How To Slide Properly
Sliding is a very effective strategy that, if done wrong, can also be quite dangerous. Many sliding injuries can be avoided by simply teaching your players HOW to slide properly. As with any play in baseball, sliding takes technique and practice. Please remember that sliding into a base properly is much more difficult than just dropping to the ground and letting the momentum take you to the base.
So how do you keep sliding a part of the game without sacrificing your players? First and foremost, teach young players that they should NEVER slide head first. A head first slide puts players in a vulnerable position where injury to hands, shoulders and head is more likely. Instead, young players should slide on their butt. Most people think that a proper slide in performed on the side of their leg. This is actually not true. Have players practice their slide in the grass. Check the grass stains. If they appear on the side of the leg, the slide is being done wrong. The butt gives more cushion and is therefore the least painful way to slide.
An issue of major concern is the positioning of your hands. Kids (and let's face it, some adults as well) instinctively put their hands down when sliding. You will need to help them "un-learn" this as it can result in jammed (or broken) fingers and wrists. Get them in the habit of sliding with their hands up.
The bent leg slide is the best and safest way to get to the bag without injury. In this method, one leg is fully bend and placed behind the other leg. The "straight" leg should not be fully straight, but should have a little bend at the knee to allow for "give" when hitting the base.
When teaching a player how to do this slide, first determine which leg will be bent and which will be straight. Have the player stand on one leg (the bent leg should go behind the straight one). Their arms should be raised slightly. Have the player squat into a sitting position (they may roll onto their back, which is okay at this stage). This will get them used to the feel of their legs through movement as well as the position of their hands. Have the player repeat this motion until they are comfortable with the feeling.
Have the player walk a few steps, then go into the sliding position. Since they are walking, there will be little sliding, but this step is getting them used to the position. You really should do all of these practice steps on grass since they will likely fall a few times in the process.
Once the walking and sliding phase has been mastered, have the player jog and slide... then run and slide. Each phase should be mastered before moving on to the next step. Try to keep the anxiety at bay and allow the player to get comfortable with each step. This will help the player perfect the technique in the long run.
Remember that sliding is fun and exciting, especially for younger and new players. Teach them the proper form from the beginning and you will have a powerful tool at your disposal... one with fewer injuries at that!