Warming Up Properly Helps to Prevent Injuries
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.
What You Need to Know About Equipping your Little Leaguer
At the end of the season, and again before league tryouts and the start of the next season, are typically when players look at the condition of their glove, bat, and other playing equipment.
These are also the times when parents and legal guardians make a “note-to-self” to replace a piece(s) of equipment. This includes gear worn, or used, in practices and games.
Local leagues go through a similar review, as teams return their issued equipment bags full of bats, batting helmets, balls, catcher’s gear, and other items used by the team throughout the year.
Both parents, and the local league go through the process of deciding what is good and what’s got to go. To that end, the local league needs to decide what equipment it will provide to teams for the coming season, which leads to parents to ponder what equipment do they need to buy.
To assist families, and the local league’s Board of Directors with budgeting for equipment purchases, here are some tips and recommendations.
What equipment does the league provide?
- Your league should be prepared during player registration to detail what equipment is offered to players and what equipment will be required for purchase.
- Little League International recommends the following equipment in various sizes is offered to each team.
- Bats in suitable sizes by age and division
- Baseball bats must meet the USABat Standard for Tee Ball, Minor, and Major Divisions (Rule 1.10)
- Baseball must meet the USABat Standard or BBCOR for Intermediate, Junior, and Senior Divisions (Rule 1.10)
- Softball must be stamped with BPF 1.20 (Rule 1.10)
- Visit LittleLeague.org/BatInfo for more information.
- 6 or 7 batting helmets per team (if needed, league-provided helmets may be shared between teams during a game) (Rule 1.16)
- Catcher’s gear, catcher’s glove, and mask with dangling throat guard
- Baseballs and/or softballs for practices and games
- Many leagues organize equipment drives to help collect game gear, and make donations to individual families. For example, at registration, encourage families to bring their old cleats, fielder’s gloves, and uniform pants so that other families may look to use them for the upcoming season. Any leftover items can be donated to organizations like Pitch In For Baseball and Pitch In for Softball or held over for families the next season.
Is a Little Leaguer’s family responsible for buying their uniform?
- Most leagues include the cost for uniforms as part of the registration fee. At your league’s registration events or at the parents meeting prior to the season, leagues should have samples of the uniforms for players to try on and size appropriately. Leagues should fully explain what parents are responsible for supplying for their players early in the season, well in advance of games starting.
- Most leagues provide:
- Team Uniform jersey or T-shirt
- Team hat/visor
- Little League shoulder patch (if a patch is not provided during uniform distribution, request one from your child’s team manager, division Vice President, Player Agent, or President.)
- Parents should look to purchase:
- Baseball/softball pants, belt, and socks (color to be decided by team and league)
- Parents or league guardian should also look to purchase the following equipment for their Little Leaguer(s):
- Ball glove
- Batting gloves (if desired)
- Rubber-soled cleats (for Major Division and below)
- Backpack or equipment bag (if desired)
- Suggestions on choosing equipment can also be found through DICK’S Pro Tips.
When considering the equipment to be used in a Little League game, be sure to inspect its condition throughout the season. If league-provided equipment becomes damaged and/or a safety concern arises, bring it to the attention of the team manager or a member of the Board of Directors, so that it can be immediately addressed. Parents are also strongly encouraged to assess the condition of their player’s equipment to help ensure it is in good condition and safe to use.
Pairing Nutrition, Hydration Help Youth Athletes Maintain Good Health
Baseball and softball are often summer sports, played in the heat and humidity. But, it doesn’t need to be hot for families to make sure proper steps are being taken to stay hydrated and healthy on the field.
Becoming educated on body chemistry, and gaining knowledge on how to prepare for, and recover from, physical exertion is important, regardless of age. Below are several areas of discovery that can help you manage the health of your Little Leaguers.
Being Ready Includes Proper Hydration
- Drink fluids throughout the day, not just during your Little League activities.
- Make sure you have water or sports drink available at practice and games to stay hydrated while being active.
- Recognize signs and effects of dehydration – Examples: feeling weak, lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea.
- Pay extra attention to players and volunteers with a heightened risk of dehydration (i.e. – catchers, umpires), especially on days with high heat and humidity. Umpires should also work with the teams to give longer breaks between innings or additional timeouts to allow for players to re-hydrate and cool their body temperatures on especially hot days.
Diet Helps with Staying Hydrated
- Eat foods with high water content and carbohydrates – Examples: fruits, vegetables, soups, smoothies, popsicles.
- Include carbohydrates and protein in snacks and meals – Examples: breads, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, meat, fish, eggs.
- Schedule meals several hours before activity
- Consume snacks up to one hour before activity
Take the Proper Steps to Help the Body Recover
- When cooling down after a game, consider what to include in your player’s post-game meal or snack.
- Consume protein to rebuild muscles – Examples: cheese sticks and crackers, chocolate or strawberry milk, Greek yogurt, muffins or cookies, egg and cheese sandwich, or a protein shake make good snacks.
- For a meal, water or tea are good beverage options.
- Grill chicken, turkey, and ham are quality entrees, and can be paired with healthy side options, such as apple slices or baked chips.
- Dessert options are to be low in fat, but avoid anything listed as, “sugar-free.”
- Avoid greasy, fried, and supersized food; and any options that are heavy with condiments or toppings.
Understanding Sweat Science
Sweat is the way the body regulates its internal temperature. Learn more about what the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) has discovered about the many ways sweat impacts an individual athlete’s hydration needs.