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3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

Having A Great Youth Practice

Sometimes the hardest part about coaching youth players is being able to maintain their focus for the entirety of the practice. From my personal experiences, I have found that youth players stay the most engaged and get the most out of their time when they are doing fun and simple drills. Here are a few for you to get started having more efficient and productive practices.

The Bat Toss

Most kids love this drill because they get to throw a bat. I recommend not using the players good bat as it could hit something and damage it. You can use an old beat up bat, or, when inside, I will use a wiffle ball bat. The focus of this drill is to identify the player's bat path and direction through the zone. The objective is to have the bat thrown directly up the middle, showing good direction and attack angle (the positive or negative angle at which your barrel moves through the zone) of the bat.

Bat Toss GIF

Notice how the bat works up to the back net, representing a positive attack angle and good direction. You can also set up a tee, without the ball, and make the player aim for the high pitch or the low pitch.

Some common mistakes

Throwing the bat into the ground
Bad Bat Toss

This error shows a negative attack angle which many youth players struggle with. While I maintained good direction and the bat worked to center, I failed to get the bat working up sooner.

Throwing the bat to the pull side
Pull Side Bat Toss

Here is what you will see a lot of your players do to start this drill because of a late release of the bat and bad direction through the zone.

The Imitation Drill

I find a fun way to get youth players to loosen up in the box is to have them imitate some of their favorite players. This can help kids understand rhythm and timing, as well as let them have a little fun. The crazier the stance the better!

Youkilis Imitation
1sheffield Imitation

As you can see here, I chose to imitate the very iconic stances of Gary Sheffield and Kevin Youkilis. You do not have to use these, but these are examples of the types of stances that kids will have fun with.

 

When doing this I also like to use a wiffle ball bat because it has a smaller barrel with a much smaller contact point. You can do this during real cage time with a player’s bat or with the wiffle ball bat. Any variations of this will work.

Weighted Balls off the Tee or Front Toss

Weighted Ball Tee
Plyo Balls

This drill will help players make better contact as well as strengthen their wrists.

If your younger players struggle to square the ball up or struggle to get through balls because their bat bounces back, plyo balls can really help them feel how to be strong through the ball.

 

Hopefully some of these drills that work for me will work for you! And try to grow from these! Make up other similar drills that would be fun for kids but still have a purpose for you as their coach. The main goals of any coach are to get better and have fun so do both at the same time!

Luke Johnson answers the age-old question of whether you should finish your swing with 1 hand or 2.

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

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How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Fielding bunts can be tricky for a catcher. Luke Johnson shows you how to make sure you have proper footwork and arm slots based on where the ball is.

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Want to get better at receiving but don't really know how? Luke Johnson takes you through a simple progression you can use at home to get a lot better. You can even get creative if you don't have weighted balls.

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Luke Johnson shows you where in your movement you need to actually catch the ball. Depending on how you like to receive there are a few different answers for this. See which applies to you and how you can improve it.

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

How To Correct An Open Or Closed Landing

Landing in a good position, in line with the middle of the field, and with a strong foundation, is the start to every great swing. So, when we land with our hips already open or closed off, we are setting ourselves up for failure from the start. Doing either of these things could cause you to have bad direction, less power, and less time in the zone.

When we step open, or commonly referenced as “stepping in the bucket”, our hips will begin to open prematurely. When this happens, we lose the stretch created throughout our load and our barrel will follow the direction that our hips take, causing us to have poor direction through the zone. This bad direction will also leave us wondering why we can’t get to pitches on the outer half of the plate.

Luke Davis gif

As you can see Khris Davis steps open and he does this on just about every swing. From 2016-2018 he tore the cover off the ball and made a name for himself. With the position his stride puts him in it forces him to side bend way more than most to be able to cover the outer part of the zone which many people would not be able to do because of physical limitations.

When we close ourselves off in our stride, it will cause our rotation to be slower and our front hip will stop us from being able to finish our turn. This will leave our hips closed at contact and our barrel pushing towards the opposite field gap. When our barrel pushes through the zone it causes us to take away the inner part of the plate and take a lot of balls off the hands.

Luke Altuve

For some, like Jose Altuve, this can be a beneficial move because it helps the hips to decelerate. If the hips do not decelerate then the barrel cannot accelerate as fast. The people who this stride could benefit are individuals with hypermobile hips, which is kind of like being double jointed. People who are hypermobile need extra help to decelerate their turn. With that being said, this is not going to benefit the majority and will actually cause harm to the speed of rotation. 

Luke Arozarena

The reason we want to stride in line is the same reason why you tell pitchers to step towards their target. It keeps everything in line to the direction they want to throw. Just like the examples I have shown you above of some of guys that can get away with these flaws, there are elite pitchers and throwers that can as well. However, just because Chris Sale can step crossed his body, doesn’t mean that Johnny from next door should be trying to do the same thing. The elite players who can get away with these strides are either helping to correct a direction problem or they’re athletic and flexible enough to get away with it. So, for the other 99% of us, a good stride in line with the pitcher is important to hold good direction.

