How to Teach Little League Baseball Youth Signals and Signs
The Baseball Dugout
Do you have children playing Little League Baseball?
Watching your child play Little League is truly a very entertaining thing. I had the joy of being out on the field with my son from his first tee ball game all of the way through majors and now to high school. Seeing your child swinging the bat, running the bases and tracking down that fly ball is a wonderful experience that every parent of a Little League athlete cherishes.
Working with these young players is wonderfully gratifying. They have such a thirst for the game and are ready to absorb whatever they can about baseball; it really is a blast to be out there with them.
Part of baseball is trying to stay one step ahead of your opponent. A big factor in this is the use of hand signs. Obviously yelling out to Timmy to steal second base is not advised because the opposing catcher knows he needs to make a throw to second base to try to get the runner out. Signs are the conduit used in baseball to communicate things from the coaches to the players at bat and in the field. At higher levels you will also see catchers using signs to setup defensive assignments on certain plays.
The level of detail and disseat will vary depending on the age of the players. Signs for a team of eleven and twelve year olds are way more straightforward than what you would see at a professional baseball game. The coaches have to find that comfort zone for their specific team. You don’t want to make it so simple that the other team can steal your signs, but you don’t want it so complicated that your own players cannot remember what they are.
Drills for Little League Baseball
Little League Coach
Signs for Baseball
There are a few basic signs, which should be where you start. For hitters you will need a sign to communicate when the batter should bunt and take a pitch. For base runners you need a sign to tell them when to steal.
If you are coaching a young team I would use signs that are easy to remember for the players; maybe the sign has a similar starting letter? For example a bunt sign might be you touching your belt because both start with B. For a steal sign touch your shirt sleeve, both begin with S.
Another thing to be aware of is the speed in which you are giving the signs. You don’t have to move as slow as the tin man in The Wizard of Oz, before he was oiled, but don’t be as lightening quick as a dancer either. Make sure your movements are calculated and clear. I suggest going with touches only at first, don’t sweep down your arm or across your chest, because those movements aren’t as easy to see. If you aren’t very confident in your signal calling practice in front of a mirror until you feel you are ready for the field.
For the older and more experienced teams go ahead and mix it up, if you are sure that they are ready for it. Use your belt, hat, elbows or whatever part of your body you want to incorporate into your sign calling.
Another option to implement into your signal calling is an indicator. An indicator is something that you can use to confuse your opposition if they are trying to steal your signs. Usually coaches will follow an indicator with the sign signaling a play is on. For example if your steal sign is a touch to the elbow it would immediately follow the indicator. If your indicator was a touch to your chin then the sign would be a touch to the chin and then a touch to the elbow letting the base runner know you wanted him to try and steal a base. Without a touch to the chin a touch to the elbow means nothing and just adds another wrinkle to your attempt in staying one move ahead of your opponent.
A Missed Opportunity
I would also drill into the players to look at you before every pitch, even if they are on the bases. It can be very frustrating in a game to keep trying to get a hitter or base runners attention because they aren’t watching you. If they don’t look at you it doesn’t matter what sign you give them. Opportunities are wasted if a player misses a sign. These opportunities could have been a run that could be the difference between winning and losing the game.
Don’t forget to practice these signs with your players and be prepared for them to miss some signs in games. My son’s high school team has yet to go a game where someone hasn’t missed a sign. Do a one on one exercise where you are a few feet away from the player. Go ahead and run through your signs and then ask him what play was on, if one was on at all. I have found this to be the best way to get the players to comprehend the signs being used.
Let the players know that even the professionals miss a sign once in a while so they will too; just remind them to learn from their mistakes and they will improve. Eventually signs will be just like riding a bike and they will just enjoy themselves even more on the baseball diamond.