Summer Tournaments, All-Stars Prep, or Just Summer Fun ...skill building drills for youth baseball and softball

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We are transitioning into All-Stars, the Summer Tournament Season and league sponsored Summer Ball programs….and there are times we simply want to get our kids off the couch and outside doing something active during their summer break from school. 


In many cases the time available to work on fundamental skills, or to spend time with our kids, is limited.


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 The ‘Ground Ball Weave’ and ‘Three Toss Fly Ball Drill’ are drills that are easily incorporated into your plans and at almost any location.


These drills run at a lightning fast pace and involve change-of-pace and change-of-direction in their actions.  In these two drills our kids execute sound fundamental skills, test their athleticism, and get massive repetitions …all in a short period of time.  And kids Love ‘em!


Make these fun drills part of a ‘Skill Building Warm-up’ routine before the start of practice or use them to get your kids ready to go right before the next tournament game.  You can do these at the park with your own child and their friends or make them part of game-day with your league’s summer ball program.



Ground Ball Weave - "21"

This drill has three players ranging laterally fielding ground balls, making a quick ball transfer, and executing an underhand toss to a teammate.  Each of the three players participating in the drill fields and tosses seven ground balls in about 60-90 seconds.


It doesn’t require a person with great baseball knowledge or coaching skill to run.  This makes it easy for most any parent to run. 


If you need an extra adult body, so to have all the players on your team working at the same time (in multiple groups), you can grab a family member or one of your players parents to help. 


The drill can be explained and understood in seconds and you can assure your recruit they can help and be back in the shade with their adult beverage in five minutes.



Keys for the drill to be most effective

The coach or adult running the drill wants to roll balls at a pace that challenges each player to move fast, but still be able to field the ball using good technique.  Usually after rolling balls to each player 2-3 times the person running the drill gains a sense for the right speed to roll the ball to each player.


While running the drill we want to be reminding the players of the fundamental skills they are working on.  We repeat three teaching phrases during each repetition of the drill: “Wide to Catch”, “Level Toss” and “Keep Moving”.  These are described in the drill diagram below.



Competition between teammates

Because we get through a round of the drill quickly, it can be repeated several times.  See which group can get execute 21 plays (or 12 or 9…) the fastest, then challenge the others to beat the winning group when you run the drill again.  Or time your one group and see if they can execute the same number of reps faster when running the drill again.



Run this drill most anywhere

Very little equipment is needed, there are no batted balls and not much space is required.  All you need are some balls and a couple of items to serve as markers.  Often when playing in tournaments we can’t find practice space or don’t have much time to get our players some skill work and keep them sharp.  This drill can be run in foul ground next to the dugout right before your next game starts; it can be run at the back end of a paved parking lot or any level, 100 square foot surface that is available.



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Fly Balls - Three Toss Drill

The player catches three different fly balls in this drill, which takes 7-8 seconds per player:

      1.      Ranging Laterally

      2.      Coming in

      3.      Going Back


Ideally this is run with no more than 3 or 4 players.  Once each player has been through the drill, the time spent waiting for their next turn is spent catching their breath. If we start with a bucket of 30 balls, depending on the age and skill level of the players, we can get through 15-20 reps, before having to take a break and pick up the balls. 


The best situation for using this drill is as a station in a skills rotation.  During a five-minute stop at this station each player will get a chance to make a play on 20-30 fly balls.



Keys for the drill to be most effective

Coach makes low arcing throws – this is Not a drill to train kids to judge high fly balls; we are working on the skill of catching a ball while on the run.  Coach is a quarterback throwing passes to a receiver.

Use an underhand arm action when tossing – this is much more accurate than throwing overhand (see what is going on in the background in the video.  The Dodgers' outfield coaches are tossing fly balls underhand to their players; watch 0:30-1:05)

If there is a left-handed player in the group, and you have younger kids (nine and under), run the left-handed player in the opposite direction for the first toss. Otherwise they are making a backhanded play, which is much more difficult.



Keys for the drill to remain fast paced

   Most important – if a ball is not caught the player does not retrieve it; they get ready for the next toss

   Coach is constantly reminding the players to ‘sprint full speed’

   Have as many balls on hand as possible

   Limit instruction to two points:

  1.       Run full speed
  2.       Catch the ball away from your body -  reach out with the glove arm=

      …this is a repetitions activity, not a teaching activity.  Make a mental note of teaching points to share afterwards.



What is Going to Happen?

  • Coach will make inaccurate tosses - no big deal.  Tell the player, “Hey, bad throw, I’ll get better; keep moving”.
  • Players will miss catches - we clearly instruct them, prior to the drill, that when they miss a catch, to not stop to pick up the ball.  They are to get to the next starting point asap and get ready for the    next toss.
  • The rhythm and flow of the drill, the first time it is run, will be a bit clunky - any new activity is less than perfect the first time around.



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