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There is no set age for young players when they start to feel comfortable catching pop ups. Many of the really young players are afraid of getting hit in the face by the ball and will camp under a pop up very apprehensively. Unless catching a fly ball is practiced, their nervousness can lead to injury. There are numerous drills a coach or parent can practice with their players. Some drills will work for some athletes and not for others.
One of the first drills I do is to hit a soft covered ball off a paddle. I explain to the kids that I only want them to make contact with the soft covered ball with their glove. I do not want any kids catching the ball. Telling them not to catch the ball will do two things. First, you are making the drill uniform, with the goal attainable by everyone on the team. Second, the weaker kids will not feel bad if everyone catches the fly and he or she only makes contact with his glove. And, you want the really young kids to experience as much success as they can. This success will lead to more and more confidence when a real hard ball is used.
Another technique I have used is one of those velcro paddles with velcro balls for the young kids, and they love it. I toss up the Velcro ball as high as possible and they take turns catching it. This is another great confidence builder, and the success experienced with many repetitions will help immensely when catching a real hard ball, which is the ultimate goal. Wiffle balls and tennis ball are also good to practice with. Progression is the key. And you can even set up competitions with catching any of these balls. Even the young players love contests and competitions.
So remember that the key to teaching young players to catch fly balls is to do it by progression. Having them dive into the deep end with no experience might open up the possibility for an injury with never extinguishing their fear of the ball. Successful repetitions will lead to confidence and give them the best odds of mastering this skill.
Marty Schupak has coached youth baseball for 21 years and is the video creator of "The 59 Minute Baseball Practice", "Backyard Baseball Drills", "Winning Baseball Strategies", "Hitting Drills & Techniques", “Pitching Drills & Techniques”, and author of the popular book, "Youth Baseball Drills". He is a principle with Videos For Coaches and is also President of the Youth Sports Club, a group dedicated to making sports practices and games more enjoyable for kids.