Played baseball for 13 years and coached little league for 7. Dan has a true passion for the game.
The Baseball Team Is Ready. Are You?
Keys to Making Baseball Practice Fun and Productive
As a little league baseball coach, I am always looking for new ideas to keep my baseball practice plans fun, interesting and productive. In this process, there are a few things I've learned that are priceless when it comes to what is 'key' to the success of a baseball practice drill.
Before we get into the drills themselves, let's discuss why these things are important in these drills, drills you might create of your own and baseball practice in general.
The Ingredients of a Successful Little League Baseball Practice Drill
This is perhaps the most important part of a drill. No ballplayer wants to sit and watch. Do your best to make sure your drills keep everybody busy.
A drill that is slow moving loses the players interest fast. In turn, side conversations and goofing around start to take place and you lose the attention of the team.
Make the drill focus on a certain skill. Repetition is key to gaining skill and let's face it, practice is short and we have more to cover.
Infield Baseball Drills Can Be Fun
Perhaps it's cliché but always keep safety in mind with your practice drills. Especially fast paced little league drills. No coach wants to make their team better at the cost of a player getting hurt doing so.
Coaches Don't Let Your Players Get Bored
Baseball Fielding Drill: "Scoop n' Shoot"
"Scoop n' Shoot", as my team calls it, is a fielding drill that can be ran in about 15 minutes. Though us coaches like to push the "set and throw" technique, we all know that not every play allows this and must be made on the run, off balance or at least very quickly.
- Involvement - Every ballplayer takes a position in the infield.
- Speed - Fast
- Focus - Making plays on the infield with little time to spare.
- At least 2 players at every position
- A ground ball hitter (preferably a coach)
- A ball feeder (preferably another coach or parent)
- 2 buckets
- Lots of baseballs
- Feeder tosses balls to the hitter to keep the drill moving
- The hitter hits grounders alternating between 2 positions. (3rd and shortstop or 2nd and 1st so the players aren't crossing into the line of fire.) The hitter should be hitting a ball about every 10 seconds. (The speed of this drill should be age appropriate, however, it is appropriate for all ages.)
- 3rd base throws to first and shortstop throws to 2nd where they then drop the ball in the bucket located near the base they are playing. Everyone gets back in line. FAST! After a few rounds, switch so that 1st throws to 3rd and 2nd throws to the shortstop at 2nd.
Base Running Skills
Make the Drill Interesting
Once the hitter runs out of balls, the players return the full buckets to the hitter to continue the drill. You should be able to get every player about 10 ground balls and 10 catches in about 15 minutes and the rotation in line keeps the players hustling. This drill can be modified in many ways and you see how productive it can be in such a short amount of time. Make a contest out of it somehow to raise the bar a bit by adding a lap around the bags that the winner doesn't have to take. (Base running is not punishment! It's an overlooked art that many players need practice at.)
Baseball Players and Arm Fatigue
Keep in mind when planning your little league baseball practice that too much throwing can speed up arm fatigue in your players. Mix up the plan as much as possible to help keep your kids fresh and working different parts of the body. Always encourage your kids to ice and exercise their arm, regardless of age, to encourage good habits and not to wait until it hurts to do so.
Tennis Elbow Exercises Are Great for Baseball Players Too
Baseball Relay Drill: "Hot Potato"
Getting the ball in from the outfield quickly and accurately is important. Particularly at a young age where players like to hold onto the ball seemingly as long as possible. Try this drill if you're having issues with getting the ball in or just want to brush up on ball transfer.
- Involvement - Every player
- Speed - Fast
- Focus - Proper "cut-off" catching technique and quick ball transfer
- 2 lines of players spaced about 20-30 feet apart (or age appropriately) from the outfield toward home plate. (Do not allow the 2 to cross for safety reasons.)
- 2 baseballs
- The first player in line throws to the next and so on until the last player in line gets the ball and starts back the other way.
This is about the simplest drill there is but don't underestimate the focus and rewards of it. Preventing extra base hits due to slow ball transfer can help keep your team in the game a lot longer than not. As the coach, you get a bit of a break while helping your players to understand the proper stance to take as a cut-off and making the catch/throw in one motion for quick transfer. This drill should only take about 5-10 minutes to run but you'll get a lot of transfers in during that time.
