In the early part of the season, it’s crucial to remember the importance of warming up, stretching, and keeping young arms healthy.
Little League® strives to keep players safe on and off the field; and its extensive research has lead to the development of best practices designed to keep arms healthy, like pitch counts in baseball and inning limits in softball.
Early in the season, it’s important to make sure your Little Leaguer® gets into a routine of warming up and stretching before hitting the field. Stretches and warm-ups should include all major muscle groups. Shoulders and arms, while important, shouldn’t be the only focus for baseball and softball. Stretching the torso, back and legs are equally important.
Stretching and Warm Up
Stretching and warming up are important, because it helps prepare muscles and joints for the activity by increasing blood flow and flexibility. Time should be dedicated to warming up and stretching prior to each practice and game so that it becomes routine.
It is recommends that athletes warm up their muscles first, and follow that with stretching. The warm-up should be an aerobic activity, such as jogging, for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Stretching routines should combine static (stretch and hold position for 10-20 seconds) with dynamic stretches (movement involved).
Start at Home
Even when you’re in your backyard, warming up and stretching are important before picking up the glove. Make sure you’re incorporating a similar warm-up and stretching routine before working with your Little Leaguer at home.
It is equally important at home to ensure that you are providing good nutrition, checking for injuries, and monitoring if your Little Leaguer is fatigued beyond normal.
When playing catch, start at short distances before breaking out the long toss, or doing pitching drills.
One drill that is great for warming up an arm is putting your glove arm in front of you, almost like you’re holding a shield. Then, put the elbow of your throwing arm on the wrist of your glove arm, and flick the ball to your Little Leaguer. Have your child catch the ball and do the same flick back to you. Do that for 5 to 10 minutes to get your wrists and forearms warmed up before playing catch.
Following this routine early in the season can help reduce injuries, but also help keep players feeling better and fresher as the season progresses.