Whether you are on your 6th season and coaching your third child, or taking on the job for the first time, it’s easy to fall into unproductive traps in your thinking as you construct youth baseball practice plans. If you are experienced, you can begin to believe there are certain things you “must” do. If you are new, you also can begin to believe that there are certain things you “must” do. Both are missing the point. Start from the idea that you are giving your time and you have not only the right but absolute duty to your players to get creative.
All you have to know about baseball is there are really 5 parts and 5 parts alone you have to focus on. Hitting, Defense, Pitching, Baserunning, and what I like to call Mental Approach. This is also known as a mental game.
If you do all 5 in each practice you are set. Do a little of the baserunning, a little more of the defense, more yet of the pitching and hitting in equal parts. That’s it. Got it? We’re done.
Seriously, you can look up all kinds of drills on YouTube or by googling. Drills upon drills and more drills. They are everywhere.
And I am going to layout a master practice. And you can find many of those online too.
But what you won’t find anywhere else is empowerment. The idea that you can do the most amazing job for your players and give them the most memorable experience in the game if you trust yourself and remember what elements make great practice.
Your players will never get forget you and the ultimate goal of making them love the game and stay with the game will stand a much higher likelihood of happening.
I am going to suggest you add the following elements to any of your youth baseball practice plans:
- Game simulation.
- The competition where prizes are at stake
- Work which focuses on successful completion of specific parts rather than a result
- High Pace and Urgency
- Quick changes in a variety
My point is: it’s not the what, it’s the how. Take risks and be creative.
I’ll add in variations for different age groups and equipment suggestions.
Most coaches just let it be what it will be. But this is your opportunity to set the tone. Every moment matters and every moment is going to about energy and getting into preparation to play actual baseball.
Put no time limit on it. Give your first baseman a base to work on footwork. Make your catchers use a catcher’s glove and work on their throwing motion. Infielders with infielders. Outfielders with outfielders.
No flatfooted throwing! It doesn’t happen in games. Why practice it? Remember the one defensive drill is a catch. But they have to play catch with pace and an emphasis on footwork. Catch, turn, chop and drive. Smooth it out and make it flow quicker. Then quicker. Then quicker. Two hands so the player can get to the ball and release it quickly.
Then have them work on a core skill while paired up. If it’s infielders, have them do grounders back and forth. Maybe you can do throws and tags.
You want them sweating, breathing hard and feeling baseball.
Then add competition to the end. Everyone loves competition. Assign points to it.
Critique it. Bring the team in and let them know what you liked or didn’t like. And let them know the “why?” you are stressing certain things. Things like being ready to throw as you are making a catch, getting your feet turned to the target, and moving your feet when you catch to make a bad throw a good one.
Set the tone with the players that everything you plan and everything you do is done with a purpose to get game-ready.
This will put the team on notice and they’ll show up with more energy. You instantly establish yourself as far as different from any coach. And your practices will be a totally different experience.
Defense and Pitching
I like to do defense first because it sets the standard: we know you love to hit, but defense is huge. And you must earn the right to do the fun part.
You want to emphasize a combination of repetitions in rapid-fire. I like to say I want the players feeling baseball. So you want them moving, the legs burning, and the lungs working. Add mental elements to this rapid-fire work. Can they think when things are moving fast and when they are feeling less than uncomfortable?
You are making it clear that defense demands concentration for over 100 pitches in a ball game. Demand proper ready positions with them light on the balls of their feet moving forward to the spot they want to be when the ball is pitched.
Inject competition. One of my favorites is to divide up the infield and the outfield into 2 groups each. See which team makes the most errors. Let the winners hit first when you do finally do offense. (all players love to hit first because they know they may hit less if they hit later in practice)
The defense will be competitive and fun. The urgency of a game will be duplicated by the competitive aspect.
Pitching– You have two choices with pitching. If you have either a solid assistant coach or a great catcher who is experienced, you can take the pitchers and put them off to a side spot to work on accuracy and building arm endurance.
Start out with about 20 pitches in practice one and ramp up 5 more per practice. Make sure the pitchers are getting at least a day off for every two in a row they pitch. Once they get to 40 plus pitches in a practice, make sure they get two days off.
Keeping it Real
If you don’t have the experienced catcher or an assistant with background in pitching, have the pitcher throw to live hitters. That way you combine pitching and hitting work. And you have live defense going at the same time. Just like a normal game.
Get better at baseball by playing baseball. An often overlooked but very powerful concept.
If you are lacking assistant coaches, getting right into the player on player pitching and hitting is never a bad idea. What you must do as a coach is to take great notes. Because you’ll see weaknesses revealed by each player. Then you have a way to structure your future drill work for each player.
And this is an important piece of the puzzle of coaching. Go the extra mile and tailor the plan for each player.
For hitters in the Little League and Tee Ball level, I recommend the following equipment choices.
Tremendous Bat for Little League players. The full aluminum alloy design has a large hitting sweet spot. It also keeps it from vibrating in the player’s hands too much when the ball is struck but not hit on the sweet spot. A player favorite!
The 2019 Threat is a composite bat for Little League with the USA stamp. It is popular too among players. Many simply like the feel of composite on contact
The Raptor is in the value class of USA stamp Little League bats. The price point is excellent. And the bat rates well with my players for durability. Excellent value for the money.
The Beast is the most popular Easton model among my players.
The Beast Hyperlite is a one-piece aluminum. Reviews well. Despite its lightweight, it has a strong, larger sweet spot. Packs a wallop.
The Ghost is a composite and the Easton cousin of the Beast. Very popular. Known to be a favorite among power hitters.
The Typhoon is in the value category. Very good price points. Gets very good durability ratings. Remember in many cases, the bat with the USA stamp will be used only in Little League and only for a year or two. This is a smart purchase. Solid performer. Not spectacular. But it’s more about the hitter’s mechanics.
For the Younger players at the Tee Ball level, the Beast Speed is a good short term bat. I would search for something no more than $50. This is a very high-quality bat for the tee-ball level for sure.
I love the Beast Tee Ball bat. It’s got a terrific price point. This is huge for Tee Ball bats. It’s very early in their career. They may not be playing in two years. Spend accordingly. You get good performance for a smart price.
The Velo comes in well under $50. Very lightweight. Easy to use and swing for the very young player at the Tee Ball level.
Author: Mike Trout
John Mike Trout is an American Professional Baseball player. He was born California. John Mike is a 2 MLB All-Star. He loves to write about baseball.