The Best Way to Teach Youth Baseball Players How to Steal Bases

One of the best parts of baseball - besides the oh so awesome experience of seeing a grand slam- is watching the player steal and slide. Regardless of which team you are rooting for, there is an excitement in waiting with bated breath for the ref to decide if that player is safe or out. It's great! Even to people who don’t like baseball all that much, it is a thrilling experience. And kids love to do it because it's fun. So, as their coach the question looms: how do you teach youth athletes to do cool things? Lucky for you, we at Hustle Training have the best tips on how to turn your youth athletes into top performers.

Stolen Bases

There are not a lot of sports that have anything like the play that is a successful stolen base.

Base stealing is part of the skill of base running; probably the most advanced skills associated with base running. As noted by

The Cardinal rule as a base runner when not on the bag is Keep your eye on the ball. Instruct your runners to get signs from the coaches with their foot on the bag, always!

Your players should always watch the pitcher when taking a lead. Why? Because they have the ball. Coaches have taught that your lead should be a body length and a step and this became the standard. Now this is a good reference point, but there are plenty of kids out there who have never ventured beyond this point! Do this with all your base runners, go with the body length and a step, wait for a pick-off attempt, and evaluate your lead. Encourage your slower players to try this in practice or scrimmages to show them they can steal bases too. You may have to tweak their lead length, but keep pushing them to get as big of a lead as their talent allows. Some pitchers have quick moves, while others are rather slow. Good base running teams take advantage of every opportunity. Show your players how to begin watching pitchers right away to find out their tendencies.

Keep your players taking shuffle steps when leading off at 1st base Your more advanced, faster players can employ a cross over step with left foot behind the right, then 2 shuffle steps. The player should take their lead at the front edge of the bag. In other words, the runner should be as close to the pitcher as possible while still being even with the base. Pitchers who aren’t concerned about the base runner will soon find the base runner no longer on first base! This will give the perception to the pitcher that your runner is closer to bag that they really are. Try it it works! Good base running techniques also train your pitchers what to look for when they are on the mound.

Getting a good jump is absolutely the most important aspect of stealing a base. If a player does not get a good jump, they will be out most of the time. Players who are aggressive with their jumps will have far more success. When you give the steal sign, too many youth baseball players think they have to go on the next pitch. Tell your players to steal only if they get a good jump.

These are pretty good tips. We suggest teaching those kids how to slide just as well as stealing, because a good slide can save a steal. But first, it is important to realize what counts as a steal and what will not count.

The Rules Around Stolen Bases

While some youth leagues adhere to different rules, and it is important that you check the local rules to determine exactly what you want to reinforce in your teams’ training. Major League Baseball lists the following.

A stolen base occurs when a baserunner advances by taking a base to which he isn't entitled. This generally occurs when a pitcher is throwing a pitch, but it can also occur while the pitcher still has the ball or is attempting a pickoff, or as the catcher is throwing the ball back to the pitcher.

A stolen base is not automatically credited when a runner advances during one of the aforementioned scenarios; the official scorer must also determine that the runner had been in attempt of a steal. For example, if a runner takes an extra base on a wild pitch or passed ball, he is not awarded a stolen base. However, if he was attempting to steal as a wild pitch/passed ball was thrown, he is generally given credit for it.

A baserunner is not given credit for a steal if he takes the extra base as a result of an error by the opposing defense. He is not given credit for a steal if he safely advances but another runner also attempting to steal on the same play is thrown out. (This maneuver is called a "double steal.") He is also not given credit if the defense concedes the base because of the situation in the game. (This generally occurs very late in the contest, with the defensive team ahead by more than one run. The defense -- not wanting to play out of position -- doesn't cover the base and, as a result, the ruling is "defensive indifference" rather than a stolen base.)

In most little leagues, the variance on the rules is that the base can only be stolen after the ball leaves the pitchers hands. (Source). Again, this will vary based on the team affiliation you are coaching. So brush up before teaching.

How to Master the Slide

Whether sliding for a steal, a base-run, or to get home this is an acrobatic movement that sets apart the masters from the novice. The basic slide is just that - run and jump toward the base you are headed for, avoiding being tagged out and beating the ball. This is a tricky maneuver that kids can actually get injured doing. For that reason, form is important. Teaching that form and appropriate stretching are also important. We found the best step-by-step guide on this through, which is a site built by fitness experts. So rather than reinvent the wheel we are sharing it with you through their link. It has a video to explain and step-by-step instructions. We strongly recommend that you work these exercises into your team drills and have the kids watch the video and practice the steps.

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