Friday, April 16, 2010

Playing Whiffle Ball: A Youngster’s Best Tool to Improve

“Little Fenway” is probably the nicest whiffle ball field in the United States. Built in 2000, the field was constructed as a replica of the Boston Red Sox famous stadium. From pictures, the place looks absolutely awesome. The field, which opened on July 2, 2001, has been used by charities to help raise money for worthy causes. According to their website, the field has helped to raise almost 1 million dollars in charity donations.

Though many kids won’t get the chance to play at “Little Fenway” that should not interfere with their love of a long standing tradition….backyard whiffle ball. It is a game, played by family and friends, which has helped millions of kids fall in love with baseball. Not only that, but the game has helped propel players to pick up the small nuances that baseball has to terms of rules and regulations.

Baseball is a game that is peppered with rules. Playing whiffle ball help to assist younger players to learn the rules on the game. In their own backyard, players pick up the difference between a force or tag out. To start, they may even learn the simplest rule---what is a foul ball? These things can be tricky especially to someone new to the game. Baseball’s rules are complicated (aka…tagging up) so younger players have a large learning curve. Making mistakes in their own backyard provide kids with a safe, comfort zone.

Baserunning is another positive element of youngsters playing whiffle ball. Remember getting stuck in a pickle or having ghost runners? These learning tools are exactly what the kids need to make the game fun. Also, it let’s kids play without a full team letting them hit multiple times while running the bases. These adjustments help the game move fast, not allowing kids to get bored.

Moreover, playing defense against these baserunning situations require fielders to think quickly by mentally rehearsing the situation. Over time, players start to learn the difference between outs. They are able to read the spin and judge a flyball These real, game-like situations are the only methods that really encourage true development.

What about hitting? Developing proper swing mechanics is very important for young hitters. Whiffle ball participation allow players the chance to produce multiple repetitions at a varied ability level. All the characteristics of solid hitting mechanics should be incorporated like weight transfer, effective swing tilt, and extension into finish.

Pitchers may chose to pitch using an underhand or overhand delivery depending on the hitter’s skill level. Underhand pitching allows players time to incorporate good hitting mechanics. As players get more comfortable, an overhand style may be more appropriate. Using the overhand model, players receive less reaction time to the pitch making them swing harder and quicker at the ball.

In addition, older players may take on the challenge of varied speed pitching. Off-speed pitches are not part of basic hitting concepts, but more advanced levels. Also, pitchers may also choose to throw at multiple arm angles. Both of these methods greatly enhance a young player’s ability to learn some advanced hitting concepts.

Another major attribute backyard whiffle ball gives young players is there ability to handle failure. Baseball is a game immersed in failure where quality professional hitters only get on base 3 out of 10 times. One big concern at every level, especially youth baseball is how kids deal with striking out. Today, it is not uncommon to see helmets or bats thrown after a player strikes out. That type of behavior is not acceptable. Being able to handle failure should lead to improving overall sportsmanship concept.

Finally, being outdoors and having fun with friends naturally helps kids fall in love with the game. After everything is stripped away like techniques, mechanics, and rules having players love the game is the most important lesson these backyard games can teach. You are never too old to play!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Coach Rod Huff: A Great Resource for Youth Baseball

Coach Rod Huff was published a great resource for youth baseball coaches through Coaches Choice, Inc.  His book titled Coaching Made Easier gives coaches a clear and specific vision going into their upcoming season.  I would highly recommend it for coaches out there looking to maintain their edge this season over the competition.  In September, it was the #1 seller in its division on 

Here is a brief description of the book: 

Coaching Made Easier: How to Successfully Manage Your Youth Baseball Team – A Step-by-Step Guide to a Rewarding Season, is the author’s labor of love for the sport of baseball in general and specifically the brave, volunteer coaches who stepped up to coach a team. Scheduled for release in August 2008, the book helps a coach maneuver through the season from the draft to the end of the year party.

Huff coached his son’s teams for eleven years. He started as an assistant for two years but was quickly asked to take a team as a head coach. Immediately after volunteering he went to the book store to find books that would assist him with this responsibility. What he found was a plethora of books on baseball instruction ─ books that taught general baseball skills such as hitting, pitching, etc. He was unable to find any books on what it actually takes to manage a team, the players, and the parents.

Through trial and error over the years, he developed an effective way to manage the process of coaching youth baseball teams and wished to share it with other volunteers who find themselves in this situation. His “system” was effective from a win/lose point of view but he also found the parents and players asking to be on his teams year after year. A testimony to his concern for his “team” - parents and players alike.

Author Rod Huff has two children and resides with his wife, Lisa, in Brentwood, Tennessee. His desire is to equip volunteer coaches with tips, tricks and ideas that will make everyone’s experience better. Coaching Made Easier can be ordered through Coaches Choice at or the number listed below.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Upcoming Posts

1.  The Mental Game of Baseball:  Sharpening the Edge

2.  Playing the Hot Corner:  Tips for Third Baseman

3.  Bullpen Work:  Pitchers Staying Sharp

4.  Keeping Fresh:  Not Letting Down During the Hot Summer

5.  In-Season Pitching:  Sample Pitching Pamphlet

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