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In the mid-1970s, I became involved in setting up a Tee Ball League based on the American Little League structure in Brisbane, Australia. Tee Ball was a new sport to all those who joined the new league. Very few parents of the players had played either Softball or Baseball. So it was a learning experience for them, too.
I had begun my Baseball coaching and playing career some years earlier at age 31 years. So I knew, from first-hand experience of learning to play and learning to coach high school teams, and how to teach newcomers the basics of catching.
Below are some coaching hints for new coaches to be aware of when catching the ball.
1. Stress that the ball must be caught in the pocket of the glove not in the fingers as in cricket.
2. Always encourage the players to catch the ball as high as possible. This gives the player a good view of the ball going into the glove as well as allowing the player to throw the ball quickly.
3. The throwing hand must be in a position near the glove to ensure the ball doesn’t fall out.
4. Younger player could be encouraged to put the throwing hand behind the glove to cushion the force of the ball.
5. Cocking the wrist helps retain the ball in the pocket of the glove.
6. For high catches, encourage players to run fast to where they think the ball might land, steady and then adjust their position to catch the ball. Coaches need to remember to stress these points that also apply to fielding.
7. Always encourage the players to watch the ball right from the tee.
8. Always encourage your players to get behind the flight of the ball, if possible.
9. Always encourage the players to watch the ball right into the glove.
But, most importantly, when the coach begins the teaching and practice process, everything is done starting with simple close catches where success is there to begin with and the fear of getting hit with the ball is removed. Using short catches increases the number of times the ball is caught at practice and reduces the need to chase balls that are missed. As the player improves, the coach can encourage longer and higher throws to catch. But this is only done after a warm-up with the short, easy to catch balls.