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Thread: How to teach diving for a catch?

  1. #1

    How to teach diving for a catch?

    Does anyone have a good step by step approach for teaching a player how to extend out and dive for a GB or FB catch?

  2. #2
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    I don't really think it's something you can teach. It's more instinctive. A player just needs the mindset to go get the ball, just as a fighter needs to have a killer instinct.

    I think the more players think about how to dive, the more mechanical they get and they end up laying out for balls they should be catching on the run.

    Years ago, coaches actually taught outfielders how to make somersault catches. The thinking was that the fielder would end up on his feet and be able to throw. If you really have time to plan a somersault catch, you have time to catch it without leaving your feet. The same is true for most diving catches. If the fielder snags the ball a foot off the ground, he didn't need to dive. Same thing for those feet-first sliding catches.

  3. #3
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    I have never taught this. Although I remember my son (10 yo maybe?) and I a few times in the yard, where he would ask me to throw him some tennis balls so he could dive for them.

  4. #4
    "The same is true for most diving catches. If the fielder snags the ball a foot off the ground, he didn't need to dive. Same thing for those feet-first sliding catches."

    Disagree. Based on my experience as an OF (not recently),

    Diving headfirst for a ball a foot off the ground-- it's difficult to transition from a full-sprint to leaning down with a out-stretched glove, especially on a ball in the gap.

    Feet-first sliding catches--there's 2 good reasons for this approach, on a ball in front of you: it gets you on eye level with the ball, and acts as a sliding block in case it short hops you.

    The game occurs at full-speed. The OF doesn't have benefit of target-acquisition radar or 20-20 hindsight using slo-mo replay.

  5. #5
    Kids usually LOVE to dive at the ball.

    I like lining up all the players on the foul side of the 3rd base line, with 1 player at 1st. I hit a hard GB to the player at 3B. Once he completes the throw, he's already SPRINTING to SS, where he fields a GB and throws to 1B, and then SPRINTS to 2B, where I "lead" him with a Line drive or GB, so he pretty much has to dive. I do this at a rapid fire pace and the kids love it.

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    The best drill I've seen for this is having a player start on his knees in the grass, and then tossing the ball wide to his right and left.

    It teaches him to extend and fall without hurting his ribs. Eventually you can move up to working from a fielding position.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by AgentX View Post
    The best drill I've seen for this is having a player start on his knees in the grass, and then tossing the ball wide to his right and left.

    It teaches him to extend and fall without hurting his ribs. Eventually you can move up to working from a fielding position.
    This is the one I've used in the past as well. Gets them used to actually laying out for balls in a non-game, controlled, environment.

  8. #8
    Some great ideas. I like the knee drill and then the 3rd to ss to 2B once they have the basics. Found this video that looks like the drill you guys are describing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0rQUrDXsgs

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    That's the one.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by skipper5 View Post
    Diving headfirst for a ball a foot off the ground-- it's difficult to transition from a full-sprint to leaning down with a out-stretched glove, especially on a ball in the gap.
    I think you missed my point. If the ball goes in the glove a foot off the ground, the fielder didn't need to dive for it. A fielder running after a ball should never be 'leaning down with outstretched glove.'

    Running while leaning and sliding feet first slow down the fielder.

  11. #11
    When my son was 7 & 8 yrs old, I used to throw grounders wide left and right so he would have to dive (lay out) to stop them. I then started tossing him fly balls and same thing, threw some wide left and right so he had to dive and catch them.
    It must have paid off. When they had tryouts (when he was 9) a coach was hitting short fly balls for the kids to catch, he fouled a pop up towards the dugout, and my son took off after it and laid straight out and caught it.
    The coach with the first pick chose him, and told me later that it was a no brainer to pick him first. He said that most 9 year olds don't do stuff like that and that he was going to be something special. That was 15 years ago....and he did end up being a pretty good ball player.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by baseballdad View Post
    Does anyone have a good step by step approach for teaching a player how to extend out and dive for a GB or FB catch?
    (Practice on knees at first)

    1. Dive on chest, not side.
    2. Make mental effort to squeeze the ball in glove (don't just throw glove out willy nilly thinking ball will go in miraculously).
    3. Bring both hands to position under shoulders, like push-up.
    4. Pop-up to either a)one knee,b) 2 knees, c)both feet.
    5. Keep in mind that the ball will be hard hit on a dive so there is no need to rush.

