Baseball Drills for Youth Players: Coaching and Teaching Baseball to 9, 10, 11, and 12 Year Olds
Coaching baseball to youth players (age 9, 10, 11, and 12 years old) is a tough job and there’s a lot more to it than people often think.
If you’re coaching a team, you’ll need a good understanding of the collective skill level of your team in order to plan and action an effective training schedule.
Similarly, when coaching individual youth players, you’ll need to select drills that are appropriate for honing their personal development.
We’ve put together this guide to assist you in finding the right drills to suit you and your team.
Whether you’re a seasoned coach, a rookie stepping up to help for the first time, or a youth player looking for advice, this guide will help freshen up your practice sessions and keep them fun and relevant.
Ideally, by the time your squad has entered youth level, they should have a firm grasp of the fundamentals – that is to say, throwing, catching, hitting, fielding, pitching as well as a rudimentary understanding of the rules of the game. It’s important not to overlook these skills and see them as done and dusted as they can always improve and your training sessions should be planned with development of the fundamental skills in mind.
Table of Contents
Tips When Coaching Youth Players
First, let’s establish what constitutes a ‘youth player’.
This guide has been made for players aged 9 to 12 years old, but players often develop quicker than their age group or alternatively, join the game later on, so these drills can be used for different ages and abilities accordingly.
Here’s some of our top tips to help you when coaching your youth players:
- Keep your training sessions fun – the best learning often occurs when you don’t even realize it. If your players feel like they’re being constantly drilled and worked, they’re not as likely to respond to coaching and feedback. That’s why it’s important to bring a bit of your personality into your sessions, especially with younger players. Break up your training sessions with mini-games relevant to the specific skill or technique that you’re working on.
- Mix it up – Try to avoid too much repetition, especially if it’s not getting results. Coaching is all about positivity and if a drill isn’t proving productive, it’s a good idea to abandon it and come back to it later with a new, fresh outlook, otherwise you’ll be at risk of reinforcing bad technique in the long term.
- Be creative – you don’t always have to rely on the tried and tested methods. Sure these drills are great and they work, but there’s nothing stopping you from inventing something new. If the players enjoy it and learn something from it, then great! After all, nothing ventured means nothing gained.
- Know your squad – If you’ve got one or two individuals who can perform a certain skill with their eyes closed while the rest of the squad are a bit behind, try to find something to keep them occupied and challenged while the others train their skill. You can also utilize them for demonstrations and peer coaching.
- Use positive reinforcement – Where possible, avoid giving negative feedback. If someone is performing at the level that you want, try to work out why without telling them the things that they are doing badly. With youth players, it’s incredibly important to focus on the positives and try to develop their ability without putting them down.
- Similarly, don’t be afraid to end a drill early if your players a performing well. For example, if you’re practicing catching and someone makes five or six tricky catches in a row with ten minutes left of practice, end it there and move onto something new instead of risking them losing their form. This way, they’ll end the drill with a positive memory which will help reinforce the skill for next time out
- Play games – it’s so important to put your coaching drills into a competitive context. This allows you to see and track improvement and provides a good outlet for the players at the end of the training session whilst giving them match experience in time for their next fixture. It doesn’t need to be a full game, you can always adapt certain rules and create smaller boundaries to suit the time that you have available.
Coaching Youth Baseball: Do’s & Don’ts
Baseball Drills for Youth Players
[9 Years, 10 Years, 11, and 12 Years Old]
Now that you’re armed with our top coaching tips for youth players, let’s take a look at some of the most effective drills for developing each age group.
Remember, these drills don’t need to be used exclusively by one age group or in any order.
Feel free to use them in a way that best suits the ability of your youth players to help develop their game as effectively as possible.
I’ve categorized them by ‘suitability’ for each age group:
- 9 Year Olds +
- 10 Year Olds +
- 11 Year Olds +
- 12 Year Olds +
Youth Baseball Drills for 9 Year Olds +
Beat The Goalie
Objective: Beat the goalie aims to improve the accuracy of a player’s hitting while simultaneously improving fielding skills of others.
It’s less of a drill and more of a mini-game using a batting tee and a fence or wall – making it a great choice for younger players.
