Encouraging Practice at Home for Youth Athletes

There is simply not enough time in most youth sports organizations to get enough practice. Yet young athletes require consistent repetition to develop their skills and build their physical abilities. This is where practicing at home comes into play. Kids are busier than ever these days, but there should still be time to work on their baseball or basketball skills outside of practices and games.

Coaches Work With Parents to Keep a Consistent Message

Kids, contrary to what they will tell you, crave structure. They also crave consistency. This is an often overlooked aspect of the coach/parent dynamic. Some parents have genuine knowledge about their child’s sport, and would like to teach their own lessons away from the team. That is great! Issues will only arise if that message contradicts what is being taught by the coach.

As a coach, work with parents to identify team and individual goals for the season. For example, if a young hitter has been struggling with strikeouts and a coach is emphasizing contact first, that information should be conveyed to parents. What would be confusing to a youth player is to then go home and have dad teach them to swing for the fences.

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Motivating Youth Athletes to Practice at Home

Motivation is not always there for kids. If a youth athlete is lacking the enthusiasm for at-home practices, consider the following:

  • Try to understand the child’s perspective - some kids are natural athletes and love sports from birth. Others may be shy, or feel like they aren’t physically gifted, or any number of other reasons which could give them pause. In order to motivate a child, adults must first empathize with them.

  • Participate and be a role model - rather than framing practice as some sort of chore, it can be viewed as a fun activity with the family. Father-daughter games of catch and mother-son games of H-O-R-S-E in the driveway are much more appealing than shooting 50 jump shots before brushing teeth at night.

  • Keep the mood light - kids understand when they are being pressured. Youth sports should be fun, and never something to be seen as something that kids “have to do”.

  • Set a loose schedule - this schedule doesn’t even have to be something that is explicitly discussed, but parents should make sure that their kids have enough time in the day for sports, homework, and so forth.

Youth Baseball Training at Home

Defensive drills can be done pretty much any place with enough room, a ball, and a glove. For young athletes, just playing a game of catch can do wonders. Mix things up by throwing ground balls, fly balls, and practicing throws from different lengths and situations. For more advanced youth baseball players, defensive drills can include batted balls, situational awareness, and team defense when possible.

Batting drills may be a bit trickier to set up. Hitting netsand other similar equipment can be used to practice batting outside or even a basement. Hitting nets allow players to hit off of a tee or with soft toss techniques and work on their swing. If there is no room or no hitting net available, feel free to get creative. An old favorite from youth baseball to the majors is hitting ping pong balls with a broomstick to improve vision and hand-eye coordination.

Youth Basketball Training at Home

For many families, basketball courts or neighborhood hoops are available. For these youth athletes, the at-home drills are limitless. Refer back to earlier sections about working with your kid’s youth coaches to select drills and reinforce teaching points. Another great thing about at-home basketball is the classic pick-up game. Getting a few friends together and playing should not be overlooked as a method of keeping the game of basketball fun all while developing a young athlete’s game.

For youth athletes without access to a basketball hoop, there are still a variety of drills to perform at home. Dribbling drills only require a ball and a hard surface on which to dribble. Stationary dribble drills do not even require a youth player to have much space. For example, try the following at home:

Begin with a simple dribble, controlling the ball. Then have players dribble with two balls (one in each hand). Back to a single ball, players can then “freestyle” dribble which would include dribbling high, dribbling low, off hand dribbling, crossovers, between the legs, and so forth. Another method for this drill would be for a parent or guardian to call out dribbling techniques for the player to execute.

Youth Sports Training with Hustle

Pittsburgh-based Hustle Training is a growing startup created for the sports-driven players and coaches out there looking to up their game and maximize performance potential. Their website coupled with the mobile app makes it easy for players to improve their fundamentals and move on to master advanced techniques by providing crafted workouts and drills created by college coaches, professional players, and expert trainers.