My husband is coaching our five-year-olds baseball team. Several dads are helping as well and we are friends with many of the kids on the team. It is a six and under coach pitch team. We moved up this year from t-ball and thought the boys had a bit more competitiveness in them. The world of sports has changed since we were little and we are still learning how it all works. There are rec teams that seem to play for fun and competitive teams that play to win. We have friends who have older children who play on both types of teams and it all gets confusing. This is what I have learned so far.
1) Kids want to have fun. Feeling pressure is not fun. Five and six-year olds should not be pressured. (As far as I am concerned 7, 8, and 9 year olds should not feel pressure either, however my kids aren’t there yet)
2) Learning baseball is confusing. Choose a few key skills and hope the kids learn them by the end of the season. Throwing and catching is a good place to start. Stopping grounders (hence putting your glove on the ground) is another good one.
3) They have been playing in the dirt since before they were walking. It’s hard to keep them from it.
4) Having fun is motivation. If they expect to have fun, then they will want to play.
Keeping to that point. We recently played in a tournament that worn us plum out. We hadn’t experienced a tournament before and didn’t know what to expect. We thought, if nothing else, it would be fun to hang out with each other and let the boys get used to playing together. In hind sight, we felt like the boys were asked to do too much. They were hot, tired and not having much fun by the time it was all over. We learned a lot from the experience. One was to manage our expectations of this age group. We also learned that we need to remind the boys that we expect fun. We want them to learn to love the game. They are not going to do that if they feel pushed at such a young age.
In response to this experience, my husband and I put our creative minds together and came up with some fun ideas that would still allow them to practice their skills. At the next practice we told the parents to get ready to have fun and be prepared to get wet.
Punching bags can have many uses in baseball practice. We set up a punching bag just passed first base. The players were to hit the ball and run through the base and hit the punching bag. This was to teach them not to stop on the base but to keep running. We put another one between second and third base to keep them going. They were loving it. We also used the bag as a target for throwing. It’s more fun to throw and hit something than to play catch with a team-mate.
Water balloons have their place as well. We did a water balloon toss. This encouraged them to aim well and catch. They have to watch the ball into their hands. Of course it was kind of fun when they dropped it. The winning team got an extra swing at water balloon batting practice. Yep, that was the next thing we did. The kids took batting practice with water balloons. It was so much fun watching them smash the balloons and the water spray everywhere.
Practice was completed with play time on the slip and slide. Just for fun and they had lots of it. They are five and six. They are still learning to play cooperatively with one another. It should be fun. There will be a time for competitiveness and drive, but that time is not now.