1. Be Aware
Always be aware of where the ball is. Once you step off the bag, never take your eyes off of the baseball. When the pitcher has possession of the ball, watch them closely. Follow the pitcher's eyes and their motions. If the catcher has the ball, you still are not off the hook. Once you take both feet off the bag, you have to be prepared to dive back at any moment in time.
2. Know The Pitcher
Know the pitcher and their tendencies. Do they try to pick off runners frequently? Are they lefty or righty? How far do they turn their head before they commit to throw? Great pitchers will have several moves to first base so take note of how the pitcher's pick off moves when both you and your teammates are on base. Every great base runner knows you steal bases off the pitcher, so learn their tendencies and then use those tendencies against them.
3. No Criss-Crossing
Never cross your feet when you are leading off. Crossing your feet is a big no-no because you are making yourself vulnerable to getting picked off. Your feet should be spread apart and your legs low so you are in the best position possible to dive back to the bag quickly if necessary. Instead of criss-crossing, you should opt for shuffling.
4. Not too close, not too far
The ideal lead is about 9 to 12 feet away from the base. You want to be far enough away from the base to make an impact, but not put yourself at risk of getting picked off. The exact distance that you should be away from first base is entirely up to you as a player. If you know you are not Speedy Gonzalez, then you might want to stay closer to the base.
Always be listening for the voice of your first base coach. One of the duties of a first base coach is to communicate with the runner on first and let them know when to dive back to the bag. For this reason, you should always listen in for the voice of your first base coach in case they note that the pitcher or catcher is turning to throw you out.
6. Be Smart
Know your limits and be consistent. In practice, you should determine the lead off distance that is perfect for you. Know how far out on the base path you can go without risking getting picked off. When it comes time for a game, no surprises. Play smart and go with what works. Don't be the guy who gets caught in a pickle.