Coaching T-Ball – Choosing the Right Equipment
Spring is well underway, which means its T-Ball season. One of the most common questions that parents and coaches of new players have concerns purchasing equipment for their teams and for their children. We thought it was time to address many of those questions, in order to give you some guidance on how to go about selecting the right equipment for your players.
For those of you who are new coaches and are wondering what kind of equipment you can expect to receive for your team, typically, your league's equipment manager will contact you and they will give you instructions on where and when to pick up your team's equipment. You will normally receive an equipment bag with a tee, a box of tee-balls for practices and games, 3 to 4 helmets with chin straps, and a tee-ball bat or two. Actual number of items will vary based upon your leagues discretion.
One piece of safety equipment to be aware of is a heart guard. This piece of protective gear, when worn properly, will prevent a player from receiving serious injury if hit with a batted tee-ball in chest around the heart area. If the league requires a heart guard be worn, each parent or coach must abide by this rule. However, eve If the league does not require a heart guard, I would make sure the parents of your players are aware of it so they can decide if they want their children to wear one.
Glove sizes range from a size 8 to 11 in ½ increments depending on the size of your child's hand. The size is normally indicated on each glove. A good bench mark is to have your child try on the glove and ask them to squeeze it. If they are having trouble closing the glove, it is probably too too big. The glove should also adequately cover the lower portion of the palm at the beginning of the wrist. Glove manufacturers have made great improvements over the years in which most gloves do not require a tremendous amount of "breaking in". "Breaking in" a glove is opening and closing the glove to remove some of its initial stiffness. There is nothing like the feeling of a broken-in glove. Its always good to keep a baseball or tee-ball in the glove at all times when not in use. The beauty of glove leather is it has a memory and by placing a ball in the glove when not in use, the glove pocket will take the shape of the ball.
Most tee-ball leagues will provide one tee-ball bat, so if parents would like to purchase their own bat, I would recommend doing so. Tee-ball bats range in length and weight. To find the right size bat for your child, have your child pick out a bat they like and hold the bat in their power hand (the left hand for right handed batters and the right hand for left handed batters) with the arm and bat fully extended and parallel to the ground. The Child should hold this position for 30 seconds and if the arm and bat do not sag and lose their parallel position with the ground, the size is correct for your child. In general, we always have our players err on the lighter side.
Coaches and parents should check their league's national and local rules to determine if there are any restrictions on bats, as some national and local league rules only allow official tee-ball bats. Other leagues have no restrictions, therefore, youth league bats are permissible. Parents should read the verbiage on the bat to determine if the bat is a tee-ball bat or a youth league bat. Youth league bats are a bit longer and heavier than tee-ball bats and these bats are usually intended for older children in tee-ball or in coach pitch levels. Youth league bats are measured by a length to weight difference (eg, a -14.5 youth league bat can be 28-1 / 2 inches in length and weighs 14 ounces). Weight and length can vary in each bat.
We tell our parents that batting gloves are optional. We really would not recommend them at this age because we feel the player should just use his or her bare hands to get the feel of the batted ball. The player can experiment with batting gloves when he or she moves up to coach pitch level where the impact of the batted ball and caught ball come more into play.
Rubber-cleated baseball shoes (never metal-spiked baseball shoes) should be used in lieu of sneakers to assist in getting a good firm grip on the field when running, batting, and fielding. We want the children to have confidence when they are running and making plays and a wet field without cleated shoes can lead to slips and falls.
I would also suggest ALL tee-ball players wear a protective cup. There are protective cups for both boys and girls, each a bit dimensionally different. Players should get used to wearing protective cups as they will be required or recommended at the next playing level also. Check your local and national league rules for information on this protective gear.
Some parents buy batting helmets for their children for sanitary reasons (potential sources of hair lice). We recommend a batting helmet that can be adjusted to fit players of different ages and head sizes. Batting helmets for girls usually have a curved-diamond-shaped hole at the back of the helmet for their pony tails. Many leagues require helmets to include chin straps. As a child reaches the next two levels of play, coach-pitch and kid-pitch, a wire face guard is available for installation on the helmet model you purchase. Fasteners and plastic / metal anchors are supplied with the wire face guard for easy installation. Some leagues require this wire face guard when you reach these levels. Check your national and local league rules.
Finally we recommend that you purchase a small equipment bag to store and transport your player's equipment. Please be sure to write each player's name in indelible marker on the player's glove, bat, helmet, and batting gloves. Equipment Identification makes it easy for players to claim loose equipment after practices and games.
We hope you found this helpful article and we wish you and your children the best T-Ball experience possible!