Nolan Bracken is the Grassroots & Coaching Director with Baseball Saskatchewan and says it’s important for coaches to incorporate a fun-based game plan when designing practices with players at the introductory levels of the game.
“One thing you’ve got to look out for with younger kids is the engagement level,” explained Bracken. “The way (baseball) is played there can seem to be a lot of standing around so during practices you need to keep the kids active.”
Bracken, a former Division 1 baseball player at Dickinson State University where he holds eight baseball records, says there are a few ways he recommends to overcome those challenges when coaching at these age groups.
Relay races and active games
Relay races and movement-based games (running, jumping, diving) that promote physical literacy are key tools in Baseball Sask’s player development programs for younger ages.
“Activities like these are good ways to get the kids active and engaged which is important at younger ages,” says Bracken who has experience in coaching a wide range of ages and levels.
He adds that you must approach coaching kids from a much different angle compared to players in their teens who may already have the love and passion for the game developed.
“These types of activities can introduce younger players to the more fun and exciting side of the sport while at the same time making players strategize with their teammates in order to achieve success.”
“Our Rally Cap program at Baseball Sask really focuses around timed stations, keeping players moving and learning all aspects of the game to keep engagement levels high.”
Bracken explains this component is key to keeping players interested in the different aspects of the game like throwing, fielding, hitting and running.
“We understand kids can get bored of standing in one spot for a 20 to 30 minute drill so when you run stations in the 5-10 minute range it keeps the kids moving, interested and experiencing more enjoyment.”
“Parent involvement is huge...Growing up I played a lot of sports and I had parents and a brother so I spent a lot of time in the backyard or at the park throwing the baseball which helped me tremendously,” explains Bracken who says those memories of throwing the ball with his family helped him learn and love the sport even more.
It doesn't even have to be baseball related as Bracken puts it.
“Whether it's playing football, or even throwing a frisbee a lot of those “throwing” skills will still transfer over.”
Bracken urges parents to get out and get active with their kids regardless of their own skill level.
“Parents don’t need to be baseball experts to help their kids,” he says. “Throwing a football (or any type of catch game) can pay dividends for young players.”
This article was written by Connor Heldman, a student in Conestoga College's Journalism Program