Kids should stretch before and after baseball practices and games. Stretching warms and cools the muscles and helps to prevent injury and cramping. Have kids stand with their feet shoulder-width apart and rotate at the waist from side to side. Kids can stretch their legs by bending at the waist and attempting to touch the ground. Their legs should be straight, but make sure their knees aren't bent and they don't bounce up and down during the stretch. Kids use their arms for throwing and hitting in baseball, so provide plenty of opportunity to loosen the arm muscles. Tell kids to stretch toward the sky with both hands in the air, then bend one arm behind the head, elbow up, and use the other to push at the elbow to enhance the stretch. Repeat with both arms. Next, cross one arm in front of the chest, use the free arm to hold the arm and place and look over the shoulder of the arm being stretched. Making big and small circles with their arms is the final step to loosening the arms. Finally, head rolls and shoulder shrugs will loosen muscles in the neck and shoulders.
Catching and Throwing
A game of catch will help to develop kids' catching and throwing abilities. Have kids pair up with a partner and stand 10 steps apart. They should throw the ball back and forth to each other. After the pair has caught five consecutive throws, have each partner take one big step backward to increase distance. With each step back, the kids will have to throw the ball farther, which is an ideal exercise for developing arm strength and throwing accuracy. You can also play a variation of catch with the entire team. Have the team form a big circle so there is enough room for each kid to stick his arms out to the side without touching another player. The coach will start the exercise by calling out a player's name and throwing the ball to her. The player will then call another player's name, throw the ball and repeat for desired amount of time. This exercise will train kids' coordination, develop their attention spans and serves as a way for players to get to know each other.
Running is an essential element of baseball, so incorporate lots of running exercises into your practice sessions. Running a lap around the field before practice begins helps to warm up the muscles and increase kids' endurance. Divide the team into fielders and runners and practice both skills at the same time. The coach hits the ball and one player attempts to run around the bases before the fielders can get an out. Monkey in the Middle is another effective base-running game where two players try to tag a runner out between bases. Set up a shuttle run to test kids' speed from a stopped position. Place two objects such as blocks or baseballs 20 feet from the starting line. The kids will have to run and pick up one object, then bring it back to the starting line. He then runs to get the second object, only this time he is able to sprint through the starting line. Record each child's shuttle run time at the beginning and end of the baseball season so he can see his level of improvement.