Coaching Guide

The following guide describes the specific skills that are taught in each of HLL's playing divisions.

Division Coaching Guide

Division     Expectations At End of Year
T-Ball
  • Kids have had fun and want to return next year
  • Know the nine defensive positions
  • Ready, break, throw
  • Bat safety
  • A proper "axe" or downward swing -- adjusting tee to avoid uppercuts
  • Basic game concepts, including forceouts
  • Work to remove fear of ball -- try flyball games with tennis balls
  • Learn to cheer for your teammates!
A
  • Throwing mechanics
  • Fielding concepts
  • Work to further remove fear of the ball -- flyball games, WANT the ball!
  • Work to keep the tee (rather than graduate from it) as a practice tool
  • Safely introduce soft toss as a practice staple
  • Basic game concepts, including relays
  • Know field positions well
  • Hitting live pitching with proper, level swing
AA
  • Dress like a ballplayer, be on time
  • Sportsmanship: what to do when you don't like the call
  • Strong team and bench behaviors, including bat safety review
  • Build confidence in foundational baseball skills, such as: the strike zone, swing mechanics, throwing mechanics (including long toss drills and good footwork), groundball basics with good footwork, flyball basics with good footwork, tagging runners out, cutoffs/relays with good footwork, backups, baserunning basics
  • Work on long toss, throwing
  • Work on situational knowledge, such as defensive situations based upon runner and batted ball positions
  • Teach/build confidence in "what do I do if the ball is hit to me?"
  • Teach kids to WANT the ball!
AAA
  • Build on all previous expectations
  • Move from pitching machine to live pitching; build pitchers and hitters
  • Pitching mechanics and practice
  • Identify catchers and promote catching skills
  • Infield, outfield, first base and catching footwork
  • Baserunning drills, including sliding
  • Sportsmanship, team responsibilities
  • Extend and drill defensive situations
Minors
  • Build on all previous expectations
  • Everyone should learn to bunt well
  • Teach signs and attention to signs
  • Pitching practice, mechanics and drills
  • Throw strikes with good mechanics in all drills
  • Baserunning techniques including: delayed steals, stealing home, getting a good jump
  • Steal and bunt coverages
  • Pitching and catching mechanics
Majors
  • Ready to play Babe Ruth or similar level of baseball

I. Courage, Character and Loyalty: Core National Little League Principles

  • Make it fun! Kids love competition! Try and turn every drill, within reason, into a fun competition.
  • Expect/demand some excellence and personal responsibility. Suggest that kids and parents are told some team ground rules, including: dress like a ballplayer, be on time, good sportsmanship, etc.
  • The dugout is our home and the home of the next team. Keep it neat and clean up when you are done.
  • Know if you have field preparation duties before or after the game and do it with joy and on time. Who doesn't love preparing a baseball field?
  • Get your players to cheer their teammates all the time. Always positive, never loaded with a negative.
  • Coaches MUST plan practices. Map out goals/objectives for each practice. In the younger divisions, include fun drills that advance skills and develop solid mechanics. Strive for 95% participation: get parent help if needed and break down practice into stations (throwing, hitting, agility, etc.). Establish a consistent warmup process, i.e. partner up, throw in parallel, note grip, step to target, watch ball into glove, catch ball in center of body.
  • Bring team together at end of each practice for cumulative review (short 5-10 minute discussion).
  • Attend experienced coaches' practices to learn from the experts.

II. Throwing

  • Always teach when to throw and when not to throw.
  • The poorest throw you can make is the unnecessary one.
  • Grip: four-seam versus two-seam, three points of contact, glove shoulder and eyes pointed to the target, athletic position, glove to chest, ball gripped in glove.
  • Hand separation (break): foot down as body begins forward
  • Thumb to thigh, hand to sky
  • Throwing position: ride the rail, stay closed on stride, foot strike
  • Rotation: foot strike, posture, balance
  • Release: chest forward, posture, balance
  • Follow-through: chest to glove, not glove to chest

III. Hitting

  • Practice all the time! Hitting is a game of mechanics and repetition. Everyone LOVES to hit. Let kids know that even professional ballplayers use tees all the time. Get 100 swings in every day. Communicate that the best thing a parent can do for a child who loves baseball is to practice hitting. Include tees, soft toss and pitching.
  • Expect a strike. On every pitch, our hitters should expect to hit a good pitch. Hitters should not expect a ball and swing at a strike -- this promotes late swings and poor timing. Players should approach every pitch as if they are going to hit it. Poor pitches create a need to hold up. More advanced levels of play allow for additional pitch selection teachings.
  • Bunting and situations. In the Minors and Majors divisions, every player should learn how to be a good bunter, particularly the weakest hitters. This should include: first base/drag/push bunts, bunting for base hits versus sacrifices, what to do with runners on 1st and 2nd and fake bunts.
  • Grip: knuckles, pads and fingers, not too deep, maintain a relaxed, tension-free grip.
  • Stance: weight on balls of feet, athletic position, keep weight centered between feet, stand six to eight inches off the plate.
  • Bat placement: hitter touches clavicle with bat and stays in same general area, relaxed elbows with rear elbow down, hands out (leads to casting).
  • Stride direction: parallel (towards pitcher), put foot down in firm, balanced position, set up hitter to allow for maximum plate coverage.
  • Load bat/hands.
  • Slot position: 45-degree angle, A to B, barrel above hands, barrel lag behind hands.
  • Contact: palm up/palm down at a 45-degree angle, backside should be pushed into firm front side.
  • Follow-through: backside "L" and balanced throughout body, finish high or low with hands (depending on pitch location).