  13. #13

    Wall-ball

    The two best MIF in the age-group I'm currently coaching have been making diving plays since their first days in T-ball.

    They grew up on opposite sides of town, but what they both have in common is that they both started out at a very young age humming tennis balls hours-on-end at stone walls in their front yards and making diving plays on the grass.

    I also attribute their excellent ability to short-hop a ball to their hours spent at playing wall-ball.

    If I had a baseball-crazed 5 yr-old and lived somewhere without stone walls, I'd build an 8 X 12 plywood backstop and cover it w/ some sort of variegated surface (for unpredictable rebounds--grounders and high pops), buy a three-pack of tennis balls and a six-pack of cold ones, and watch my son fall in love with the defensive side of the game.
    Last edited by skipper5; 05-30-2009 at 02:31 PM.

  14. #14
    What has worked for me is to teach my infielders to lead with the glove. By this I mean we do pickups where they run low with the glove along the ground and pocket open to the ball. If they are low and have the glove out stretched diving is second nature. This is taught as a progression. First balls are rolled so that they can get to them in a couple of strides and then we challenge them. If they stay low and the glove is leading diving comes naturally (even on gym floor and I coach HS softball).

    The biggest obstacle to diving is that players usually run too tall to the ball. I tell them that if they run tall it really doesn't seem like a smart idea to throw themselves at the ground. Learn how to stay low - Start low / Stay low.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Macker View Post
    I don't really think it's something you can teach. It's more instinctive. A player just needs the mindset to go get the ball, just as a fighter needs to have a killer instinct.

    I think the more players think about how to dive, the more mechanical they get and they end up laying out for balls they should be catching on the run.

    Years ago, coaches actually taught outfielders how to make somersault catches. The thinking was that the fielder would end up on his feet and be able to throw. If you really have time to plan a somersault catch, you have time to catch it without leaving your feet. The same is true for most diving catches. If the fielder snags the ball a foot off the ground, he didn't need to dive. Same thing for those feet-first sliding catches.
    I agree that learn to dive is not important to become a good ball player. But they see it in TV and will do it anyway.

    So they should learn to do it correctly, so that they don't get injured.

    Key is to squat low before you jump and jump parallel to the ground, instead of jumping high into the air.

  16. #16
    "I agree that learn to dive is not important to become a good ball player."

    Dominick,
    As a coach, I won't tolerate an infielder who is unwilling to lay himself out to make a play. Level of play I'm referring to is 15u all-stars.
    skip

  17. #17
    Good advice by all and that video was done by one of the best baseball teachers I have ever seen (Jack Grant).

    One point he makes that I think is critical when teaching “diving catches” or “lay outs” as he calls them, is for the player to always land on his hands and forearms to cushion his fall exactly like he does when stealing a base. Not his “chest” like some say, unless he wants to come to an abrupt stop, have his feet fly up over his head and get ridiculed by their teammates all season.

    In my opinion, teaching layouts is much easier with a harder-bodied, kid in puberty than pre adolescents. With pre adolescents, I would recommend practicing this at a swimming pool using a worthless glove and tennis balls. It’s fun and you are also assured of 100% attendance that day (lol).

    Lastly, I strongly recommend also teaching “sliding catches” at the same time. There is a time and place for both during a ball game and being able to learn to make that split second decision (on your feet and at full speed) takes time (and many mistakes).

    Diving catches like the video are bang-bang type of plays where infielders dive to their left or right and outfielders dive at the end of a short sprint by gradually leaning and then pushing out head fist (like stealing a base). On the other hand, if there is the slightest chance of colliding with another fielder, fence or dugout, the player should ALWAYS execute a sliding (feet first) catch to avoid injury.

    Below is my son trying to demonstrate the sliding catch skill back when he was in high school. It’s not going to win any Academy Awards, but should give you some ideas on why it’s also important to teach.

    http://www.baseball-excellence.com/s....cfm?Forum=994

    Hope this helps some,

    THop

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macker View Post
    I don't really think it's something you can teach. It's more instinctive. A player just needs the mindset to go get the ball, just as a fighter needs to have a killer instinct.
    Exactly.

