Thumbs up, Thumbs down: Simplifying the catching and throwing process
For the past few years I have been helping out with my son’s little league teams. First of all, God bless the elementary school teachers of the world. They don’t earn enough money.
Working with little kids makes you very aware of the need to simplify things. It’s true with every aspect of the game but especially catching and throwing. If kids cannot catch then they get hurt. If they cannot throw correctly by the time they get to about 12 years old, there really isn’t much you can do to fix them after that.
The problem with teaching kids to catch and throw is that there are a lot of working parts in the process. So how do you keep it simple enough so kids can understand it and also have it be safe and effective? Not easy but I think I have an answer. “Thumbs up, Thumbs down.”
Thumbs up refers to the position I want all my players to be in as they are waiting for the ball to reach them on a throw. Both hands are up in front of them with both thumbs facing up like this …
Their body is also in the athletic position. This helps with the safety issue because it gets their body in the best position to catch the ball. All kids understand what both thumbs up on the catch means and looks like. Whether they actually do it depends on how much you enforce it.
And now the hard part … the throw. This is where teaching gets tough because all of the following can go wrong:
- He can take the ball out with his fingers under the ball.
- He can not use his front side at all or use it too little or too much.
- He can drop his throwing elbow on the throw.
- He can open his front side too soon.
- And other things as well.
How do you address all these things with a 6 or 7 year old player? You can’t. But you can say “Thumbs down on the throw.”
Thumbs down means when the player takes the ball out of the glove, both thumbs point down like this …
Just doing that can address most of the problems listed above in the throwing motion. Dropping both thumbs automatically lifts both elbows. It automatically gets the fingers on top of the ball. It closes the front side. It basically puts the player in the best position possible to create a good throwing process.
It certainly is not a cure-all but it is a very simple way to start kids on the proper catching and throwing motion. And it isn’t just for infielders either as you see here with Nolan Ryan …
My new mantra … “Thumbs up to catch, Thumbs down to throw!”