"Baseball is a Game of Movement"
(youth baseball drills & youth softball drills)
Most of the drills in this section are applicable to other parts of practice, most specifically as part of 'Three Groups Drills' in the TEAM DRILLS segment of a practice. The unique feature of all these drills is the player's arm does not need to be warm to execute these drills. All throws made in these drills are an underhand toss. Many of the drills do not involve throwing, but focus on footwork and receiving throws.
Players who need to improve a part of their game can have drills in this section suggested to them by their coach and work on them at home with a parent, sibling or friend. Alert all your players and parents of this page of the site.
Many if not all drills found on the Skill Building Warm-up page can be used on days where the weather (or league field scheduler) keeps you from getting on a diamond. These drills can be run on any level patch of grass, on a concrete school yard, in an empty parking lot, in a gym, etc. They are also great activities for getting a club ready to go prior to a game - we can run a pre-game 'practice' before every game.
Note: Soon I will be adding the following sections to the site: 'Rain/Wet Day Practice' and 'Pre-Game Practice'.
Table of Contents - SBW
- 1-6 Play (pitcher fielding; underhand toss to the shortstop covering second)
- 1-3 Play (pitcher fielding; underhand toss to the first baseman)
- 3-1 Play (first baseman fielding; underhand toss to the pitcher covering first)
- 4-3 Play (second baseman fielding; underhand toss to the first baseman; pitcher backing-up)
- 4-1 Play (second baseman fielding; underhand toss to the pitcher covering first)
- 1-5 Play (pitcher fielding; underhand toss to the third baseman)
- 5-1 Play (third baseman fielding; underhand toss to the pitcher covering third)
- 6-5 Play (shortstop fielding; underhand toss to the third baseman; pitcher backing-up)
- 6-1 Play (shortstop fielding; underhand toss to the pitcher covering third)
- 1-3 Play (bunt)
- 1-5 Play (bunt)
RECEIVING A THROW AT A BASE
- Receiving a Throw at a Base - Positioning and Footwork
- Catch, Tag & Throw - on a Mini Diamond using underhand toss
- Receiving a Throw - Tag Play (at Third Base)
- Receiving a Throw - Force Play (at First Base)
- Receiving a Throw - Infielder Going Back on a Fly Ball, Tag Play (at Second Base)
- Wild Pitch / Passed Ball Communication
MINI DIAMOND - Super Tool
One of the most valuable tools a coach can use is the Mini Diamond. Any drill in which the focus of the teaching is something other than working on full on overhand throwing technique can be run on a Mini Diamond. Use of the Mini Diamond is referenced throughout the Coaching Guide.
A Mini Diamond is 20’-25' square, but can be modified larger or smaller depending on the activity. It is constructed using cones, throw down bases, ball caps, extra shirts that are laying around, a leaf, anything. Anytime we compact the teaching/learning environment we reduce distractions, improve communication and the players get many more repetitions during a drill.
Examples of drills that can be run using a Mini Diamond include relays, backing-up and base coverage responsibilities, and first and third defense. Keep in mind that for most activities the throwing and catching aspect is the last skill that needs to be mastered (and we take care of that during 'Playing Catch Practice'). Proper movement, positioning and communication need to be understood and mastered to some extent before be add the throwing aspect to cement the execution of the activity.
The Mini Diamond is also useful for teaching how a drill is supposed to run before going to the full size diamond.
Base Running - Through First Base
Base Running - Turns & Touches
Touch Point on a Base When Making a Turn
Getting the Ball Back In To the Pitcher
Infield Base Coverage
, Infield Base Coverage, Explained
Outfield Backing-up Bases
Outfield Backing up Bases, Explained
Most kids view playing the outfield as boring. That is until they are trained to play the outfield properly. An outfielder’s first responsibility, naturally, is to chase balls hit in the outfield. Their second responsibility is to back up on ground balls hit to the two infielders in front of them. Their third responsibility is the one they will engage in the most: backing up throws to bases.
