of Instructional Difficulty: Easy
- Ages Appropriate for: Two years and over.
- Keywords or phrases: Alligator low-to-the-snow, belly button, and throw.
- Better understand how young children think about sports.
- Better understand how to modify teachings to fit the ways young children think about sports.
- Keep sports simple.
- Make learning fun.
When working with young children, you'll see that there is nothing they love more then bubbles. Bubbles are an excellent training aid because, other then being a little messy sometimes, they can serve many functions.
Children are magnetically attracted to bubbles, so there is an opportunity to assess movement with bubbles. Children naturally want to pop the bubbles, so you can watch how they do this, whether they are assertive and aggressive or slow and methodical. Some children are capable of staying within the confines of a drill's parameters while others will want to be disruptive.
It is helpful to know the mindsets and skills of the types of young children you are working with. Without the assessment, you are more prone to leading reactively instead of proactively. When you know what to expect from a drill based on the personalities you are working with, you can choose and organize your activities accordingly and spend less time managing behaviors. Aim for ideal outcomes by assessing the group you are working with at the front-end of the program you are coaching.
Without a glove or baseball, challenge children to create an alligator's mouth with their arms and hands.
- Begin by extending your left arm out with your hand and palm down. Then extend your right arm out with your hand and palm up.
- Proceed to open and close your alligator's mouth. Clap your hands together each time you close and say, "Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!"
- Chomp your alligator's mouth high and low and repeat several times to maximize the fun in learning.
Now, grab a glove and repeat.
Begin by pointing to your chin and ask (if children are over three), "What is this?" If they don't know, tell them and then explain the following, "Alligators have chins too. In order to eat baseballs, they have to keep their chins low-to-the-snow."
Demonstrate how the ball rolls through the alligator's legs if they don't put their chin low-to-the-snow.
Next, you should tell children, "Make your alligator with your glove and your hand and then let's put its chin low to the snow."
Demonstrate the alligator's chomping motion with them at ground level, low-to-the-snow.
The next step is a critical one that is easy to teach but is often missed when teaching young children how to field a baseball. What makes it so important is that it describes the step between fielding and throwing that makes the difference between effective and poor fielding. In adult ways of thinking, it is the transitional point between fielding and throwing that falls at the belly button.
As the photo here suggests, this is what the outcome should look like. If you set this up as directed, it should not take kids long to master this step in the process.
Begin this step by tracing the path of the ball along your own body and saying, "Once the alligator eats the baseball, it goes in his mouth, down his throat, and into his..." Point to your belly and let the kids answer.
Repeat steps one and two several times.
Roll each child a baseball or tennis ball to reinforce "Alligator low-to-the-snow." After the ball's been fielded, instruct the children to make the belly button motion. They will then put the ball at their belly button, simulating the ball entering the alligator's belly. Now it is time for step three.
The last and final step is simply to say, "Throw."
Do not be too worried about the form of the throw, whether your child steps and then throws or where the ball goes. Focus exclusively on the three-step fielding process. You can go back to throwing later, add components, refine skills, and put everything together the way it is supposed to be.
Early Learners in Sports
When you teach young children around the ages of two to five, you are working with some of the most impressionable and resilient athletes in sports today. While many of these accolades are reserved for elite adult athletes in sports, it is young children who are performing phenomenal feats in sports that we do not see.
With the dawn of each new day, they gracefully defy and overcome their many physical, emotional, and mental limitations that are just a natural product of their immaturity. Sports offers young children constructive ways to overcome their limitations, develop, and grow.
- Have patience.
- Be hands-off in your coaching.
- Teach to all children, not just the best learners.
- Be kind, avoid frustration, and have patience.
© 2008 Dr Brad Kayden
BC on April 10, 2012:
Great! Love the story. Thank you.
Ammy Onda on March 14, 2012:
Thank you so much for the great site! Exactly what I was looking for. You are really filling a needed niche. I can hardly wait to use these great step-by-step instructions with my grandson who just started T-Ball. Really grateful!!! Thank you, thank you!
Dr Brad Kayden (author) from Atlanta, GA / Chicago, IL on August 16, 2011:
I.V and D.M. Thanks. Good luck in your journey helping to give your child an edge playing baseball. Alligator low-to-the-snow, belly button, throw!
David M on August 16, 2011:
I'd like to say that this review is wonderfull!
Absolutely thanks, because now I can teach baseball the correct(?) way.
increase vertical on December 16, 2008:
Excellent Reviews.. Good posts of articles and very nice Hub! Thanks for the sharing up your story.. Its very much useful for all of one..