Tee Ball Program Brings Fun, Fitness and Fundamentals to Southern California
Since the Little League® 10-week Tee Ball program was unveiled three years ago, thousands of coaches, players, and parents have brought this free resource to their teams to help introduce baseball and softball to the littlest Little Leaguers® ages 4 to 6 and the newest volunteer coaches.
“This is a great tool for leagues and coaches,” said Sam Ranck, League Development Manager for Little League International. “For first-year coaches, the structure of the Little League Tee Ball program takes the guesswork out of coaching, but is also designed to teach fundamental skills in a fun environment.”
The Little League Tee Ball program’s easy-to-implement format has been helping local Little League programs around the world. And the fun, fitness, and fundamentals focus has been a welcome addition to South Sunrise Little League in Orange, Calif.
“The Tee Ball program gives coaches and families a structure and levels of expectation,” said Garrett Terlaak, President of South Sunrise Little League. “Before they sign up, parents have an idea about the amount of commitment that it takes to be a coach. Using Little League’s Tee Ball plan has made it easier for new coaches to balance their anxiety, and has made for a fun time for our youngest players."
Each of the 10 practices is broken down into different activities. Over the course of each 45-minute session, coaches teach the essential skills and impress upon the children that playing Little League is meant to be fun. Each activity provides the coaches with a practice plan that is easy to execute and understand. And success at the Tee Ball level is translating to strengthening league participation.
“This is the second year we’ve has used this program, and the carryover has been immediate and positively overwhelming,” said Mr. Terlaak. “Of last year’s Tee Ballers, 92 percent signed up to play Single A (Minor Division) the following year, and the program has helped with retention. The practices are fun, and the parents see their kids being active while learning, so they are coming back for more.”
Over the course of the season, coaches, players, and many of the players’ parents, engage in a series of lessons utilizing up to 40 activities from the Tee Ball Program that include skills, drills, and plenty of physical activity.
“This program does a great job of giving people the tools to teach the game,” said Mr. Terlaak. “Giving adult volunteers the confidence and guidance to organize practice relieves the stress of getting organized. In place of the stress, is the enjoyment of the kids learning and the parents seeing their kids having a good time.”
Accompanying the Tee Ball program is a set of Little League FUN-demantal videos. These visuals offer volunteer coaches a “how-to” approach to running practices and serves as an additional level of learning. These exercises are also a good way for parents to help their children practice their skills at home.
“I believe that having this program has gotten parents who are typically not comfortable with coaching to come out and give it a try because the program is so structured,” said Mr. Terlaak. "At our player registration, parents often admit that they’ve watched baseball and many had played, but most are not comfortable teaching it. Our league’s Tee Ball program has grown so much over the past few years because parents are able to be dedicated without having to take time out of their schedules to plan practices.”
The Little League Coach Pitch program for Minor Division-age players is another initiative designed to take the guess work out of planning practices and managing a season. This program is free, and available for download from LittleLeague.org.