When kids are young – we tend to focus in on the things we know in baseball. We teach them to hit, pitch, field and throw regularly. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that 99% of baseball practice time with players under the age of 14 is used on those four things alone. The one thing that always seems to fall through the cracks is base running.
Especially at the youth level where catchers and fielders make mistakes with regularity – sound base running can make a significant difference in whether your team is competitive or an also-ran. In addition – by incorporating more base running into your usual practice routines, you’re passing along an invaluable skill and teaching a it to kids early on so that they don’t develop bad habits. Needless to say – as they grow older, this early work will pay off.
Most coaches limit their base running drills to allowing their team to run around the bases as fast as they can and leaving it at that. Today, we’ll give you some pointers on how you can build out your base running training, increase your players’ awareness and help them build speed.
Let’s jump right in!
Arm position – A base runner’s arms should always be positioned close to the body at a 90-degree angle and waist high. As they take off down the baseline, their arms should be moving front to back. The more sideways movements in a players’ gate – and the slower they’ll run. Shoulders and hands should be relaxed. It might seem basic, but make sure your players are practicing these movements in slow motion so they can develop the muscle memory. Proper running form makes ‘only’ a second or two difference, but that second or two can mean a lot in a tight game.
Focus – Base runners should always be focused on their destination, not on the ground in front of them. That being said, players do need to know what’s going on around them in order to not get tagged out. To help develop this, always simulate base runners during batting practice. Have them run the bases and get coached while they’re doing it. Help them learn to run within their own limitations, but more importantly, explain out each situation to help them gain a better understanding of when to run and when to throw on the breaks.
Foot positioning – The number-1 rule of base running is to keep runners off their heels. Not doing so can absolutely kill your speed. Make sure runners are pushing off on the ball of their feet and drive forward with every step. If you’ve ever seen track cleats – you’ll notice there are only spikes on the front of the shoe. They’re located there for a reason. Practice running on the dirt and in the outfield and make sure players are learning to push off the right way.
Just a little extra time each practice can not only help your players become faster, but they’ll run the bases better and smarter than anyone else. Faster, smarter teams win more baseball games.
Topics Covered in Our Base Running Training Library:
- How Not to Get Picked Off the Base
- When to Make a Big Turn at First Base
- Base Stealing Sliding
- Base Stealing Basic Keys
- One Hop Delay Base Stealing
- How Not to Miss Signs
- The Skinny on the Contact Play at 3rd Base
- Reading Balls in the Dirt
- AND MANY MORE!