It will have them developing without even realizing that they’re learning. It’s a clever drill that doesn’t need too much set-up and practically runs itself.
Objective: The idea of this drill is to improve swing technique and accuracy with a tyre suspended on a length of rope as the target.
It’s a great hitting drill for younger youth players as it allows them to develop their movement and timing without the pressure of having to continually hit a ball.
A larger target is ideal for this very reason. The progressive nature of this drill also makes it fun and technical.
Beat The Goalie
Objective: This drill allows players to develop and adjust their swing according to the position of a stationary ball.
It’s a great individual training drill, which is perfect for practicing at home indoors or out in the yard. It’s also progressive as the coach/parent can move the ball to replicate spin. Overall, it’s an entertaining and fun drill.
Objective: To improve swing technique with a variety of dry swings. These drills without equipment also involve visualization which improves mentality heading into a game.
Dry swings work as a great drill for youngsters to help improve posture, technique and special awareness. They also work as a great warm up so they’re good to use early on in your training session or before a match.
Get In Front
Objective: This drill aims to improve catching, body position and balance as well as bravery in catching.
One player stands on a raised platform such as a chair, stool or a bucket to receive catches. This means that they have to focus on balance and catching technique and prevents them from shying away from the ball making it a superb training tool for younger youth players who’s fear of the ball is affecting their body position when receiving balls.
Ready Aim Throw
Objective: This is a fun exercise, especially for younger age groups to aid in developing pitching and throwing accuracy.
The idea of the drill is to knock a stationary ball off a batting tee by pitching another ball at it. It’s great target practice and can be adapted as a circle game to help improve catching and reactions for the players without the ball.
Objective: The aim of catch chain is to improve catching, throwing technique, throwing distance and teamwork.
The drill is normally worked out in pairs. Two players link up a ‘chain’ of throws and catches and see how many they can get. Every successful catch results in the players taking a pace backwards to increase the distance between them, forcing longer throws. It’s a nice drill for younger age groups as it has a competitive edge. It can be used as a warm up with older groups.
Push Off Drill
Objective: This drill is handy for developing a player’s balance and weight distribution at the plate.
It’s a fairly simple drill which can be adapted in a number of ways or combined with other drills, or even used in practice matches. There are also a few more complex versions of this drill for older players that we’ll come onto.
Leading The Pitch
Objective: To coach balance, weight distribution and pitching technique.
This drill involves lining your pitcher up against a wall so that they have a marker with which to measure their body movements against. The drill actively encourages the correct method of pitching – to lead with the butt.
Target Towel Drill
Objective: The idea of the target towel drill is to re-enact the movements involved in pitching without the ball. It develops a player’s pitching technique.
By using a towel as a replacement for your baseball, you’ll be able to focus better on the individual body movements and subtler parts involved in a good pitch. It’s a great way to encourage follow through on every pitch.
Baseball Drills for 10 Year Olds +
Band Assisted Drill
Objective: To improve posture and encourage correct weight distribution when hitting.
Using a gym band, tied to a fence or a post, placed around your hitter’s waist, practice swinging. The band will actively encourage your hitter to stay in the correct position. You can begin with dry swings and progress to a batting tee and eventually live balls.
Objective: This drill is about training your stride when hitting. It will allow players to actively load their stride and improve hitting power.
The drill involves a batting tee and involves adjusting the hitter’s stride in order to calculate where the loaded front foot should be landing during the swing. Check out the YouTube video for detailed instruction.
Objective: This is a fun drill which aims to improve hitting power and accuracy as well as reaction speed. It involves two players, two tees and a hitting net.
Two players must line up at their respective tees (always at a safe distance) and another player or the coach will shout a trigger word to signal that the players should hit the ball. The first to hit the net wins.
Coach Rolls To Pick Ups
Objective: This drill aims to improve fielding technique for grounders and develop lower back conditioning and increase stamina.
A coach or another player will roll balls to either side of a fielder who has to react accordingly. Balls can be rolled to either side or down the centre. This drill can be adapted by introducing a second ball or increasing the distance between the player and coach.
Triangle Target Throws
Objective: The aim of this drill is to improve your fielders’ ability to make accurate throws over a longer distance.
