Between 2007 and 2014 the number of children aged 6 to 12 years old who played baseball dropped from 5.4 4,000,000 to 4.3 4 million, according to statistics from the Sports and Industry Fitness Association. The decline in young people playing baseball is a serious issue for the sport. It is estimated that 79% of all committed baseball fans played the sport one point in their life. A decline in youth participation will also hurt the future of available talent for professional baseball.
There are some reasons for the decline in participation by young children in baseball, including a wider drop in youth participation in organized sports. But one area where adults have a large amount of influence are training programs. Here we’ll look at how to design a baseball youth program which is fun, safe and challenging.
When developing a youth baseball program for it is critical that it is designed with children in mind. A good baseball program for young children will not simply be an adaptation of adult training methodologies. Young baseball players differ from adults in some important ways. This includes more obvious aspects such as their maturity level and experience playing baseball. But also that these young players are still physically developing between early childhood and the late adolescence. Not only does this mean that they have different physical capabilities but that training programs need to be safe for their growing bodies.
When training children encouraging them to participate in other sports is a good foundational principle. A common problem facing young children in baseball today is that they can end up overplaying. Young players playing on both travel and local teams can play more than seventy days per year. Overplaying has been linked to the rise in wrist injuries in young pitchers. This can be avoided by having children playing a second or third sport. This allows for maintenance of physical conditioning but without causing repetitive sports industry injuries. It also enables to young people to feel that they have a choice over the specific sport that they choose. Not feeling pushed into a particular sport enables them to develop a genuine passion for the sport.
Studies of youth training for baseball suggest that there are a few key principles that need to be followed. The first of these is that young baseball players are taught how to perform exercises correctly. Young players should then be put through a progressive program with controls in place. Young baseball players should not be exposed to repeated stress injuries. Strength training is best performed through a circuit training program using the young athlete’s body weight for the low. This is the best way to improve strength while avoiding injury
Strength training is an important aspect of youth baseball training but before any child engages in a resistance training program is important that they know how to perform the exercises correctly. Proper performance of the exercise will help to avoid injuries. Proper form should be taught be a certified strength coach. The incorrect form should be corrected and positive encouragement should be used throughout the training.
Using age appropriate equipment is important for helping children to gain confidence, feel comfortable playing baseball and ensure their safety. Youth baseball bats, also sometimes known as small barrel bats, are lighter and have a length to weight ratio which is suitable for 8 – 12 years old. When selecting batting gloves for children the key is to choose gloves which fit their current hand size. Cost savings can be made by using the same batting gloves across age ranges. Unfortunately, gloves incorrectly sized will make it difficult for the child to hold the bat and get good hits.
Coach pitching has become a popular way to teach children the fundamentals of hitting. Allowing children to get some good hit reinforces that baseball is a fun game which in turn encourages them to continue. Coach pitching is often performed incorrectly however. One of the biggest problems is that the differential in size between the coach and child. This can be corrected by kneeling so that the in the height of the child and the coach is closer. When pitching the coach should aim for a pitch which is flat, straight and not too slow. Look for where the child is swinging. Pitch to the child’s swing rather than expecting them to correct.
The key to developing a training program for young children is to make sure that it is fun, safe and progressively challenging. Improving training programs is one of the best ways to make sure that baseball stays the American pastime.
My name is David, I am an editor/co-founder of www.theplanetofbaseball.com. Being a software engineer by day and a baseball blogger by night, I also participated in the training activities of a youth baseball team at my hometown. I have passion with baseball, it pertains to my life from childhood until now and I love to share what is related to that passion with others. I believe in the support of other baseball bloggers like me to spread the passion.