IV. Playing Catch -- Basic Footwork for Receiving & Throwing

  • Demonstration: move TO the ball to begin footwork.
  • Ball off glove side: advance to the ball with throwing-side foot as you receive the baseball (right-hander advances with the right foot, left-hander advances with the left foot). Once the ball is received, a right-hander rotates towards the target with the left foot, rides the rail and throws (right-left-throw).
  • Ball on glove side: advance to the ball with glove-side foot as you catch the ball, replacement step, glove-side foot rides the rail and throws (left-right-throw for a right-hander).

V. Infield Basics

  • On-field communication: use 1, 2, 3 and 4 for calls on the field. They all sound different and there is less confusion. Use them in every drill!
  • Charging slow roller: no bare hands unless the ball has stopped completely.
  • Circling the ball
  • Groundball Mechanics
  • Upper-body (start on knees): front-side "L," glove hand (blade of bulldozer), elbow position center or left of center, top-hand.
  • Triangle position: track ball into glove, funnel to chest or bring to throwing shoulder, secure ball at top of triangle.
  • Fielding position: feet shoulder-width apart (left foot slightly ahead of right), sit low, back straight, knees flexed slightly inside feet, eyes up, feet, knees, hips, shoulders, eyes face home plate.
  • Move to "Preparing Legends Positon (PLP)" and ride the rail: small arc, thumb to thigh, hand to sky, feet replacement step, stay low and balanced.
  • Rotate and throw: chest to glove, momentum to target.
  • Follow-through: ride the rail, walk through your throw.

VI. Outfield Basics

  • First step is always back.
  • Sun pops
  • Circling
  • Hit cut-off man
  • Playing the fence
  • Back-ups
  • Pre-pitch stance: knees flexed, hands near hips.
  • Catching a flyball: boxer's stance with feet, knees flexed, catch ball at eye level, catch ball on glove side.
  • Crow-hop: jump-step to PLP and ride the rail.
  • Fielding an outfield groundball with no runners on base: field on a knee, secure the catch with top hand, out in front.
  • Fielding an outfield groundball with runners on base: field on glove side, give with elbow, look ball into glove, crow-hop to PLP and ride the rail.

VII. Pitching

  • Throw a strike in your mind first
  • Defense: covering first base, comebacker, covering home, backing up, cutoffs, double plays.
  • Grip: four-seam and two-seam.
  • Toe rubber: feet shoulder-width apart, keep hand position at chest level.
  • Drop into slot: pivot in front of rubber, maintain hand position at chest level.
  • Lift leg: balance foot below knee, maintain hand position at chest level.
  • Hand separation and foot down: foot down as body begins forward, thumb to thigh, hand to sky.
  • Ride the rail: stay closed on stride, foot strike.
  • Rotate: foot strike.
  • Release: chest forward, posture, balance.
  • Follow-through: heel up and out, backside "L," backside "V."
  • Fielding position: PLP.

VIII. Catching

  • Equipment
  • Positioning
  • Footwork
  • Framing
  • Blocking pitches
  • Throwing
  • Signs
  • Directing cuts
  • Tags and blocking plate
  • Popups
  • Bunts
  • Force plays
  • Backing up 1st base
  • Pickoffs
  • Delayed steal deke
  • Intentional walks
  • Rundowns

IX. Baserunning Basics

  • Running the bases properly
  • Check the outfield
  • Rundowns
  • Texas Leaguers
  • Coaching 1st base
  • Infield Fly Rule
  • Steals
  • 1st and 3rd situations
  • Partway on a fly
  • Home to 1st (no turn): eyes on target, straight line, touch front of bag, sprinter's finish, close out.
  • Lead after pitch: read trajectory from pitcher to catcher, eyes on catcher/ball, look for ball in the dirt, jab, read, shuffle up to 3 1/2 steps after ball crosses plate.
  • Ball in the dirt: read balls in the dirt and catcher deflections.
  • Home to 2nd with turn
  • Rounding 3rd base
  • Sliding

X. Team Defense

  • Want the ball: teach/build confidence in "what do I do if the ball is hit to me?"
  • Cuts and relay system
  • Tagging runners out: straddle the base, look the ball into your glove, put your free hand over the ball if you have time, place your glove ON THE GROUND in front of the base. Do NOT reach for the runner's chest because he/she will slide under the tag and be safe. Tag the runner on the closest foot as they approach the base.
  • Backup system
  • Bunt defense: runner on 1st, runners on 1st and 2nd, squeezes, outfield backups.
  • Situations: 1st and 3rd, 1st and 2nd, squeezes, appeal plays.
  • Stolen base defense: 1st, 2nd, 1st and 2nd, 1st and 3rd, squeezes.
  • Relay fundamentals: infielder lines up halfway between outfielder's likely throwing position and his target. Runs out with hands up yelling "BALL, BALL." Once ball is released, relay man MUST move his feet in order to catch the ball half-turned and close to the chest as high on the glove side as possible; this makes the relay throw most efficient. Teach relay men to GO GET IT, MOVE THEIR FEET and CATCH THE BALL IN THE AIR at all costs. Look for players turning the wrong way (because the ball drifts to the throwing-hand side) and correct.
  • Rundowns
  • Infield in
  • Infield popups: popup priority, Infield Fly Rule, dropped popup for double play.
  • Texas Leaguers
  • 1st base: footwork, short hops, bad throws, stretching, tagging, pitcher covering, force at 2nd.
  • Second base and shortstop: double plays, communication, positioning.

XI. Team Offense

  • Expect a strike, prepare for a wild pitch and ALWAYS BE READY!
  • Sliding
  • 1st and 3rd plays
  • Steals
  • Delayed steals
  • Squeezes
  • Hit and run
  • Hitting to the right side
  • 2-strike hitting
  • Pitch selection