All athletic movements start from an athletic position. Coaches making an effort to teach an athletic position will find future skills much easier to teach. An a athletic position is a player with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and torso slightly pitched at the waist so that toes, knees and shoulders are in straight vertical alignment
Have players line up on first base line, facing the pitcher’s mound. Have an assistant model an athletic position, showing it from the front and side, highlighting the alignment
Coaches and choose to name the position if they’d like – something as simple as Ready or more creative like Gecko, Gorilla, or an age appropriate cartoon character.
Instruct the players to get into the position and hold it. Have a coach or an assistant check the players’ stances. You can use a bat to help them get toes, knees, shoulders in a vertical line.
A way to get them used to getting weight on toes is to have them, while in stance, pick up their heels off the ground. Up and down a couple of times will help drive this home
Proper fielding position is simply the athletic position, with the addition of both hands palms facing home plate, slightly above and forward of the knees
This is taught as the second step in the above drill for athletic position. Have the players practice going back and forth between the Athletic Position and the Basic Fielding position by having the coach call out the names of the positions.
This position can be named something memorable as well. I’ve used Frogs (although that name isn’t great, I’m looking for something else)
Players should make every effort to field ground balls within the frame of their bodies (i.e. between and in front of their feet). It’s important that we get players comfortable with moving side to side and centering the ball to field it.
To center the ball, players will need to learn to move laterally, At this level, players should primarily shuffle side to side, without crossing feet if possible. This is taught as an extension to the earlier drill for Athletic Position and Basic Fielding position. I tend to call the side to side move Crabs. Players follow the coach’s lead moving side to side, shuffling and maintaining the Athletic and Basic Fielding positions.
For the youngest players, centering the ball can be taught with a large ball (soccer, basketball, or similar). Players in a line or circle have a ball rolled at them by a coach. In the early runt thoughts, players are instructed to allow the ball to go through their legs and watch it all the way through. Slight side to side movements can be drilled here depending on level of players. But it can start straight ahead as well.
Once players have grasped the concept, the large ball can be used again. This time with the players fielding the ball and returning it the coach. Or you can skip right to baseballs, either with or without gloves. Sometimes, without gloves is good b/c it generally cuts down on players reaching outside their frame to field.
Players can also do these drills in groups of two for increased reps
Fielding ground balls with two hands is critical for two reasons. First, the trapping motion is dramatically more secure. Second, two handed fielding puts players in a much more balanced position. Both increase the likely hood of a successful fielding play
Yet another extension of the Athletic Position drill, I’ll add in another movement, typically called Alligator. Players in the fielding position drop their hips, extend hands out in front, and place the palm of the bare hand into the palm of the glove. I’ll typically have them “chomp” three times before returning to the Frog or Basic Fielding Position.
All put together I’ll have the players move in a variety of ways through Frog, Alligator, and Crabs. For the younger kids, I’ll throw in a Monkey or something silly where they actually act like Monkeys just to keep them loose and paying attention.
Older players can advance to Close the Door vs. Alligator. With hands extended, the bare hand simply pivots like it was hinged to the glove hand to cover up the ball, rather than coming over the top like the Alligator. Closing the Door allows players to not lose sight of the ball as it enters the glove.
Coaches can roll balls to players, or they can do it in groups of two to increase reps
Throwing with accuracy and strength requires balance and stored energy. With body perpendicular to target, the glove should be extended at shoulder level in front of body. Ball should be extended on the same plane behind the body with fingers on top of the ball.
The Scarecrow is a popular basic throwing drill. A letter T is also taught as an example. Please note though that we generally want to maintain a slight elbow bend at this level, as some players stiffen up and may forget to bend their elbows again to throw.
Using the Throw Dance above, the Rip movement tends to put players in the power position. I have them Rip the ball out of their gloves, with the glove hand and bar hand moving out and slightly upwards.
I’ve also had players get into the surfing position, which they mostly seem to get, and other than some extra wiggles tends to keep them turned, in the athletic position with knees bent, and with arms in a balanced position.
To initiate the transition from Power Position to throwing, the bare hand should rise to essentially a vertical position. The upper arm should be at or about a position parallel to the ground with the elbow at or above the shoulder, thus forming the L.
In the Throw Dance, the Wave movement seems to get the kids into the right position. It’s a motion to re-enforce through all drills.
Players at this level need practice in throwing to specific targets. Fun drills with accomplishments can help teach accuracy.
Bucket on a Tee – Tee (or multiple tees) with a ball bucket placed on top. Players in a line take turns trying to knock the bucket off. The bucket also teaches players to throw hard, which players tend not to do instinctively. Variations include soccer balls all the way down to baseballs on the tee. And a batting helmet on a ball bucket.
