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How to Teach Young Children to Properly Field a Baseball

Updated on June 06, 2016

"For too long, we have taught young children in the same ways we teach older children and settled for the mediocre results these methods have produced."

— Dr. Kayden Bradley, Co-Founder Jelly Bean Sports, Inc.
boy ready to field a baseball
boy ready to field a baseball
boy fielding a baseball
boy fielding a baseball
boy touching a baseball to his belly button
boy touching a baseball to his belly button


There are many interpretations of fielding that exist today; but none are, arguably, more refined and have been researched to fit the needs of young children (ages 2-5) than this one. Based on experience, Dr. Brad Kayden is the #1 trusted source on the topic of early learning in sport. His teachings and coaching philosophies are based his own playing experiences up to the collegiate level, his groundbreaking research studying the early learning in sports athletic talent development process and his work as a coach practitioner with thousands of early learners since 2007. Dr. Kayden's teachings about early learning in sport is filling a large gap that has otherwise existed as a topic with a lack of quality resource.

In this lesson, Dr. Kayden will teach you, the parent, teacher or coach:

  1. Best practices to teach young children (2-5) to field a baseball with a Hands-Free Coaching approach that relies upon effective coaching communication strategies.
  2. Effective behavior management strategies, often built directly into the instruction, that will overcome early learners' challenges to listen, focus and follow direction as you teach young children (ages 2-5) to field a baseball.
  3. Innovative and fun activities that not only keep baseball simple and make learning fun but supplement your coaching and keep you sharp as you teach young children (ages 2-5) to field a baseball.

It will be:

  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Educational
  • Fun

The Most Impressionable and Resilient Athletes in Sports

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 accolades are reserved for elite "adult" athletes in sports, it is young children who are, by their immature nature, performing phenomenal feats in sports today. With the dawn of each new day, they are gracefully defying the many physical and mental limitations they have as immature beings. Sports only further challenges them to overcome their limitations and in many cases they are doing it will much more gracefully than we ever might as adults faced by the same challenges.

Use of Learning Aids

The use of learning aids (i.e. cones, rings, dots) is not something new to sport. However, the types of learning aids and prevalence in their usage have evolved as the number of early learners in sport have grown. Today learning aids include kid-favorites like bubbles, cones, dots, rings, parachutes, and noodles. They can play an important role in early learners' development and effectiveness of your coaching when teaching young children.

The value of learning aids are innate to a child. They represent something fun that has magnetic power over children; its universal appeal to children instantaneously has a positive effect on their abilities to focus and follow direction. They serve as valuable mechanisms that will help you to translate sports in more effective and efficient ways young children will respond to, mostly because, for the first time, they are able to understand sports on a term they most relate with, fun.

As a parent, teacher or coach, it is difficult to simply tell a child to field a baseball and just to expect they all will know what to do. But when you find a learning aid that is a universal adored among all children, like bubbles, and tell them to catch the bubbles; they are essentially learning the basic concept of fielding. The bubbles allow them to exhibit the skill of fielding in a confidently and self-gratifying way that works for young children and should also work for you as a coach. There is no better way to inspire young children to learn sports then to allow them the freedom to practice fun activities with a sports theme.

"As a coach, your job is to keep sports simple and make learning fun. The best coaches are able to teach children in fun ways that allow them to learn without them even realizing they're doing so."

— Dr. Brad Kayden, Early Learning in Sport Expert

Fielding Instruction

Jo Jo Jelly Bean performs Dr. Kayden's 3-step fielding technique
Jo Jo Jelly Bean performs Dr. Kayden's 3-step fielding technique

Learning Objectives

Early Learners will:

  1. Have fun.
  2. Learn what fielding is.
  3. Demonstrate the 3-step fielding steps taught.

two hands
two hands | Source

Fielding Overview

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

Teach Baseball Fielding Basics

Without a glove or baseball, challenge children to create an alligator's mouth with their arms and hands.

  1. Begin by extending your left arm out, hand and palm down and then your right arm out, hand palm up.
  2. Proceed to open and close your alligators' mouth, each time you close clapping your hands together and saying, "CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP!"
  3. CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP! high and low and repeat several times to maximize the fun in learning.
  4. Add a glove and repeat and get ready for a new twist on this timeless baseball teaching.

Kids and parents alike love an unexpected twist the story of the alligator we use to field a baseball has one. In the next section, I will discuss the script that introduces our alligator who lives in the North Pole.

Instructional Reminders

  • Have patience. Introduce only a few steps at a time. Children learn best by doing. Refine fielding a baseball and then add more instruction like running and throwing.
  • Hands-off. Do your best to use a hands-off approach. The use of an easy 3-step fielding formula phrase that rhymes - "alligator low to the snow," "belly button," and "throw" is designed for you, the coach, to more easily communicate the skill being learned without the need to manipulate children's positioning or movements with your hands.
  • Encourage children. Being open, encouraging and using children's names, often makes you, as a coach, more well received and puts you in better control of kids. Children live for praise and positive feedback and when received, it builds their confidence, improves listening capacity, develops their emotional maturity, and enables a child's ability to find value in self-discipline and self-improvement.
  • Avoid frustration. Focus on the positive, find the small wins of fielding a baseball and praise them. Perfect fielding does not exist at the early learning level. Children get better as they practice more. Make sure, as a group, they know the basic language and can demonstrate steps.