Drill To Correct Stride Problems

Correcting this problem is easier than most mechanical adjustments; it just takes awareness. The reason why we do it on a wall or cage net is so we can tell if we’re loading correctly and see where our stride is. 

Just remember this one tip, stride in line so you can have a good time!

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Stay Connected To Consistently Hit Balls Harder

A lot of coaches love to talk about connection, but few will describe what it actually is. It’s a term I heard all the time from coaches growing up but never understood what it really was. They would just say it and then that was the end of it, leaving me confused and back to doing what I was doing. It is not enough to say “HEY, stay connected longer”. That cue is meaningless if one: you don’t know what it means and two: if you don’t know what it feels like to really be connected. Hitters don’t swing disconnected because they want to, they do it because of years of bad habits and trying to reach for the baseball. 

If we reach for the ball, not only will we be losing power because we’re now pushing with our upper half, but we also lose time in the zone. The goal of staying connected is to allow our turn to work the barrel into the zone and be powerful, but to also keep us in the zone. We want to work behind and through the ball rather than reaching for the ball and forcing our contact point to be perfect. 

I like to use the Rebel’s Rack with my hitters because it allows them to feel the changes in their turns that are needed to access their power potential. This work will go to waste if as soon as we get back into the box, we begin to push our barrel to the baseball rather than turning it. This push to the ball is the loss of connection that I’m talking about. 

 

How to Fix Connection Problems

Another addition to this connection drill is to work off a tee at the deepest point of contact (just in front of your front hip, after stride). Working from this very deep point of contact is going to force you to really make sure you’re turning behind the ball early and staying connected.  If you struggle to get that pitch off the ground, it’s because you’re losing connection too early and pushing to contact. The goal is to drive this pitch up the middle to the top of the cage or where the top meets the back.

Why it’s Important to Stay Connected

  1. Time in the Zone

Good connection allows you to start working on plane with the pitch early and through the zone long. This allows you to work in the zone early and stay through the zone long, giving you a greater opportunity for success.

 

Luke Dansby Gif

2. Greater Power Output

Rotational power comes from our legs, hips, and core. This is why we practice our turns on a Rebel’s Rack so we can train the lower half of our body to sequence correctly and be the engine to our swings. What happens when we lose connection and push with our hands is we lose the ability to generate power with our lower half because our shoulders have to start our turn. This gets our swings out of sequence which then reduces the speed of our barrel through the zone which will reduce our power. 

 

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Understanding Swing Feel And Swing Real

Having feel for what you’re doing in the box is something I talk about with my hitters daily. Your feel is something you need to physically do or think to get your swing where it needs to be. Not everyone’s feel is going to be the same, which is why problems get created with old school coaching methods. This is because when you listen to former players like Arod and Chipper Jones, they discuss their feel as reality. Meaning they talk about swinging down like it is actually what is happening, in real time, with their swing. 

I picked those players because, in my eyes, those are the two that have been very vocal and the most reluctant to conform with the new era of teaching hitters. When I talk about the new era of teaching hitting, I don’t mean you should teach everyone to swing up. It’s not about teaching everyone to swing up or down, it’s about looking at the numbers and swing and creating the correct feel for the hitter with the right drills and vocabulary. What is correct is different from player to player. The difference is the vocabulary and the drills and how they correlate with the feel you’re trying to construct. This is why it is so important to understand the big difference between swing feel and swing real.

What Swing Feel Is Best For Me?

Many players need to feel different than what is actually happening in they swing. We see this even at the highest level with some of the most elite players in the game.

Here are examples of Bellinger and Trout. Both are great hitters, even though Trout is in a class of his own, Bellinger is still a top hitter in the league. These two have polar opposite feels that get them where they need to be. As you can tell, Bellinger’s feel is a little more realistic than Trout’s, but it shows that it doesn’t matter what you feel as long as it gets you where you need to be.

These videos show each hitters feel, then their feel in the batter's box, and finally their in-game swing.

Trout Feel
giphy
Trout Swing
Belli Feel
Belli on deck
Belli swing

How do I Find my Swing Feel?

The feel you need is personalized to you as a hitter and what your tendencies are. It takes trial and error to find what will work for you and sometimes it can change day to day. This is why working with an instructor you can connect with will help. An instructor will help you to create different feels within your swing by using different drills and vocabulary that will help you make adjustments. Additionally, when you are struggling to feel changes being made, they can help with understanding swing feel and swing real.

