What is the best way to teach my son how to catch with his glove?

John in Santa Maria, California asks:
My son is 5½ and will be playing t-ball this spring. I am wanting to practice playing throw and catch with him. What is the best way to teach him how to catch with his glove?

It seems hard for him to manipulate his glove, that is to get it to open and close, and the coordination of catching it with the glove. Maybe I’m expecting too much at this young age? Should I just encourage him to throw to me, and let me toss it back?

Coach Swift answers:
This is what you need to get him to remember about catching a ball: that your fingers must be pointed toward the ground if the ball is below your waist and your fingers must be pointed up to the sky if the ball is above your waist.

That has to happen and you will find very quickly that he wants to have his fingers pointed downward all the time regardless of how high or where the ball is.

What I recommended doing with real young kids just learning to play catch is this: roll the ball and toss underhand flies (not very high, just a little bit over their head) using a tennis ball. Then, believe it or not, the most important thing of all is to take the glove away from him. It’s a very interesting phenomenon that without the glove he will automatically have his fingers and hands in the right position.

Please play catch with him without a glove for at least three or four weeks straight. During this time, play catch by rolling the ball on the ground, tossing straight at him and up in the air.

After you’ve done this for a while and he is catching the ball with his fingers in the correct position — don’t worry if he still drops the ball a lot — go get him a cheap small glove at someplace like Target or Walmart.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make with real young players is buying a glove that is too big and too stiff. When he starts learning he needs just a small, limber glove. Thus an inexpensive glove at a big box retailer will suffice.

Thanks for your question and I certainly hope you and your boy have fun being out in the yard playing catch because it’s great quality time spent together and certainly an important baseball skill that’s also a good athletic skill. But please do not get too frustrated with him as it’s not an easy hand-eye coordination skill to learn. Just don’t forget to NOT let him use a glove in the beginning so he learns to catch with his hands in the proper position.