The coach (or a 3rd player) hits a ground or fly ball towards the thrower using a fungo bat. The drill uses a stationary player as a target. This player should be placed somewhere between 20-30 yards away from fielders who will try to accurately throw to the target. If training alone, use a hitting or rebounder net or alternatively a bucket as the target.
Objective: To improve speed and reaction times when fielding. This is a great drill for pairs and has lots of potential for progression.
Two players have to stand a small distance apart. One player has a ball which they will bounce for their partner who has to catch the ball before it hits the floor. You can adapt the drill by adding an extra ball, having the catcher stand with his back to his partner before the ball is dropped, or by rebounding the ball(s) off a wall.
Pitching Stride Drill
Objective: The whole idea of the pitching stride drill is to reduce the chance of over-stride occurring. The drill encourages players to take a calculated stride in their pitch.
By using an obstacle on the floor, you will encourage your player to pitch without their leading foot going beyond the obstacle. The obstacle can be a mat, pad, rope or even a towel. It’s a good idea to start without a ball and just practice the movements before introducing the obstacle to actual pitches.
High-Five Pitching Drill
Objective: This is a fun drill that can be used anywhere on the field to encourage correct follow-through.
The coach will use his hand in a high five position to create resistance for the pitcher to combat with his pitching arm. This will encourage correct pitching technique, solid follow-through and will develop strength. It also reduces the risk of injury through improper technique which makes it ideal for younger players.
NOTE: This drill should be introduced at an earlier age but it’s also a good idea to revisit the fundamentals from time to time.
Objective: This drill is all about encouraging correct weight transfer when pitching. It will teach your players how to correctly release energy through their whole body and improve pitching power in a safe way as it reduces the risk of injury through improper technique.
By adopting the ‘T’ shape when opening up the body to pitch, your player will be able to correctly transfer body weight by pitching and finishing with their chest over their leading leg.
Youth Baseball Drills for 11 Year Olds +
Objective: This is a classic drill which aims to improve a batter’s ability to hit specific and individual targets, making them more effective at aiming at a certain spot during matches.
To setup this drill will need a net big enough to attach targets. Each player must hit a selected target before moving onto the next one. If they miss a target they will receive the penalty of the letter ‘H’ and then ‘O’ and so on. When the full word is spelled out, that player is eliminated from the game.
One Handed Hit
Objective: Using this drill, you’ll be able to improve the overall power and accuracy of a player’s swing.
Hitting off a tee with just one hand on the bat will prove difficult as the player is going to have the handicap of only one arm. After a few variations of one-handed hitting, the second hand can be reintroduced and hitting will seem much, much easier and should be more effective.
Objective: With this one, the clue’s in the name. The drill aims to increase your batter’s ability to aim for power.
You’ll need a bigger ball such as a basketball or a soccer ball and a batting tee. It’s fairly simple, place the big ball on your tee and encourage your hitter to really exert a lot of power in their swing. It’s really important to make sure this is done safely by encouraging good follow through and correct technique to avoid injury. Slightly older youth players will love this drill.
Objective: This drill is all about developing your players’ ability to defend against line-drives. It will actively encourage your fielders to use a crossover step when attempting to make catches.
This mini-game style drill will require three players – two throwers (let’s call them player A and player B) and an interceptor. Player A must throw a line ball to player B, who will be standing around 50 yards away. The interceptor must catch the ball before it hits the ground by using a crossover step.
Objective: The recovery drill allows your team to successfully recover from a mistake, a bad bounce or a fielding error. Encourages calm and accurate throws.
This involves three players – one to roll a ball (manipulating a bad ball or an error), one to scoop the ball side on and throw it to a catcher. Alternate the positions and roles of each player so that they get an even chance to practice every aspect of the drill.
Objective: This team game will improve your players’ ability to successfully react to and deal with ground balls. It will also work as a hitting drill at the same time.
Divide your team into two teams – a hitting team and a fielding team. The fielding team will be positioned infield ready with their gloves on-hand. while the batting team will take it in turns to hit grounders. If a line drive or fly ball is hit it doesn’t count, and the outfield is out of bounds – this drill is all about defending against grounders. The batting team is awarded a point if their grounder successfully makes it through the infield. The fielding team is awarded a point is they successfully defend the ball.
