Coaches, showing this age group how to play ball is kind of like herding cats. Kids develop at different speeds in different styles. You might have some who have taken a real shine to baseball, and others don’t know a baseball from a snowball! You’ll spend each 30-45 minute practice helping them to avoid hurting themselves and their teammates.
But we’re going to teach these tots how to throw. Teaching pitching and throwing for ages 4 – 6 correctly will give them the preliminary skills that will prevent injuries. It will also put them on the path to good mechanics and keep them throwing for years to come. Drills should contain positive reinforcement, acceptance, consistency and repetition with absolutely no emphasis on winning.
Show them how to turn their body so that the front shoulder points toward the target. Remind them to not crush the ball, but think of it as an egg. Most of your really young players aren’t going to be able to grip the seams of the ball yet, but you can coach them on getting that ball out with the fingertips. You’re also going to want to address “stiff wrist” by showing the kids how to throw the ball with only wrist and fingers to try and limber up a little. This will give them a head start with strength and accuracy with their throwing abilities.
Keep the elbow below the shoulder. Dropping the elbow rarely happens after age 7, there is great debate about how much of a problem dropping the elbow is when performing a throw. At such a young age, these kids are going to drop their elbows all the time, so keeping the elbow below the shoulder won’t be much of a problem. As time goes on, what you want is “elbow harmony” where the elbow won’t be dragging, but it’s also not too high. Show them how throwing is “circular.” Shoulder tilt is another big factor in good mechanics. Observe each child carefully and see how it goes.
Teach them to step toward the target with the non-throwing foot and release the ball! The front leg, like the shoulder, should always move toward the target.
With kiddos this young, there may be sort of a “daycare element” to these practices that will keep you on your toes, but there is no doubt that these bright youngsters are fun-loving, and you’ve got a real opportunity to make their experience a stellar one.