Mastering baseball takes years and years, but young players improve quickly when they’re doing the right drills.
For a little league coach, there are few things more important than teaching players the fundamentals of baseball. But that’s easier said than done. As it turns out, baseball is not an easy sport to pick up even if you’ve got the basic throwing, catching, and hitting skillset. There are lots of rules and there’s a lot to keep in mind. That’s why repetition is so key for young players. Instead of teaching them to know what to do, smart coaches try to teach kids to operate on something between muscle memory and autopilot. Really good coaches accomplish this by running drills.
That said, not all drills are created equal. Many commonly used Little League drills have little efficacy. Others frustrate players. The key, it turns out, is to find one that let kids practice not only specific skills, but success itself. This is how Craig Ahrens, the author of No Bad Team: Management Techniques Honed from Coaching Youth Sports and a 15-year veteran coach thinks about developing athletic strengths and how Robert Herbst is a 19-time world champion powerlifter who has trained youth baseball players for more than 30 years, develops pure strength. Fatherly spoke with the pair about the Little League drills that make stronger players. They recommended the following five.
The Unzip and Release Drill
There is perhaps no warm-up drill in baseball more common than a pre-practice game of catch. But Herbst says that for young kids, there is a version of catch that “breaks down each component of the throw” to help them throw with precision and accuracy. Herbst has kids line up across from each other, tossing the ball back and forth but has them freeze in various parts of a typical game of catch in order to think about the motions.
“As one line is getting ready to toss, I will tell them to ‘unzip,’ which means they will mimic the exaggerated motion of unzipping a jacket as they are winding up to throw and freeze with the ball as far back as they would have it go if they were throwing.”
Herbst will then go down the line and examine form to correct anyone who isn’t doing the wind-up properly. Once he has gone through everyone, he will tell them to ‘release’ and they will throw the ball to the teammate across from them.
“And they will go back and forth tossing the ball. It can seem unnecessary but it gets the kids really thinking about the process of making the throw, which will limit the number of times they accidentally overthrow the ball or throw it in the dirt. It’s great for keeping kids focused.”
The Bucket Drill
One of the most difficult things to teach a young player is how to properly handle a ground ball. It requires a high amount of patience and focus, two things that young kids are not known for having. For teaching kids to handle grounders, Ahrens has found a simple drill…