In devising defensive
drills try to keep the kids constantly involved and provide multiple
repetitions so that they can practice and master good habits. Utilize
assistant coaches or parent volunteers to keep things moving.
have kids standing around for stretches of time. Keep those fielders busy.
I would not get too complicated in putting together fielding drills for
young kids. Innovation and creativity are great, but repetition is the
key here at this level...Refer back to the Throwing & Catching Drills in
putting together a majority of your practices.
your fielders in rows. Have 2, 3 or 4 stations to keep the lines short.
Hit or roll the 1st player on a line 5 ground balls and have them throw
the ball back to you. When he is done he rotates to the back of the line
and the next kid jumps up. Check to see that your fielders are staying
low. Have them work on staying" under the ball." Knees should be flexed,
rear ends down, hands out in front of their body in receiving the
grounder. The feet should be slightly wider than the player's shoulders.
Watch that the player doesn't turn his head away when fielding the
grounder. With young and unskilled players, you may find that using
tennis balls and then gradually working up to regulation balls is the way
This drill is good in that it can be done indoors and out, on a field,
parking lot or driveway. It does not require much space but can provide
dozens of repetitions in a short amount of time. You can isolate stance
and fielding flaws and build confidence in fielders who might be
frightened of the ball. Start easy and work your way up to harder-hit
balls. There is no surer way to lose a young player than to hit grounders
too hard, too soon and they get hit with it.
Line up your players 15-20
feet apart facing a wall 20 feet away. Using tennis or rubberized balls,
have the players throw their ball against the wall. Presto! Instant
grounder. Kids can get literally dozens of balls in this fashion. This
drill is good for eye/hand coordination and you can check to see how the
kids set up on grounders. Make contests for the most consecutive ground
balls caught and encourage the kids to do this drill on their own.
Set the players up on the
infield at 1st, 2nd, short and 3rd. Have a catcher behind the plate and a
pitcher at the mound. The coach hits ground balls from home plate to all
of the positions. Have the kids field and practice making regulation
throws. Keep rotating kids in and out of
positions until they have
all played every position. This drill will show you what kids are capable
of the longer throws and will get them used to the routines of infield
play. Keep backups at all the positions as you can expect misplays and
overthrows. (It's normal in lower level ball.)
Keep all the kids involved by rotating often. Get the kids versed in
playing several positions. Don't lock them into only one spot on the
field. You can expand this drill by including outfielders and having them
throw to bases and utilizing them as cut offs. You may also choose to
include baserunners. This introduces the element of situational play to
your players. Bunts, force plays, double plays and run downs can all be
simulated for the players to recognize and react to. Using runners makes
the drill more competitive and forces the fielders to respond to game-like
pressure. It also provides valuable base-running practice and is fun.
With younger players it is expected that runners will be safe most of the
time as the throwing and fielding skills of the defensive players are not
yet fully developed. Watch for improvement however, and as defensive
gradually get better, the
frequency of outs will increase. Don't let the players get discouraged.
I have used a drill like this for 30 to 45 minutes and the kids have great
fun with all aspects of it.
Put kids out into positions
on the field. Have the coach pitch as to guarantee strikes. Let batters
hit and have the fielders respond to the plays accordingly. This is a
great time to work on anticipation. Have the kids tell you what they will
do with the ball if it's hit to them. It is important for the fielders to
see pitched balls hit off of the bat. It is different than balls that
are simply fungoed by the coach. This drill also provides batting and
base-running practice for your players. Again, gauge your players
abilities. If they can't play catch safely and effectively, can't do the
line drill, scrimmaging is u nrealistic. Keep the players rotating around
into different positions. Have runners wear helmets and have fun.
Exercise great caution
when teaching young kids how to catch fly balls. Start by using tennis
balls or Softee Balls and toss, don't hit, them at your players. (I
witnessed a well-meaning coach hit hard balls at 8-year-old kids and it
resulted in a broken nose for one of the youngsters.) Tread carefully.
Catching fly balls is an art that takes a long time to acquire. Realize
that many kids have a fear of the baseball, particularly those up over
their head. Teach them to keep their glove fingers up and their arms
extended in front of them.
Give each kid a ball. Have
them (one at a time) run up to you and have them flip you the ball. They
then run approximately 50 feet and you lob a ball up for them to catch.
As ability increases, increase the length and height of the throws.
(TIP: Encourage the
kids to run on the balls of their feet. Kids who run on their heels have
a tendency to bounce and it makes it difficult fo them to track the
Divide your kids into teams
of 4-5 kids to a team. Each team should create a straight line with the
players positioned approximately 50 feet apart. The object of each team
is to throw to the next player in their line until the ball goes all the
way down to the end of the line and back. The thrower should be using the
next fielders chest as his target. Accuracy is paramount. High, wide or
bounced throws make for poor relays. Also look that players are turning
to their glove side when throwing the ball to the next player on the
line. (Right hand
throwers spin to their left, Left hand throwers spin to their right.)
Have fun by having
the teams race each other. Players will learn very early that dropped or
wild throws will cause them to lose the race. Winners get bubble gum?