Baseball Season Is Just Around the Corner
Incorporate These Important Fielding Techniques When Running These Drills
Infield Drill: "Hot Shot"
This drill is a lot like "Scoop n' Shoot" without all the throwing. Sometimes, we need more fielding practice but don't want to wear down the arms of our players. This twist on the drill will do just that.
- Involvement - Every player
- Speed - Fast
- Focus - Fielding grounders
- Players at all infield positions
- 4 buckets
- A lot of baseballs
- A ground ball hitter (preferably a coach)
- A ball feeder (preferably a coach or parent)
- The ball feeder tosses balls up to the hitter to keep things moving.
- The hitter sprays ground balls to the infield working his way around the field from one side to the other.
- The players make the play on the ball but simply drop it in the bucket near their base and hustle back in line.
- When the hitter runs out of balls, the players hustle in their buckets and repeat.
Again, this is about as simple as they come when talking baseball practice drills but if you do this at a fast pace, (a hit nearly every 3 seconds) you can get every player about 10 ground balls in less than 20 minutes. You can take this same idea and apply it to catching fly balls without throwing everyone's arm out.
A Baseball Team Is Like A Summer Family
Fun, Fast, Simple and Everyone's Included
These are just a few ideas for you to try at your next little league practice and though they may not seem like much, they cover all the important aspects of a successful youth baseball drill. Everyone's involved, they're fast-paced to prevent boredom and wasted time and focused on only a couple of details at a time. With a bit of thought and imagination, you can come up with more drills of your own to cater to the needs of your team while keeping these key points in mind.
Remember, a good drill isn't about how long it takes or how complex it is. Repetition of a certain skill in a short amount of time will not only improve that skill but keep practice moving so that other skills can be addressed. Lord knows us coaches are dealing with limited time when designing our baseball practice plans.
If you're looking for a good guide with a ton more drill ideas that are designed to help build attitudes, comradery, and skills of your kids, have a look at Making Little League Baseball More Fun for Kids. This guide is in my bag every practice and is a great way to make sure you have no shortage of ideas in the middle of practice.
Please feel free to comment or add tips of your own here for us all to learn to be better coaches. Thanks for reading and "Play ball!"
Calling All Parents!
© 2014 Dan Reed
Dan Reed (author) on August 14, 2018:
Joe - Glad to hear you'll be tackling the job. I might offer one bit of advice. (opinion really) Perhaps have the parents help but not their own kid. Have them shuffle at least from drill to drill. You'd be surprised how much easier that might be for you. Kids tend to think their own parent doesn't know as much or is willing to disregard them a bit quicker than a stranger trying to help. That and some parents can tend to be harsh with their kids when they don't do something right or get frustrated if they don't listen and creates tension for them and the other players around. I always asked one of my assistant coaches to tell my boy something if I noticed because it seemed they would take that advice more to heart. I have a great relationship with my kids and did offer them my advice too, don't get me wrong, but when it's always the same person, they can get tone deaf. Especially when it comes to the same person who tells them to clean their room or do their homework...they're kids ya know. Just a thought for you to consider. Thanks for commenting and good luck!
Joe Quinn on August 13, 2018:
1st time U13 coach this year after watching as a parent for many, looking forward too it, have seen areas where things could br improved and boredom is definitely one of them. looking forward to it and I'll be making it a family event and get all the parents out on the field to keep the kids in focus on what to do. hopefully this will make it more enjoyable for the kids thinking they are playing with their parents .
stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on April 26, 2015:
I agree with you about repetition and how it works. Kids have to be kept busy or they will get board. Great hub and best wishes on HOTD.
MyMastiffPuppies on April 26, 2015:
Excellent job on showing how youth baseball can be fun as well as a way to develop so many skills both physical and life skills. Voted up across the board!
Al Wordlaw from Chicago on April 26, 2015:
Congrats on HOLD Daniel, I wrote a hub on baseball. Baseball is a very interesting sport. It requires various, special skills of nine players. I enjoyed playing in little league. I played every position except catcher and third base. I encourage any little leaguer to be aggressive, determined and focus on everything that he or she has to do as well as keep the eyes on the ball
(catching or hitting it).
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on April 26, 2015:
Daniel, congrats on HOTD! This is real useful for anyone who have a child in little league baseball. Excellent tips! Voted up!