    You want them to learn, just have them watch "Web Gems" or "Top Ten Plays" and they'll just develop a desire to "make highlight reel" plays. That's how I learned. I never EVER went through a "diving" practice. You just emulate the big guys and it comes to ya.

    Instead, I would teach appropriate times to dive for a ball, what to do if you miss, what to do if you make the catch, that sort of thing.
    Swing and a drive! This one is deep! This one is... over the fence and into the neighbor's yard!

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Macker View Post
    I think you missed my point. If the ball goes in the glove a foot off the ground, the fielder didn't need to dive for it. A fielder running after a ball should never be 'leaning down with outstretched glove.'

    Running while leaning and sliding feet first slow down the fielder.
    Then I think it would be safe to say you are misunderstanding what you are seeing. What you are interpreting as a "dive", is actually the fielder's center of gravity reaching a point so far out in front of his feet that he FALLS forward because he can't possibly hold his body up.
    Sometimes it's easier/faster to just fall forward and let the ground bring you to soft, sliding stop than to try and keep running for another 25ft while you try and regain your balance.

    And YES, sliding into a catch DOES slow the fielder down - it also puts him in better control of his body so he can make a more accurate throw and see what is happening on the field.

    It's not that the fielder's are being DRAMATIC, it's that they're bodies are obeying the laws of gravity/physics and that they're just making a smart/safe play on the ball.



    As for as answering the poster's question...
    The key is to teach how to land safely. Wet down some grass and create a "natural slip-n-slide". The wetness of the grass will help reduce friction and minimize any pain that they may incur from a "mistake". Have them practice a superman drill - either with or w/out their glove on. Make sure they are learning to land on their hands first. I agree with the knee drill. This will help them learn it on a small, pain free level at first. But at some point they must experience it full speed. The key is to build confidence. The more you control the conditions of the environment in which they are learning, the greater chance you have of reducing any painfull accidents which might ultimately deter them from doing something that is as much fun to do as it is to watch.
    Last edited by StraightGrain11; 06-01-2009 at 10:41 PM.
    "Coaches should teach people to play better baseball, not teach baseball to make better players."
    "In the Little League manual it says 'Baseball builds character' - that is not true. Baseball reveals character." - Augie Garrido

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by StraightGrain11 View Post
    Then I think it would be safe to say you are misunderstanding what you are seeing.
    Trust me. I know what a dive is.


    What you are interpreting as a "dive", is actually the fielder's center of gravity reaching a point so far out in front of his feet that he FALLS forward because he can't possibly hold his body up.
    A 'dive' in baseball doesn't resemble a dive in swimming. It's more of a lunge after a ball about to hit the ball (not one touched by the glove a foot off the ground.) You call it fall, but it's more of a lunge. I don't want players getting all mechanical on how to dive for a ball.

    Sometimes it's easier/faster to just fall forward and let the ground bring you to soft, sliding stop than to try and keep running for another 25ft while you try and regain your balance.
    25ft?!! The only time a fielder would need to regain his balance is if he made a shoe-string catch. Otherwise, a fielder won't run anywhere near 25ft before getting a throw off. If an outfielder can't catch a ball in the air & throw faster than he can dive, get up & throw, there is something wrong.

    And YES, sliding into a catch DOES slow the fielder down - it also puts him in better control of his body so he can make a more accurate throw and see what is happening on the field.
    If the fielder has time to slide feet-first, he has time to continue and catch the ball. Watch how many times guys like Jason Bay slide feet-first, but they rarely actually catch the ball. As for being in control of his body so he can make an accurate throw, don't you think he'd have a better chance of that if he just caught the ball on his feet and threw it? That's almost like saying a fielder should position himself to play a ball on a hop just so he's better set to throw.

    I don't have an issue with the suggested drills for infielders diving to the side. I don't think outfielders should be trained to dive. They just have to have the mindset to go after the ball and do what they have to do (which doesn't include sliding feet first unless the fielder is approaching a wall.)

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