How To Correct Little Leaguers Holding The Ball Too Long In The Field
I've seen it happen in almost all sports even at the professional level. In hockey I've seen players holding the puck too long when they should either shoot at the net or pass the puck to another teammate. This happens a lot on power plays especially if the team has that rare two-man advantage. In basketball we see some point guards holding the ball too long when they should be trying to either penetrate the key or pass it off. Of course this will vary on each and every play. But when it is your team that needs a basket, it can drive you crazy as a fan or a coach when the ball is held too long. There was a guard back in my day Oscar Robertson who seemed to know exactly how long to hold the basketball on each and every play. In football I've seen quarterbacks holding the ball way too long when they should try and maybe run for a few yards or should be throwing the ball out of bounds. In baseball the best defensive outfielders always were able to think ahead at lightening speed as to what to do with the ball when it was hit to them with men on base. Whether it was Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente or Ken Griffey Jr., they all seemed to throw the ball and never held it for an instant longer than they had to.
In youth sports though holding the ball is magnified even more so. Nothing frustrated me more in my 25 years coaching youth baseball was when there was a base hit and one of my outfielders would hold and hold and hold the ball with players on the bases. I've spoken about the vocal competition from the stands with parents yelling where to throw the ball. This is a major issue and sometimes is the root of a player holding the ball and undecided what to do with it. This and when more than one fielder is demanding the ball at the same time, doubt comes into the mind of the outfielder.
I always teach my outfielders to get the ball back to the infield as soon as they can. I’m going it give you the best teaching advice you well ever have to resolve having an outfielder in youth baseball standing and just holding on to the baseball. Tell your players that when they are in the outfield and not sure what to do with the baseball, to throw it to the person closest to them in the infield with the same color uniform. There you go! The player will at least begin to get the ball back to where the action is happening.
In practices we do situations and I have a drill called the “distraction drill.” In this drill I set it up with players on base and hit the ball to the outfielder I want to teach where to throw the baseball. I instruct all my infielders to demand the ball and both my assistant coaches are yelling where to throw it. The fielder has to decide quickly with the players on base and moving the best course of action and where he should make the throw.
During games when there are players on base, I will yell out to certain fielders before the ball is pitched something like:
“Rob, if the ball is hit to you get the ball back in quickly to Eddie to keep the lead runner from going to third.”
Remember as coaches we can tell our players what to do but if we show them what to do, it will be conditioned in the minds of these young players better. Practicing is the best method with reinforcement in games as the season goes on to teach young players the importance of not holding the ball too long in the outfield with runners on base.
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