Teaching Graphic

Jelly Bean and alligator playing baseball in the snow
Jelly Bean and alligator playing baseball in the snow

1. Step One

Point 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 and then demonstrate how the ball rolls through the alligator's legs if they don't put their chin low-to-the-snow. Next, have children demonstrate, saying, "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 low-to-the-snow.

Jelly Bean touching his belly button and alligator eating a snowball
Jelly Bean touching his belly button and alligator eating a snowball

2. Step Two

The next step is one that is often missed in early fielding instruction. It is crucial because it describes the transitional point (the belly button) between fielding and throwing.

Explain and diagram with a baseball the following process using your own body, "Once the alligator eats the baseball, it goes down his throat and into his... (point to your belly and have kids answer: Belly.

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. This key step simulates sucking up the baseball into the body as a fielder makes the transition from fielding into throwing a baseball. Although young children will typically not do both steps in one fluid motion (expect that it will look fairly mechanical), it is good to start from an early age getting them into the habit of knowing how to handle the baseball before throwing it.

Jelly Bean throwing a baseball with an alligator
Jelly Bean throwing a baseball with an alligator

3. Step Three

The last and final step is 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 for a time and later you can then go back and add components and refine skills in a way that puts everything together.

Early learning coaching without best practices
Early learning coaching without best practices

Early Learning Coaching Best Practice: Prepare Children to Learn

Sample early learning instructional model
Sample early learning instructional model

Early Learning Coaching Best Practice: Instruct to Young Children's Best Interest

Instruction relative to children's interests. Construct your lessons in such a way that you use food, animals, body parts or other relative objects or things children generally are accustomed to knowing about. In the case of fielding, the alligator has been used for generations. Learn how a child's belly button and snow help with teaching the full fielding process.

Early Learning Coaching Best Practice: Offer Activities with a Sports Theme

Early learners require an active learning environment, one that offers both a dynamic and entertaining learning experience. The best early learning programs and coaches accomplish this by planning to offer many activities with a sports theme inside of one sports class. The length of each activity varies but usually ranges between 1 to 4 minutes. The way an active learning environment is created is by incorporating elements that young children will respond to. Learning aids like bubbles, rings, cones, dots, noodles and parachutes are examples and creating activities around these objects will set you up for success as a coach in the minds of both the parents and children.

Establish A Teaching Baseline

Often getting started is the hardest part. As a parent, teacher or coach, your first instinct will be to jump right in. You will want to immediately start teaching children what you think they need to know about fielding or the topic you're about to teach. However, when you teach young children how to field a baseball, for example, it is important to remember that there are typically three sides to the equation, yours, the children's and the parents'.

Believe it or not, children bring with them their own expectations to sports. Parents bring a separate set, and you, who holds all the responsibilities to teach young children how to field a baseball, another set entirely. If you're new to coaching, which I would assume most of you reading this are, especially considering the early learning phases of sport are where most coaches get their start; you are no doubt wondering how does a coach successfully balance all the expectations?

It's a great question not enough entry-level coaches ask themselves and as a result, they are misguided in their practices and usually too heavily weighted in their thinking in one area, usually themselves (i.e. my way or the highway approach) or parents (i.e. win-at-all cost approach). In extreme cases an inexperienced coach will combine these two volatile approaches and find himself in the news for child abuse or for fighting with a parent or referee. In either of the two approaches, children's expectations have failed to be considered and they become like pawns being moved across a chess board, instead of athletes getting the proper training and development.

The way you manage expectations is to use a simple baseline. Your thinking when coaching to teach young children how to field a baseball should begin by thinking synergistically. This requires using a blended approach that figures all expectations into your teaching plan. This is easier than you might think.

Generally at the introductory phases of sport, parents' expectations align closely with children's. What parents want most is for children to have fun and what children want is no different. As a coach, your job is to keep sports simple and make learning fun. The best coaches are able to teach children in fun ways that allow them to learn without them even realizing they're doing so. As you have already seen, this blog shows you some examples of how this is done.

Keeping sports simple and making learning fun is a baseline fit for all youth coaches, not just early learning coaches. You hear so much about athletes' discipline and how that relates to winning and sports success. Winning and sports success is actually more a product of coaching discipline than it is athlete discipline. Follow the best practices of those who are most effective and reference benchmarks relative to the group you are teaching, and you will find the winning and sports success that top coaches at all levels of sport experience.


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    • increase vertical 8 years ago

      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..

    • David M 5 years ago

      I'd like to say that this review is wonderfull!

      Absolutely thanks, because now I can teach baseball the correct(?) way.

    • Coach_Pickles profile image

      Dr Bradley Kayden 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      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!

    • Ammy Onda 4 years ago

      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!

    • BC 4 years ago

      Great! Love the story. Thank you.

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