Backing up throws to bases is far from boring, this responsibility takes a lot of effort. In order to get to the correct spot on the field to back up a throw to a base, an outfielder is often required to sprint 50 feet or more. Over the course of one inning an outfielder may have to sprint five times or more ...that is hard work. Once kids understand the backing up responsibilities of an outfielder a coach should never again hear a player say playing the outfield is boring. What a coach might hear is, “Coach, I don’t want to play outfield, I have to run too much”. My suggested response is, “Consider playing soccer, in that sport you don’t have to sprint so much” ;)
The thing an outfielder needs to understand in backing up is the requirement to be positioned behind the base so there is a straight line from the ball, to the base, to their position backing up. It is important they understand that their backing up position is different on every play depending from where the ball is being thrown.
This drill is run using a Mini Diamond.
Put a player at each outfield position (marked by a cone); also have a second player at each position. After the first set of outfielders run the drill and are returning to their outfield spot the second set of outfielders are run through the drill. Using cones to mark the three outfield positions helps the drill stay organized. The cones are positioned about 25-30 feet beyond the mini diamond.
The coach goes to a spot within the diamond, or in foul ground between home plate and a corner base (this provides a greater variety of angles to the bases), then calls, “Back up your base”. The Left Fielder runs to back up third; the Center Fielder runs to back up second; the Right Fielder runs to back up first base. The three outfielders sprint to a point ten feet beyond the base they are backing up (on a full size field the backing up distance is 25-30 feet). The key teaching point is to make a straight line from the ball to the base to the point beyond the base where the outfielder is positioned to back up a potential overthrow.
The coach then moves to a different spot within the infield diamond and repeats the process with the next group of outfielders.
Ideally, two Mini Diamonds are set up with six players working at each diamond. This doubles the reps for the kids and reduces the amount of time spent standing around.
Soon the coaches (and players) will recognize that Right Field is not a place for a weak player. Many balls get past the First Baseman. When there are overthrows at first, base runners are trained to run to second base. If the Right Fielder is alert and working hard, they will be in position to stop the runner from going to second, or if the runner attempts to go to second, have a good opportunity to throw the runner. It takes a good athlete to get to the backing up position in time, and then make a strong, accurate throw to second.
After a couple of days of running the drill we want to expand the teaching of the backing up situation. Point out to the kids that the fence line on most fields is only 10-15 feet behind first and third base. Often the corner outfielders will back up the base by playing a carom off the fence. They need to learn to run to where the carom will land.
The drill has the corner outfielders only backing up first and third. It needs to be pointed out that many throws to second are going towards left field or right field. Therefore the corner outfielders sometimes have to back up second base as well. Note: This does not mean the Center Fielder is not attempting to back up on these throws. The Center Fielder, on every potential throw to second base, is sprinting in an effort to get into position to back up that base.
FINAL NOTE: The objective on EVERY throw to a base in a game is to have “Two Players in Position to Catch the Throw”: the player at the base, who we want to catch the throw, and a second player beyond the base backing up the throw. In theory, if the backing up players fulfill their responsibility, ZERO runners will advance on an overthrow the entire season. Can you imagine what a difference that would make?
SS/2b - Balls Hit to the Outfield
20’ Ground Balls
6-4 / 4-6 Play Using Underhand Toss
One Hop Drill
Ranging Laterally for Ground Balls
Side Shuffle, Partner Toss
This one is tough to diagram, but pretty simple to figure out based on a description. The title itself is pretty self-explanatory. Two kids stand 10’-15’ apart, facing each other. They shuffle sideways, slowly, and toss the ball back and forth to each other. A good and convenient distance for them to shuffle is 60’, the distance between bases.
The action is simple; the kids shuffle sideways and toss the ball back and forth. The drill can be run with or without a glove and the tosses can be overhand or underhand. I like to introduce the drill having the kids use their bare hands and catch and toss with both hands. This forces them to keep their shoulders square to each other.
