Baseball is one of most popular past times of kids in the United States. More than 13% of kids between the ages of 6 an 12 play baseball in the US, putting the sport just behind basketball in terms of overall youth involvement.
Developing a love for baseball and an interest in continuing to play the game is correlated with having success playing, which obviously requires practice and time spent on the field and doing drills.
But what drills should kids be doing to become better baseball players?
While the answer to that question depends a bit on each kid’s experience level, there are several drills kids should be doing to to give them the skill set to succeed at the game and continue to be interested in playing.
I’m going to share with you some of the best baseball drills for kids, ones that are pretty much guaranteed to have them feeling confident enough to enjoy the game and compete.
The first sets of drills I’ll share are for kids who are just beginning to play baseball. If your player is past that level, feel free to scroll down and check out the drills that are more advanced and that work on some of the more technical elements of playing the game well.
Drills That Give Beginners the Essential Skills for Baseball
While there are dozens of different training elements that comprise the sport of baseball, and here are hundreds of hours that could be dedicated to everything from base running to how to wear a rally cap, the essentials of baseball boil down to three skills: throwing, catching, and hitting.
For kids who are just learning the game, and even for those who have a year or two of experience, it is imperative that they learn to throw, catch, and hit a baseball in order for them to be successful and to grow in the sport.
One thing you should remember with beginners is that over-coaching can cause frustration and loss of interest. While beginner baseball players certainly need correction, it’s important to allow a new player get reps and feel what’s going on through experience. Most players will naturally improve as they throw, see the results of their throw, and integrate that feedback into their next throw. Make sure that you balance giving instruction with allowing a kid to get reps an experience what happens.
Throwing Instruction for Beginners
The most essential element of throwing is getting aligned with the target. This video from SKLZ explains how to get young players aligned with their target, looking at the target, and getting their momentum moving toward the target as they throw.
This is basic instruction that should be given to newbies to throwing, but also can serve as a reminder even to kids who are more experienced.
Michael Derr from Pro Speed Baseball created a great video that walks you through more the basic elements of throwing. I’ve embedded the video below. I’ll walk through the elements described in the video.
Kids who are just starting to learn to throw usually need to be taught how to aim their lead foot towards their target and lead the throw with their front shoulder and arm.
The T Drill will help beginners learn to align themselves to throw towards a target. The components of the T drill are:
- making sure that the player is aligned with the target
- having the thrower bring his front elbow through and down to create torque with his torso
Again, to get kids going with throwing at a fundamental level, it’s important to give them simple feedback and allow them to get reps they can use to learn from.
Catching Instruction for Beginners
Teaching beginners how to catch involves helping them simply react with their hands to a ball that is moving.
The best way to start out is to have them use their bare hands to catch a ball at a short distance from where it’s being thrown. Kids naturally learn to watch where the ball is going, move their hands to the ball, and catch it. With this drill, there is typically not a lot of instruction needed.
Once kids have learned to catch a ball with their bare hands, the next step is to have them use their glove hand (their non-dominant hand, since they’ll be throwing with that one) to catch the ball bare-handed.
Once they’ve learned how to catch a ball with their glove hand bare-handed, you an add in the glove and allow them to get used to catching the ball at longer distances and at higher speeds. Their coordination will naturally improve until they are able to catch consistently.
Hitting Instruction for Beginners
Hitting can take a bit to get used to for beginning baseball players. Developing the ability to swing the bat and hit a ball involves both timing and coordination.
To start a young baseball player on hitting, it’s best to use a tee at first, which removes the timing element of batting and simplifies it.
A baseball swing starts with these components:
- Bat grip: the “door knocking” knuckles should be close to aligned.
- Stance width: legs should slightly wider than shoulder width to provide balance
- Load: the batter should bring his hands back just past his back shoulder in preparation for striding toward the ball
- Stride: the batter should take a small step forward to create momentum that will be used to drive the ball
- Swing: the batter then turns his body and swings at the ball.
There are several other technical elements to cover for each step of this introduction to hitting process, and I’ll include some more advanced instruction below, but going through this set of instructions with a beginner hitter is a good start.
