Foremost expert in early learning sports development, Founder at Chicago-based Coach Pickles' Jelly Bean Sports.
Physical limitations can often prevent early learners from being able to exercise proper bat control. Many young children will struggle with the weight of a little league-sized aluminum or wooden baseball bat. The majority of children lack the strength to hold it for extended periods of time.
When a child makes their first observable and purposeful attempts to swing the bat, it can look like a crude and uncoordinated movement. Basically, the rhythmical coordination we are used to seeing when adults swing the bat is missing. Their execution appears exaggerated and with parts of the skill often missing.
It seems so simple, but it is an example of what is important when teaching young children to hit a baseball. Without help, it can be tricky to fix the issue in a way that works so young children remember. 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 learning process on how to get a proper grip on a baseball bat.
- Teaching Time: Four minutes.
- Equipment: Plastic bat.
- Level of Instructional Difficulty: Easy.
- Steps: Three.
- Ages Appropriate for: Three years and older.
- Keywords: Hitting, baseball, batting, and high-to-the-sky.
- 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.
Teach Young Children How to Hold a Baseball Bat Coaching Video
Ask, "Where does the rain come from?" The children will tell you, "Clouds."
You should then ask, "Where are the clouds (pointing up), high in the sky or (pointing down) low in the snow?" The children will tell you they are high in the sky.
Ask, "What do we use to hit a baseball?" The children will tell you, "A baseball bat."
You should then ask, "Where is the top of the bat?" Let the children locate it. You can cognitively challenge them by pointing and saying, "Is it here (bottom of bat)?" Let children locate it and communicate where it is to you. Give them a voice.
Have patience—the more you allow children to do the work, the more invested they will be in the learning process and in your coaching.
Finally, you should ask, "Where do we hold a baseball bat?" Again, let the children locate it. They will often point and not know what the handle is called. Be sure to let them know it's called a handle when they point at it.
With safety in mind, distribute the baseball bats. Ask them to hold the bat high to the sky. Test their bat control and mobility by having them place the bat on their shoulder and then high-to-the-sky. Repeat this up and down motion five times prior to hitting from the tee.
Advanced Instruction: Proper Grip of the Bat
Ask the kids, "Show me a fist" (extend yours out). Make another fist (again showing them). Then say, "Stack one fist on top of the other." You should also show how this is done.
You should excitedly ask them, "Do you know what animal you just created?" Have a dramatic pause to build anticipation before telling them they made a caterpillar.
Help your child align all their 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, count off all eight of their knuckles. Celebrate with them by saying, "You did it, you've created a caterpillar."
You can ingrain this lesson by having early learners count mom or dad's fists. Children absolutely love doing this. Even if they don't count the caterpillar's segments correctly, the idea is that they are building the understanding that their fists need to stay together.
Put your fists together and show the children. Tell them, "When our fists are together, the caterpillar is fixed."
The goal is to show children how to separate their fists, or essentially "break" the caterpillar. This is done by your example and with you actually saying, "Break it!" As you separate your fists, it is best to overemphasize the movement by putting one fist below your belly button and the other over your head.
You should then give the next instruction by saying, "Fix it!"
Spend some time having fun breaking and fixing your caterpillars. This will ingrain the lesson nicely so that they can later respond automatically to adjusting their grip when asked to fix their caterpillar.
You should finally ask the kids the obvious question. "So, what animal do we make when we hold a baseball bat?" When they answer caterpillars, have them show you their hands.
If you follow these three easy steps with your early learners, they will quickly and easily begin to understand the value of keeping their fists together and learning how to effectively grip a baseball bat.
- 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
rookssj from Roswell, GA on March 24, 2009:
Great how to article and I (as a coach) agree that when they have fun and they learn something small it should be classified as a win.
Good job well written.