Not only is it about creating a feel that will help you maintain a consistent swing, but it could even mean creating a feel to make an adjustment. For example, if you’re a hitter who rips off the ball and loses posture, a good feel for you might be to hinge over the plate, uncomfortably low, and feel out your movement to the opposite field gap. So, if you’re trying to make a timing, direction, or movement adjustment, the important thing is feeling different and getting out of your comfort zone. If nothing feels different and the results are still the same, then you’re not doing anything different.

Why is Swing Feel Important?

The biggest reason for trying to create a good feel is so you know what is going on with your swing. You can start to see and feel what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. If you don’t, it’s hard to understand how to fix things when it's going bad and to keep doing it right when things are going well. If you don’t know why you’re hitting well, it would be like not knowing how to add but understanding that 2+2=4. You know that you’re getting to the right answer, you just don’t understand why. Or worse, you know you’re getting the wrong answer but you don’t know how to fix it. The goal is to understand what your swing looks like and what you need to feel to get it to look like that, or to get it to look better.

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Fixing Direction in the Swing

Do you find yourself constantly missing barrels, hitting balls off the cap, top spinning balls over to the pull side, or flaring balls to the opposite field? This could be from bad or inconsistent timing. But if this is a consistent trend, chances are you’re losing posture over the plate and spinning with your shoulders. This will cause your barrel to fly out of the zone and off the ball early. Leaving you wondering why you can’t consistently do damage. 

A good path through the zone means you’re working behind the ball early and stay through it long. Many times, I see hitters work behind the ball early but also out of the zone early. So, what does this mean? It means, your chances of success go down greatly. This means fixing bat path can be as simple as fixing body posture and barrel release.

Direction Drill

The biggest thing to focus on while doing these drills, is hitting line drives to the middle of the field. This way we can make sure we have our swing set up to center and our barrel travels through the zone as long as possible. Below I have examples of good and bad shoulder positions at contact.

Bad Position at Contact

giphy

As you can see, I have highlighted the angle of the shoulders at contact. He starts with a good hinge over the plate, but throughout the swing the back shoulder starts to rise and become flatter through contact. Therefore, this movement is going to pull his barrel out of the hitting zone early causing weak contact and top spin.

Good Position at Contact

giphy-1

In this clip, I have also highlighted the angle of the shoulders at contact. He is able to hold posture over the plate throughout contact. This allows his barrel to work through the hitting zone longer with better direction towards center. 

The visual that I have presented with the PVC forces the hitter to be conscious of the direction their barrel is traveling and find where extension is. So, if extension is coming outside of your torso, it means you’re spinning with your shoulders and losing posture. If you’re a hitter that only has the ability to hit balls hard on the inner half, these drills could be the solution for fixing direction in your swing. 

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!

Why Failure In Training Breeds Success In Games

Today we'll look at how variable training and failure help to better a player’s mentality and preparation come game day and different drills that will help develop your approach. 

The Practice Work

Tee work, front toss, and casual batting practice are all good things when learning new movements and for your pregame warm-up but there’s more to being a great hitter than just having a “good swing” and 5 o’clock power.

Hopping into a cage and taking swing after swing with no plan, no awareness for what the goal is for the day, and no thought to making the pitch to pitch adjustments is going to build confidence in the present but set up failure come game day. We all need some confidence-boosting days but too many times that’s the bulk of how athletes train. 

I’ve seen countless players with all the talent in the world but shut down come game time. I believe this comes from being in unfamiliar situations that you have not practiced. As we all know failure is a part of all sports but especially in baseball and softball. We all know the saying if you fail 3 out of 10 times, you’ll be an all-star. Yet success is all that is practiced so failure becomes harder to manage when it, inevitably, happens.

Check out this quote from Chicago Cubs star, Kris Bryant, about how he challenges himself in practice:

Kris Bryant Practice Quote

This doesn’t mean you always have to do variable training or impossible sliders off the pitching machine, but it does mean you have to switch up the day-to-day training routine. If all you do every day is hit batting practice fastballs you will only become good at one thing, hitting fastballs right down the middle.

To become better, it’s important to broaden your skillset and work on areas you’re lacking. This will allow your player to feel better prepared, more confident, and overall, more successful come game day.

Examples of Technique Training to Take Your Game to the Next Level

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Youth Practices Fun

3 Hitting Drills To Make Youth Practice Fun!

One of the biggest problems when trying to create a good practice environment for youth players is keeping them focused for the entirety of the practice time. One of the best ways to help keep your youth players interested and focused is to implement some fun and basic drills. We’ll take a look at three drills youth players can do to help their bat path, rhythm, and power at the plate, while having fun and staying focused.

My Post (1)

How To Hit Off A Tee

Many little league coaches and parents love coaching and working with kids, but don’t have a ton of experience teaching hitting. This article points out the key points that will help your young players who are beginning their journey in baseball or softball. It is super important that every player has a solid base and a good turn so that they can develop properly and have more fun in the sport!