This drill usually involves multiple sets of tossing partners. Line the kids up shoulder to shoulder, have the first pair start, and then after they have gone 15’ or so, have the next pair go, and so on. When the kids get to the established ending point for the drill, have them stay there and when the last group has finished, repeat the drill in the opposite direction.
As simple as this drill is, there is a lot of value. First, any drill where kids are moving (their feet) and catching is great for developing athleticism. The drill develops focus and it has that most important attribute, it is fun – in fact, the kids love it. Most every time I run this drill, when we wrap it up the kids ask, “Can we do it one more time?!”
With experience and repetition we ask the kids quicken their feet and move faster laterally.
An important part of this drill is to have the coach or a parent helper, with a couple spare balls in hand, moving along with the kids, available to feed them a new ball if one gets away from them. Older, bigger kids (who wear bigger pants) can carry a spare ball in their back pocket.
This is a great drill for the Skill Building Warm-up given its simplicity and constant movement.
Underhand Toss / Throwing on the Run
Drop Step Routine
RECEIVING THROWS AT A BASE
Receiving a Throw at a Base - Positioning and Footwork
Throws to a base at the 12u level (especially with kids ten and under) are off the mark quite often. In order for kids to consistently catch throws at a base, they will need to leave the base a fair amount of the time in order to catch the ball.
Before we can teach kids how to receive a throw at a base we need to understand what is going on in their minds. Young players' exposure to this play is dominated by seeing the game at high-levels and seeing most plays being made at first base.
The result is kids develop two misconceptions about what is involved in receiving a throw at a base:
1. One foot is anchored to the base before their teammate makes a throw.
2. The other foot is extended out towards their teammate making the throw. They think the player at the base is supposed to stand in a 'Stretch' position (even on tag plays).
These invariably lead to kids not being able to adjust to, and catch, off-line throws. The info below address reprogramming our kids perception of what is going on in preparing to take a throw at a base and how to properly prepare to receive a throw at a base.
We do not want players at the 12u level to straddle the base. Given their misconception of what is going on in this situation kids often (subconsciously or consciously) place a higher priority on being at/on the base than on catching the ball. They see the game played at higher levels and come to believe that all thrown balls will be on target at the base. The fact is that in many instances throws are not on target, which requires the player at the base to leave the bag to get to the ball.
The problem is the base serves as a ',magnet' and kids are resistant to moving away from the base ("How am I supposed to get 'em out if I'm not on the base?").
At this level of play we instruct our players to stand on the side of the base the ball is coming from (if the balls is coming straight to the base in line with the base line they stand on the side of the base that places their glove between them and the base). We teach: "The Base is for the Runner, The Ball is for the Defense"
One they understand where to position their feet they follow this sequence when receiving a throw:
1. "Move Your Feet to Catch"
2. "Ball First, Base Second"
3. After making the play at the base -move feet towards the middle of the infield in a 'Power Position',
prepared to throw and they "Look for Other Runners". (see the diagram below in 'Receiving a Throw -
Catch, Tag & Throw - on a Mini Diamond using underhand toss
Receiving a Throw - Tag Play (at Third Base)
Receiving a Throw - Force Play (at First Base)
Receiving a Throw - Infielder Going Back on a Fly Ball, Tag Play (at Second Base)
Wild Pitch / Passed Ball Communication Drill
It is important to maintain discipline in the kids' actions when running this drill. There is a correct way to position the feet and body in relation to the ball. There is a specific technique in picking up the ball and when it comes to the throwing aspect of the drill and, as with all throws, the feet must be moved properly.
This drill deals with the situation of a runner trying to score from third base on a ball that gets past the catcher. However the actions of the catcher in this drill are the same they would use when a runner is attempting to advance to second base or third base on a wild pitch or passed ball.
When a catcher veers away from using proper technique in picking up the ball and proper footwork throughout the action, remind them that while they are not making the longer throw to the other bases in this drill, the good habits they are reinforcing will enable them to make a strong throw to any point on the diamond following a wild pitch or passed ball.