Sliding is an important skill to learn in baseball, but it requires a lot of practice and focus on technique in order to master the skill and prevent injury.
Using a slide allows a runner to get to the base quickly without having to slow down. It also eliminates the chance of overrunning the base. Sliding can help a player avoid a tag and break up a double play.
"Sliding is a difficult skill for some youth players to master due to the possibility of injury if it is not done correctly," says Larry Miljas, a youth and high school baseball coach from Pine Valley, California who runs The Youth Baseball Coach website. "It's an extremely important skill to have for a baseball player and should be taught and drilled during practice."
Miljas recommends static slide practice for younger players in order to learn muscle memory, proper form and technique.
- Have the players sit on the ground with one leg straight out and the other leg bent and placed underneath the straight leg creating a figure four shape.
- The straight leg should be bent slightly at the knee and the heel should be raised off the ground to prevent catching the ground with the cleats.
- Keep the head forward with the chin tucked close to the chest.
- Arms should be bent at the elbows and hands up in the air.
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Once players understand the proper mechanics and positioning, coaches can incorporate different sliding drills during practice.
A slip 'n slide or a flat piece of cardboard can be used for sliding practice, as both provide a softer, safe surface for sliding repetitions.
To emphasize players keeping their hands up during a slide, coaches or parent volunteers can toss a tennis ball to the players as they get to the end of their slide. Have players start out at half-speed and then progress to game-speed sliding.
"Sliding is a controlled, aggressive action where players sit into the slide by running then aggressively pushing off with their foot on the leg that will be bent during the slide," Miljas says. "Teach them to avoid jumping up and into the slide. They should be pushing forward and sitting into the slide."
Once you feel confident that your team understands how to slide safely, you can practice game situations and incorporate sliding with base running practice.
When players have mastered the basics they are ready to learn how to execute the different types of slides.