Hitting Net – I’ve placed a hitting net (available from HOYB) on first base, with the players lined up at the second base position. Players field ground balls, throw into the net for point values based on where it hits. I’ve also placed my older son at first and allowed
Playing Catch – It’s hard for younger kids, but it should be done so they get used to it. Coaching during playing catch is encouraged, and remind the players that you are throwing the ball so someone can catch it.
Many players at this age have to be taught to move the glove to catch the ball. They also need to be able to track an object in space.
For Glove Movement it’s generally taught that the glove moves in a circle to reach high and low balls. This can be practiced in line drills, or prior to playing catch.
Tracking is learned through practice. There is no substitute for throwing things at players. They should be encouraged to do so between practices as well. Players struggling with tracking and confidence can use big, soft things (beach balls, stuffed animals) to gain confidence. Decrease size and increase hardness as skills develop.
Coaches can toss balls to players in a circle or line for increased good reps. Players can play catch as well. Players can also partner up, in egg toss style game, each moving a set back with each successful throw and catch.
Swatting with the bare glove hand and/or paddle can help teach glove movement. It reduces the pressure/complexity for younger players involved with catching, and is especially useful in teaching to move the glove high for higher throws. Any type of balls or objects of various sizes can be used.
Players start from Athletic Position, perpendicular to the pitchers rubber with all ten toes pointing directly to home plate. Prior to initiating the swing, hands should be positioned at shoulder height at or near the rear shoulder. The rear elbow should be away from the body, pointing toward the plate umpire, front elbow less than perpendicular to the ground.
I generally have players put their toes on the inside line for the batter’s box.
Some players tend to lunge and chop at the ball. I tend to make these players adjust with uncomfortably wide stances which helps level the swing.
For players with extreme upper cuts I tend to make them swing at ridiculously high teed up balls, then gradually lower.
For players who do not swing hard, I make them hit soccer balls, basketballs, etc. which they have to hit hard.
Players should understand basic base running (direction to run, when to run, when to stop, etc.)
The High Five drill is useful to get players used to looking for the base coach and running through the bag at first. Players line up at home, then run to first, touch the bag and continue on past the bag to give coach a high five in foul territory.
Once on base, players can be taught the sprinters stance, with one foot on the base, head toward home plate and ready to run
Run the bases a lot. Kids love it. It’s a great way to buy time and get them refocused. Time them around the bases.
Players should have a good understanding of the locations and functions of defensive positions.
Have all players gather at home base. Have an assistant coach jog to a position on the field. Ask the players what position it is, and have them scream the response (3Xs) then have them run to the position and get into fielding position. Repeat for all positions on the field.
For 1st and 3rd bases, I have the kids go to the base, take three steps into the field, turn and take three steps toward home. For SS and Second, they should go to the base and take six steps away in the proper direction
Players should understand how outs are made, and be able to make them at reasonable levels.
At the start of the season, I have all players (IF and OF) always throw to first base. I ask them where we’re throwing the ball and they respond via yelling “First Base”
Once they are automatic to first base, we insert tags into the mix as another way to get an out. They general get this quickly and it’s a little chaotic, but important.
We can also work in other bases, and the idea of the force towards the end of Coach Pitch and for sure in Machine Pitch. I tend to use a very small diamond, sometimes referencing “The Force” and quizzing players on “where is the force?”
Get players engaged in learning how to bat and practicing batting.
A coach gets behind a screen with a bucket of balls and from about 10 feet away from home plate tosses underhand to the batters.
Each player gets one pitch to hit per round, and each round has a goal. For example, the first round the goal is to hit a fair ball. The second round the goal is to hit a fair ball that reaches the infield dirt. The third round the goal is to hit a fair ball the reaches the outfield grass, and so on and so on.
The coach can adjust the goals as necessary (and even include bunts). If a player doesn’t achieve the goal, he is eliminated.
The winner is the last player left who has not been eliminated. You can also give each player one “do-over” so they are not eliminated on their first mistake. The teams I have done this with enjoy it, and they want to do it many times
Getting fielders into proper fielding position for ground ball. Specifically extending the hands in front of the body.
Also requires players to step, and turn before throwing.
you'll need one or more pool noodles, the round styrofoam ones about 4 feet long and two coaches.
as always, break the team down into the smallest groups you can depending on number of noodles and coaches.
have one coach with balls an a glove standing about 20 feet from the line of players. Place the noodle approximately 5 feet from the front of the player line, perpendicular to the player line.
coach rolls a very easy ground ball to the player who's feet remain behind the noodle in a good fielding position and who's hands must extend over the noodle to field the ball. This requires the players to get the feel for extending the hands and fielding the ball out in front, rather than straight down as is common.
once the ball is fielded, the player must step the glove foot over and in front of the noodle, while leaving the back foot behind the noodle, thus forcing players to both step and turn their shoulders to throw the ball back to the coach and complete the drill.