Objective: This drill encourages pitchers to not open up too much or too early on their pitch. It also helps reduce the chance of over-rotation.
You’ll need a target like a net or a wall and your pitcher will have to backpeddle three times before aiming their pitch at the target. Use a ‘wall’ that absorbes the impact. Using weighted training balls can also be a great alternative progression.
One Knee Drill
Objective: The one knee drill is a development on the towel drill, making it a great progressive drill as players move into older age groups. The drill aims to improve the pitcher’s arm angle and weight transfer.
On one knee, the pitcher must practice throwing accurately with proper technique and good follow-through to their partner or against a wall or net if training individually.
Baseball Drills for 12 Year Olds +
Objective: This is a much more advanced variation of the dry swing drill. The drill aims to improve technique and power output.
By attaching some form of sled to your hitter’s bat (think of a weight such as tyre), you’ll be able place resistance on the bat making it more difficult for the player to swing. If they can swing well with the added pressure, their normal swing will become more effective.
Bryce Harper Drill
Objective: This drill will encourage your players to activate their hips when swinging allowing them to have a wider range of hits in their toolbox.
By raising their lead foot when receiving a pitch, your player will naturally use their hips more effectively in their swing.
Hitting Net Drills
Objective: This style of drill is essentially a lot like hitting H.OR.S.E, however they’re much more suited to individuals and encourage older youth players to train their hitting technique independently.
Objective: This hitting game is great to get your batters focussed on hitting successfully and consistently.
To set this drill up you’ll need a hitting screen and some markers. Balls are pitched from behind the screen and each time the batter makes a successful hit they will be able to progress to the next marker which is placed slightly further away. If they miss, they’ll need to move back to the previous marker.
Objective: This drill is all about improving accuracy. When youngsters start out, they tend to swing with the sole aim of hitting the ball. As they develop and get older, they need to develop their accuracy in order to exploit weak spots in the opposition’s field.
Place a number of targets around the field for your hitter to aim at. These can be cones, hoops or buckets and the drill can be advanced by moving them further away. This drill can be done with a tee or with a live pitcher.
Left or Right?
Objective: The purpose of this drill is to improve reaction speed and encourage two-handed fielding.
The coach, or another player will throw a ball to the right, which a player has to respond to before returning horizontally to their starting position. The coach will then throw the ball to the left for the player to deal with. Repeat this 10-15 times before taking a break. Make sure you vary the throws, and the directions for added game-realism.
3 Infield Drills
Objective: Improve infielders technique and game with limited equipment
One limitation you may have when training is having access to the right equipment. While you can find various pieces of equipment in each category for most budgets – sometimes there comes a time when you need to just get down to work and you haven’t got access to the equipment you’d like.
Objective: These drills are a great means to develop the speed of your pitch. As youth players get older, they gain more strength and these drills will help them harness it safely with the correct techniques.
Individual Pitching Drills to Practice at Home
Objective: If you’re looking to train alone at home without going anywhere, these drills are brilliant for adapting and developing your pitching with little equipment from the comfort of your home.
Medicine Ball Drills
Objective: Develop core strength necessary for increasing swing and throwing power.
A combination of rotational throws, overhead slams and overhead squat throws are great for helping develop your players’ strength. Be sure not to introduce medicine ball workouts to younger players as their bodies may not be prepared for it.
Objective: Very often in baseball, short but powerful releases of speed are needed. Progressive Sprints are the perfect method of preparing your players for this.
Take five baseball mitts and place them in a line with increasing distances between them. Have your players sprint to the first mit before making their way back gently to the start position before sprinting to the second marker and so on until the drill is complete
Footwork Ladder Drills
Objective: This drill is perfect for developing agility, speed and reactions. It’s also great for developing concentration.
Using your ladder on the floor, you’ll be able to create a varied training drill for your players. This can be used at any stage of your training session and mixed up as is necessary. It’s also a nice pre-match exercise to get your players brains in gear and their feet warmed up.
You can check out our baseball conditioning drills guide for more ideas…
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