Again, it’s important to allow the hitter to get reps and experience the feedback loop from following these steps and swinging at the ball several times in order to become more familiar with the feel of it.
The video below explains these elements, with a demonstration of each one.
Once a hitter has mastered the tee, it’s time to introduce throwing the ball. For many kids, depending on their natural abilities, the ball may need to be tossed underhand in front of them or beside them (what’s known as “soft toss”). More natural hitters can often move to hitting a ball thrown overhand and at higher speeds.
Because of the very technical nature of developing a good swing, it’s common to use a tee and to toss the ball underhand, even for more experienced young baseball players. Professional baseball players use batting tees (referred to as “tee work”) to help them work on particular aspects of their swings and to build strength without the variation and distraction that can come with hitting a pitched ball.
Technical Baseball Drills for Kids
Once kids have mastered the basics of throwing, catching, and hitting, they’re ready to move on to the more technical, advanced aspects of developing their baseball skills. These drills will often help with everything from developing arm and core strength to maintaining balance while going through the motions associated with playing baseball.
Here are some of the most common drills I’ve seen used to help kids become experts in the game of baseball.
Technical Hitting Drills for Kids
The video below reviews seven hitting drills that help younger and older kids develop the best habits for succeeding as batters.
The training video below refers to the two following products: the Line Drive Pro and the SwingRail trainer. I have included links to the products on Amazon for your convenience if you’d like to purchase those training accessories.
- Stance Drill: Have the hitter line up and practice his stance in preparation for swinging the bat.
- Stance Width: The feet should be set just beyond shoulder width apart
- Knock the Knees: Make sure the knees are turned in slightly and bent to create an athletic stance
- Body Angle: The batter’s chest should be over the toes to create an axis to swing through and helps with being in an athletic position. The batter’s weight will be on the balls of the feet instead of on the heals.
- Stride, Pause, Stride, Swing Drill: In this drill, you’ll have the batter go from a narrow stance (working on balance here) into a stride that takes them to launch position where the hitter will then pause, allowing you to visually check the components of their preparation for swinging, including having the hands back, stepping into a slightly closed position, and the hips beginning to rotate. After the pause, which allows for a visual check, the batter then repeats the action, only the second time he’ll finish the swing and hit the ball.
- PVC Pipe Drill: This drill helps to make sure the batter’s swing plane is correct. It’s done by holding a PVC pipe across the shoulders with the hands crossed. The extended PVC pipe focuses on the batter’s posture and turn, making sure that the swing plane is formed well.
- Weighted Ball Drill: This drill increases the batter’s strength, especially through the contact point. Using a heavier ball (around 1 pound) provides resistance that strengthens the hitting muscles that provide the transfer of energy to the ball as it’s hit.
- Line Drive Drill: This drill uses a product called the LineDrivePro Swing Trainer, which is designed to give hitters instant visual feedback as well as reinforce what the barrel path should feel like in order to hit a line drive.
- SwingRail Drill: This is another drill that uses a product designed to develop good swinging habits by providing instant sensory feedback that keeps hitters from having a “long swing” and casting their hands as they swing. Instead, the SwingRail teaches them to take their hands directly to the ball, improving the bat path during the swing.
- Skinny Barrel Bat, Mini Whiffle Balls : When I did this drill as a kid, it was comprised of a broomstick handle and bottle caps. Now, the drill uses a skinny barrel bat and miniature whiffle balls. Having a batter take soft toss, hit off a tee, or take regular batting practice with this setup increases his ability to hit the middle of a baseball. It increases the accuracy of the swing.
Technical Catching and Fielding Drills for Kids
Defense is critical to winning baseball games. Kids need to learn how to catch, field, and make accurate throws to consistently get outs.
Obviously, the more repetitions kids can get with catching, fielding, moving their feet, and improving their coordination in that context, the better fielders they will become.
The most essential and fundamental elements of teaching catching and fielding involves hitting or throwing them fly balls and ground balls, including at difficulty levels that go from easy ones to catch or field up to more difficult plays that stretch them, such as higher fly balls that they have to cover some ground to make the catch or even dive to do so.
The drills I’ve listed here will help to round out a young baseball player’s skill set when it comes to catching and fielding.
