How to Teach Young Children to Field a Baseball
The "alligator" position is an age-old baseball fielding coaching tradition. Taught for generations, it is when a child opens their arms wide and chomps the baseball as it enters their glove. The technique creates a fun visual 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 sports 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 they remember what you teach them. In this hub, the goal is to keep sports simple and make learning fun. I 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.
If a child is intrigued by what he is learning, he will be a an active agent in developing his understanding rather than a passive consumer of knowledge.— Thomas Likona, Author of The Psychology of Choice in Learning
How to Teach Young Children to Field a Baseball Teaching Video
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"For too long, we have taught young children in the same ways we teach older children and settled for the mediocre results of these ways."— Dr. Brad Kayden, Early Learning in Sports Development Expert
3-Step Fielding Instruction
Baseball Kept Simple, Fielding Made Fun
The Jelly Bean Way offers a new twist on this timeless baseball classic teaching. I will share the script that introduces our own original alligator, Ollie, who lives in, of all places, the North Pole.
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Thanks for the visit, enjoy the content! ~Brad a.k.a Coach Pickles :)
Teaching Time: 4 Minutes
# of Steps: 3 Easy Steps
Level of Instructional Difficulty: Easy
Ages Appropriate for: 2 years +
Keywords or phrases: Alligator Low-to-the-Snow, Belly button, 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
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When working with young children, 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, assertive and aggressive or slow and methodically. Some children are capable of staying with the confines of a drills 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 we, as coaches, 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.
Step One Teaching Graphic
Step Two Teaching Graphic
Step Three Teaching Graphic
- How to Teach Young Children to Hit a Baseball
Keep baseball simple and make learning fun. Teach early learners Caterpillar Hands, the proper grip for holding a baseball bat and simple coaching verbal cue for making quick on-field corrections.
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, hand and palm down and then your right arm out, hand palm up.
- Proceed to open and close your alligators' mouth, each time you close clapping your hands together and saying, "CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP!"
- CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP! 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 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 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 often missed when teaching young children how to field a baseball. What makes it so important is it describes the step between fielding and throwing that makes the difference between effective fielding and not. In adult ways of thinking, it is the transitional point between fielding and throwing that falls at the belly button
As the instructional diagram included here suggests, it is what, at the end of step 2, the outcome should look like. If you set it up as directed, it should not take kids long to master this step in the process.
You step 2 by saying and tracing the path of the ball along (i.e. outside) your own body, "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: Belly.
Repeat steps one and two several times.
Roll them each a baseball or tennis ball reinforcing, "Alligator low to the snow," after the ball's been fielded tell children, "Belly button". They will then put the ball at their belly button simulating the ball entering the alligator's belly. And now it is time for step 3.
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 3-step fielding process. Later you can go back, add components, refine skills and put everything together the way it is supposed to be.
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"The best teachers and coaches teach children in ways children learn without even realizing they're doing so."— Dr. Brad Kayden, Early Learning in Sport Development Expert
Early Learners in Sport
When you teach young children, ages 2-5, 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 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...have patience