One of the challenges of being a baseball coach is teaching the game of baseball to very young players with different levels of experience. When teaching young players, a coach may notice some bad habits that need some correcting. Bad habits are sometimes very hard to break. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for Breaking Players’ Bad Habits.
#1 Throwing the Bat
Throwing the bat can be a serious safety concern and therefore a habit that needs correction quickly. I think a great way to break this habit is to use a batting tee at practice for the player struggling with this issue. Using the tee will allow the at bat to be slowed down and broken down into logical steps. The coach can also work on the batter’s swing while working on not throwing the bat. The coach can call out commands and instruct the player to only follow each individual command at a time. The coach can pause for 5 seconds before making the next command. For example, the coach could call out commands like “batter up”, “batting stance”, “swing”, “drop bat” and “run”. When the players executes several times correctly, the coach can move onto the next run where the command can be given a little quicker. The coach would then repeat this process until the player is executing correctly in real time. The next step would be to put the player in a live situation in practice to continue to work on the issue. A lot of times this issue is a result of nervousness and lack of experience. In some cases, the ultimate fixer of this problem will be time and maturing.
#2 Swinging at Bad Pitches Up in the Zone
A lot of baseball players (no matter the age) have trouble laying off the high pitches because high pitches can be seen better than pitches lower in the zone. Some young Baseball players have an especially hard time laying off high pitches. Some young players will only swing at high pitches and sometimes they swing at pitches that are grossly out of the strike zone. A great way to break this habit is by throwing a specific batting practice secession. During this special batting practice, the coach will call out the location of the pitches for the batter before the ball is pitched. Any time the coach calls for a high pitch out of the zone, the batter will know and will not swing. This will allow the batter to see the high pitches and start to get a feel for what it is like to lay off that pitch. Simply put, the batter is practicing to lay off high pitches. After this round of batting practice is complete, the coach will no longer call out the pitch location. The batter now will have to identify the pitch with out the benefit of the coach’s input. This problem won’t be cured over night. The batter will have to continue to have a lot of batting practice with a focus on identifying pitches up in the zone.
#3 Moving the Back Foot Forward When Swinging the Bat
A baseball coach may have to teach a player to hit who has very little experience or maybe even no experience at all. A very common problem with players who are new to the game is not understanding hitting mechanics. One of the problems that a baseball coach may have to fix is a batter who steps with the back foot. Again, this is a good time to pull out the batting tee and break down the hitting mechanics into easy steps. A coach can also explain to the player that keeping the foot back will allow them to “squash the bug.” Another way to convince the player to not bring the back foot forward is to tell them there is an imaginary nail going through the toe of their shoe. Whichever way a coach chooses to explain this, the important thing is to teach it correctly and break down hitting mechanics into steps. The coach should teach each step slowly and then put all the steps together once the player has learned each individual step.
#4 Catching Pop Ups/Fly Balls with One Hand
Catching a fly ball with two hands is important for two reasons. First, it allows for securing of the fly ball with the throwing hand and then a quick transition to throwing the ball. Second, it actually helps to maintain proper balance which is important especially at the younger level. The best way to break the bad habit of catching fly balls with one hand is to throw away the gloves and break out the tennis balls. Well, let’s not literally throw the gloves out but let’s put them aside for a few minutes. The coach will run fly ball drills using the tennis balls and players using no glove. Players will naturally use both hands to catch the tennis ball. After a few round of the tennis balls, the coach can go back to gloves and hard balls. Results should be seen almost immediately.
#5 Not Getting Down Properly to Field a Ground Ball
A baseball coach can get gray hairs watching ground balls find their way through infielders because they are not getting down properly into a fielding position with two hands. Didn’t we address a problem involving two hands just now? Do you think we can use the same solution? You bet! The coach should put the gloves aside and maybe use safety balls instead of tennis balls (the tennis balls might be too bouncy for the purpose of this drill). Players will naturally go down with two hands to field the safety ball. Immediate results using gloves and hard balls should follow.
#6 Not Running Through First Base
Running the bases is not as easy as it sounds for an inexperienced player just starting in baseball. A common error for a newbie is to not run through first base in an attempt to attain an infield base hit. This is a huge base running problem because the runner usually slows up before reaching base and makes the umpire more inclined to call them out on a close play. The only way to break this bad habit is to practice running through first base. The coach should also create game situations to reinforce to the player why it is important to run through first base.
#7 Outfielders Who Throw to the Wrong Bases
This is actually a bad habit that seasoned baseball players sometimes have. Throwing to the wrong bases can allow runners to advance more bases and it can cost teams wins. The best way to break this bad habit is to simulate game situations in practice and slowly break them down into logical steps. The coach then needs to explain why throws have to be made to certain spots in certain situations. The outfielder won’t always be a perfect decision maker but the coach can do the best that they can to help minimize blatant poor decision making.
#8 Players Who Miss/Blowoff Signals
I used to come across a lot of coaches who would get frustrated with players who were always missing signals. However, some of these coaches were creating their own misery because they were not practicing signals in practice. One of the most important things that a baseball coach needs to understand is that practice should be used to fix and address issues. Missing signals is definitely something that can be fixed by simply practicing them. A player that is choosing to ignore signals is a different story all together because this is a behavior issue. The coach will need to fist prove that is the case and then discuss with the player why they are being defiant if they are in fact doing it on purpose.
#9 Base Runners Who Don’t Slide
Players need to practice sliding in order to become comfortable doing it. Sliding is a tricky skill to practice because a coach will not want to over practice due to the physical nature of sliding. However, asking players to do a sliding drill in which they will each slide four or five times is not going over board. A big reason why a coach should teach proper sliding is because it will help limit injury. A lot of players at all levels of baseball get injured due to poor sliding technique.
#10 Base Runners Who Don’t Run Right Away When the Ball is Hit
Base runners who are in situations in which they should being running when the ball is hit need to do so. This is yet another bad habit that can be broken in practice.Again the coach needs to create game situations and use verbal prompts to teach players proper base running. After a few rounds, the coach should eliminate the prompts and allow the players to run the bases on their own.
Baseball coaches need to identify bad habits and break them using effective drills in practice. Most bad habits can be broken using drills that slow the game down and break mechanics down into logical steps. Once players show a firm understanding of the drills then the coach can crank it up to game speed. Players will then be on their way to putting their bad habits behind them.