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How to Step Up Your Game of Catch
As your child looks forward to getting out on the ball field this summer, you may be wondering how you can help them prepare. Here are some of our favorite at-home sports drills that can be done with minimal equipment. Practice and repetition will make your child a better player, and your involvement will make your family stronger. Let’s play ball!
While it seems overly simple, playing catch with your child is one of the simplest and most effective ways to develop skills at home. Learning to catch and properly throw is a difficult skill for young players to master, only coming about with lots of practice.
Beginner: Start close together with no gloves and a soft ball. Have your player catch the ball with their non-dominant hand, with their fingers pointed up. Catching with no glove will get them used to having to squeeze, rather than letting the ball simply land in the glove.
Next step: Playing catch can be varied by throwing to either side of your player, rolling ground balls, throwing pop flies, and standing farther apart. Always allow enough time to get loose before throwing long distances.
Utilizing a wall or ball rebounder is a great way for any player to work on their defensive skills without needing a partner. In order to be successful on defense, players must get used to moving their feet to get in position and make accurate throws.
Beginner: Mark a few targets on the wall with chalk or tape. Players can aim for the targets and vary throwing speed and distance to simulate all types of defensive plays, including ground balls to either side, short hops, long hops, charge plays, and others.
Next step: To cut down on anticipation of where the ball is going to go, have someone else throw the ball from behind the player.
Hotbox is a fun game that develops baserunning, catching, throwing and fielding skills for players. It requires three or more players and at least two bases.
Beginner: Start with one defender at each base, with other players as runners starting at any base. While the defenders play catch, the runners attempt to run back and forth between the bases. A hotbox, or pickle, happens when the runner gets caught in between the bases and the defenders must work together to tag them out. When a runner is tagged out, they become a defender and the tagger becomes the runner. Runners may count how many times they reach a base safely to keep score.
Next step: Bases can be added to accommodate more players; runners are allowed to run in either direction. The distance between bases can also be changed to make it easier for the runner (closer together) or the defenders (farther apart).
Finding ways to practice hitting at home can be difficult, due to space and equipment limitations, but it’s not impossible. Creatively using the space and equipment you have available can still allow you to achieve results.
Swing Mechanics: Good form is important to achieving consistent results at the plate. Mechanics can be practiced with or without a bat, or using another object – like a broom stick – to simulate a bat. Check out this video for tips on how to set up your child up in a good stance.
Bubble/Water Balloon Hit: It’s difficult to simulate hitting a moving target, but baseballs often fly too far to be contained in a yard. For a fun twist to working on coordination, use bubbles or water balloons to help your player focus on watching a ‘ball’ hit their bat without having to chase it after.
Hitting Station: Use items around the house to create a hitting station for your player. A simple tarp can be just as effective as an expensive net to hit balls into. You can make your own batting tee with PVC pipe or purchase one for under $20 at many retailers or throw soft toss for a moving target.
The best activity is one that the player enjoys. Fun games encourage prolonged play and the extra repetitions will develop their skills more than any drill could. Any activity that you do with your player that involves catching, throwing, fielding, swinging, running, or coordination will make them a better player.
Written by Jon Grush
Sports Director for Carondelet Park Rec Plex and South City Family YMCA
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