Tennis Ball Wall Rebound Drill
This is probably my favorite fielding drill. Kids naturally enjoy it, as it allows them to test and develop their coordination, especially reacting to and catching or fielding a ball. This drill gives kids lots and lots of reps in a short amount of time, and they get a sense of how to react to various hops.
As players get more experienced with bouncing the tennis ball against a wall and fielding it as it comes back, they can speed up the throw, or make the drill more difficult for themselves at their own pace.
This drill uses a competition scenario and makes it fun for players, getting them to be fully engaged. Essentially, the fielder acts as a goalie, standing between two cones while ground balls are thrown to him. To start with or for less experienced players, these can be easier to field balls that are moving slower and not far from where the fielder is standing. For more aggressive practice, the balls can be thrown harder and further away from the fielder, making him have to use backhand and/or feet movement skills.
This drill can be made into a game, with scores being kept and players competing with each other.
This drill teaches young baseball players to recover from a slightly mis-fielded ground ball. The drill involves gently bouncing the ball off the chest simulating an actual fielding scenario. The fielder then has to “recover”, picking up the ball, using the right-left stepping sequence, and making the throw.
Two Cone Kickover
This drill helps fielders improve their footwork. It involves setting up two cones, and having fielders move between them. It teaches them to use the correct right-left footwork sequence as they field the baseball and prepare to make the throw.
Infielder Exchange Drill
Infielders are very often required to quickly catch and then throw a baseball to get a runner out. This drill is teaches them how to make the transition from catching to throwing the ball quickly.
Rather than being a “catch” in the most commonly though of terms, the exchange drill involves using the glove hand to essentially deflect the ball into the throwing hand so that a quick throw can be made.
Throwing Drills for Kids
The mechanics of throwing involve several different elements. Your goal with teaching throwing is to get kids to throw effectively, but more importantly, how to throw without injuring their arms. Arm injuries cause a high percentage of baseball players to have to quit playing the game.
Kids should be taught from a young age how to throw correctly to avoid injury and to be effective. The drills I’ll share below will help them develop better techniques so that they can be better throwers and protect their arms from injury.
Lead With Hip Drill
Throwing a baseball effectively begins with taking a step while leading with the hip. This motion starts off what is often referred to as the kinetic chain for throwing. The Fence Hip Fall Drill is useful for teaching young baseball players to begin their throw by leaning forward starting with their hips, allowing more torque to be put on the throw as the motion moves from the legs to the body’s core.
Elbow Hold Throw Drill
This drill helps kids overcome the tendency to short-arm a baseball throw. The drill involves holding the elbow of the throwing arm with the hand of the opposite arm. This drill forces the elbow up and allows the
Throwing from Arm Slot Drill
This drill is a follow up to the Elbow Hold Throw Drill, and helps young players avoid short arming the throw, which puts stress on the shoulder and reduces the power of the throw.
In this drill, the player starts with his arm in whatever arm slot (i.e. the position that is most natural for him) he’s comfortable with, then steps forward and throws from that position. Leaving out the backward and downward motion helps throwers avoid the tendency to shorten the arm and push the ball using their shoulders.
Ready, Break, Fire
This drill puts the several previous drills together while still allowing the thrower to stay focused on the mechanics of throwing. By simplifying the full throwing motion, the player is able to focus on the core components involved in throwing separately, while bringing the entire process together. The drill involves standing with the legs slightly wider than the shoulders and the hands together at the chest, then striding while breaking the hands down and circling with fingers pointing toward the ground, then behind the thrower until moving forward during the throw.
Developing Youth Baseball Skills: Repetition of Correct
The drills I’ve shared above are just a few of my favorite drills that are appropriate for kids who are just learning to play baseball as well as those who are well on their way to greatness.
There are certainly hundreds of other drills you can use to develop young baseball players into competitive athletes. Becoming a better baseball player is mostly a matter of spending time doing the right drills correctly.
Later, when a young baseball player is old enough, you can start introducing strength training (including training with bands, free weights, and body weights) in addition to doing these kinds of specific skill, balance, and coordination drills.
Are We Missing a Drill?
If you know of a drill that should be included on this page, feel free to let me know using our contact page.