How to Teach Young Children to Properly Hold a Bat
"An all-too-common problem early learners experience in hitting is their hands do not always remain together. An easy strategy for reinforcing proper hand placement is teaching early learners Caterpillar Hands to inspire bat control and proper form."— Dr. Kayden Bradley, Co-Founder Jelly Bean Sports, Inc.
Handedness of Children
Is your child:
Hitting is an important part of baseball. One of the biggest problems with young hitters is that they often fail to keep their hands together on the bat. If you can imagine your child stepping up to his first at-bat and your excitement for this opportunity, then imagine him doing it wrong, with his hands apart. You, Mom and Dad, will logically be thinking or even yelling to him from the stands, "Put your hands together!"
This is often children's first teachable moment in baseball. Kids love to use baseball bats, but we can't assume hitting comes naturally. Hand placement does matter. Without teaching it and building understanding for the importance of this simple technique, children either don't know or often forget what we teach them about gripping a baseball bat. The Caterpillar Hands technique puts you in control to give your child an advantage in not only learning, but also understanding, in kid-terms, the fundamental importance of the grip, too often overlooked in early learning hitting instruction.
Caterpillar Hands Overview
Teaching Time: 5 Minutes
Equipment: Plastic bat (optional)
Level of Instructional Difficulty: Easy
Ages Appropriate for: 2.5 years +
Keywords: hitting, baseball, batting, caterpillar, hands
DIY Coaching Instruction
The following Do-it-Yourself (DIY) coaching script is designed to teach young children how to properly hold a baseball bat hit using Caterpillar Hands. It is a quick and easy lesson that can be taught anytime, anywhere because it does not require a bat. Caterpillar Hands should be taught and then reinforced every time an early learner practices hitting.
- DIY COACH CLIPBOARD: How to Teach Young Children to Hit a Baseball and Exercise Bat Control
Teach young children how to hit a baseball exercising bat control in ways that are simple, fun and sometimes don't even require a bat.
- COACH'S CLIPBOARD : How to Teach Young Children to Field a Baseball
Teach young children to field a baseball with the help of an alligator that lives in the snow who helps young children understand how to do it without it rolling through their legs.
Early learners won't always perfectly align their knuckles. It is O.K. Remember the purpose of this instruction is, first and foremost, to help them keep their fists together.
DIY Coaching Script
DIY Coach: Show me a fist (extend yours out) Make another fist (again showing them). Then stack one fist on top of the other. (Again showing how it is done)
DIY Coach: (Be excited) Do you know what animal you just created? (don't rush this, let them anticipate the answer) A CATERPILLAR!
Help your child align all his knuckles. As you see their stacked fists, there will be four knuckles on one fist and four knuckles on the other. Getting down on their level, use your index finger but very much count with your eyes because they cannot see your finger. Start at the top knuckle and begin.
DIY Coach: Count,"1-2-3-4" and then on the other hand "5-6-7-8". Celebrate with them saying, "You did it, you've created a caterpillar."
Seed what your child has learned by making your own caterpillar with your fist and knuckles and having your early learner count Mom or Dad's caterpillar segments. Children absolutely love doing this. Even if they don't count the caterpillar's segments correctly, the idea is that they are learning structure, and building understanding that their fists need to stay together.
DIY Coach: Show the children your fists together. Tell them, "When our fists are together the caterpillar is fixed." Step three is to separate your fists, essentially break the caterpillar. You will actually say, "Break it!" as you do it. It is best to overemphasize the movement by putting one fist below your belly button and the other over your head. Then give the instruction, say "Fix it!" and put your fists back together. Repeat 6-10 times for best results.
Spend some time having fun breaking and fixing your caterpillars. Again this seeds the learning nicely and allows them to retain it so later they can respond automatically when asked to fix their caterpillar.
Review and Knowledge Check
Finally, ask them the obvious question. So, what animal do we make when we hold a baseball bat? The answer, Caterpillars! Show me with your hands.
If you follow these three easy steps with your early learner, he will quickly and easily begin to understand the value of keeping his fists together and learning how to effectively grip a baseball bat.
- Have patience. Introduce baseball a few steps at a time when teaching young children. Remember children learn best by doing.
- Have fun. Try to teach without using the word "no." Great coaches are birdies on the shoulders guiding players, not bulldozers.
- Use verbal cues. Try to use a hands off approach when coaching. Easy phrases like "catepillars" children understand, they can remember and they will be empowered by to make simple self-adjustments in their techniques. Good verbal cues are qualities of great coaching.
- Inspire children through praise. Enable a child's own ability to find value in self-improvement.
- Focus on the small wins. The perfect swing does not exist. Young children get better when they have fun.
Caterpillar Hands is anything but a traditional term in baseball. But gripping the baseball bat is. As a parent, teacher or coach, it is necessary to teach using the age-appropriate "coachable" terminology children will undersand and remember, and it will allow you to make split second adjustments to children's grip on the bat by simply telling them either "Create your caterpillars" or "Fix it!"
Early Learning Best Practices
Best practices are best-proven strategies for coaching success. Early learning in sport best practices incorporate coaching best practice. It tells us how sports instruction should be adapted to fit early learners. Children infant to age five differ in many ways from elementary-aged learners' athletic talent development. Competitive instruction and competitive sports environments, accordingly, must be non-competitively engineered to meet the unique needs of early learners and help them and key influencers find sports success.
Understanding the Physical Limitations
Young children's physical limitations are a natural part of their early learning and development. In baseball, it is no different. These physical limitations do often prevent early learners from being able to properly demonstrate skills we know are necessary.
Non-competitive engineering of hitting instruction that uses the term Caterpillar Hands focuses on the form and function of baseball without the physical limitations that put early learners at a disadvantage.
Best Practice: Use of a Plastic Bat
Young children should learn the finer points of hitting without the distraction of their physical limitations. The heavier, little league-sized aluminum or wood baseball bats should be used to mix things up and to help keep early learners' attention. Early learners are naturally immature and have limited attention spans. The ability to diversify instruction is a key component to success and minimizes physical limitation distractions.
Since physical limitations are a natural part of the maturing process, they must be accounted for when you plan to work with early learners in sport. The fact is young children's bodies can develop at dramatically different rates. This means there can be as much as a two year difference in development (plus or minus) between two early learners in sport of the same age. It is why you might see one four-year old tirelessly hitting in a machine-like fashion, while another tires quickly and appears to struggle at every step in the process.