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Coaching T-Ball – Choosing the Right Equipment
Spring is well underway, which means it’s tee-ball season. One of the most common problems parents and coaches of new players have is purchasing equipment for the team and their children. We think it’s time to address many of these issues in order to give you some guidance on how to choose the right equipment for your players.
If you are a new coach and want to know what kind of kit your team can receive, typically you will be contacted by your league’s equipment manager who will guide you on when and where to pick up your team equipment. You will typically receive a gear bag with tees, a box of tees for practice and games, 3 to 4 helmets with chin straps, and a tee stick or two. The actual number of items will vary at the sole discretion of your alliance.
One piece of safety equipment to look out for is a heart guard. When worn properly, this piece of protective gear will prevent players from being seriously injured when a ball hits the chest around the heart area. If the league requires the wearing of a heart guard, each parent or coach must abide by this rule. However, if the league doesn’t require cardioprotection, I’d make sure your players’ parents know about it so they can decide if they want their kids to wear it.
Glove sizes range from size 8 to size 11 in ½ increments, depending on the size of your child’s hands. The size is usually marked on each glove. A good benchmark is to have your child try on the glove and have them squeeze it. If they can’t close the glove, it’s probably too big. Gloves should also adequately cover the lower part of the palm where the wrist begins. Glove manufacturers have come a long way over the years and most gloves don’t require a lot of “break-in”. To “break in” a glove is to open and close the glove to remove its initial stiffness. There is nothing like the feeling of a broken glove. It’s always good to keep a baseball or tee ball in a glove when not in use. The beauty of glove leather is that it has a memory function, put a ball in the glove when not in use and the glove pocket will take on the shape of the ball.
Most Te-ball leagues will provide a Tee-ball bat, so if parents want to buy their own, I recommend doing so. Tee-ball bats come in a variety of lengths and weights. To find the right size bat for your child, have your child pick their favorite bat and hold the bat with their strong hand (left hand for right handed hitters, right hand for left handed hitters) , arms and bat grip fully extended and parallel to the ground. Your child should hold this position for 30 seconds, and if the arms and bat don’t sag and lose their parallel position with the ground, then the size is right for your child. Generally, we always let our players err on the lighter side.
Coaches and parents should check the state and local rules of their league to determine if there are any restrictions on bats, as some state and local league rules only allow the use of official bats. Other leagues have no restrictions, so youth league bats are allowed. Parents should read the writing on the bat to determine if the bat is a driver’s bat or a youth league bat. Youth league bats are longer and heavier than driver bats, and these are usually used by older children on the tee or on the coach pitch. Youth League bats are measured by the difference in length and weight (for example, a -14.5 Youth League bat might be 28-1/2 inches long and weigh 14 ounces). Each bat may vary in weight and length.
We tell parents that batting gloves are optional. We really wouldn’t recommend them at this age because we feel a player should only use his or her hands to get a feel for the ball. As a player moves up to the coaching field level, he or she can try using a batting glove where the impact of hitting and catching the ball is more effective.
Rubber cleat baseball shoes (never metal stud baseball shoes) should be used in place of sneakers to help grip the field while running, hitting and fielding. We want kids to run and play with confidence, wet fields without cleats can lead to slips and falls.
I also recommend that everyone who plays golf wear a protective cup. There are shields for boys and girls with slightly different sizes. Players should get used to wearing protective cups as they will also be required or recommended at the next level of play. Check your local and national league rules for information on this protective gear.
Some parents buy batting helmets for their children for hygiene reasons (a potential source of hair lice). We recommend a batting helmet that can be adjusted to fit players of different ages and head sizes. Girls’ batting helmets usually have a curved diamond-shaped hole in the back of the helmet for ponytails. Many leagues require helmets to include a chin strap. A wire face shield can be fitted to the helmet model you purchased when your child reaches the next two levels of play, the coaches pitch and the kids pitch. Fasteners and plastic/metal anchors are supplied with the wire mask for easy installation. Some leagues require this wire mask when you get to those levels. Check your national and local league rules.
Finally we recommend that you purchase a small gear bag to store and transport your player gear. Be sure to write each player’s name with indelible marker on the players’ gloves, bats, helmets and batting gloves. Equipment identification makes it easy for players to claim lost equipment after practices and games.
We hope this article was helpful to you and wish you and your child the best tee-ball experience possible!
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