If you are a Little League coach, watching your team get a home run is quite a delight.
But it's easier said than done, right?
Teaching kids the proper technique and psychology to learn how to bat properly can be a challenge but hitting drill can help their overall performance. For one, they are still developing physically. Their muscles and body structures are often changing, making it hard for them to feel like they can consistently swing a bat the same way every time they get to the plate. Fortunately, we've got some great hitting drills for you to use with your Little Leauge team that are fun and will improve your teams batting skills.
Sound interesting? Read on to find out more.
Sure, every kid loves the chance to step up to the plate and practice hitting balls. And traditional batting practice has consisted of primarily that. The coach, or another player, throw pitch after pitch to each kid. And by way of repetition and getting accustomed to balls flying towards them, they slowly learn how to quickly respond and make contact with the ball. When players start hitting the ball more, they also start having more fun. And that's really what they are here for, right?
Now, we're not saying batting practice is bad, or that it's not necessary. There's always going to be positives for your players in seeing pitches in real time and trying to hit them. But batting practice is only one of many hitting drills you can run your players through. Here are a few of our favorite hitting drills that will jump-start your team's hitting prowess!
Hitting off of a tee might seem like something players stop doing once they are old enough to have pitches thrown at them. But hitting off of a tee can actually be valuable for hitters of all levels and ages. For more novice players, it's great for flattening out their swing and helping them feel what it's like making solid contact. For more advanced hitters, it's a chance for coaches and batters to look at each aspect of the batter's swing. The ball stays at the same spot, so the only variables are what the batter is doing as they swing through. For this drill, place the tee on home plate. Have a batter step into the box. Then have them place their feet together, but with slightly more pressure on their back foot for balance. Then have them swing through the ball and make contact. You can look at their swing to see if there are holes or inconsistencies.
This is a timing drill. You start by placing a small object somewhere on the field. It can be a glove, another ball, or even the lid of a cup. Then, either toss or pitch the ball towards the batter. Their goal will be to hit the ball before it passes the mark in their vision. This forces players to get out in front of pitches, making contact in front of the plate instead of letting the ball jam them up. And if they start doing well with this exercise (i.e. hitting ball after ball into the third base dugout) then move the object closer to the batter.
The next drill is one that involves two different colored Wiffle balls. (If you don't have two colors, use spray paint on a standard white Wiffle ball.) Have the batter stand at the plate. You stand across the plate from them with both Wiffle balls in hand. You toss them both Wiffle balls, but when they are in the air towards the plate, you call out one of the two colors. That's the color of the ball they need to it with their swing. And they need to avoid hitting the other ball, if possible. This drill teaches them ball vision and hones their focus so that they are really concentrating on which ball they are supposed to hit.
It's great for learning how to hit pitches that break or have any movement on them. Which can only help drive their batting average up, right?
Hitting to the opposite field is an important skill for batters to have. In this drill, you set up at least a handful of players in the field. They should all be on one side. So, for a left-handed batter, make sure to have at least a second baseman, a shortstop, a center fielder, and a left fielder. Then stand to the side of the batter and toss him balls. They get to keep batting as long as the ball goes to the opposite field. If they pull the ball at all, they are 'out' and the next batter rotates through.
Finally, this drill goes outside the norm of the usual hitting drills. You'll need a heavy bag (a.k.a. a punching bag that boxers use). Have the batters take full speed swings at the center of the bag. The trick here is to make sure they are making solid contact with the bag and to make sure their follow through is through the mass of the bag. In other words, they should hit the bag with their bat, and the bat should stay in contact with the bag. They shouldn't ever have their bat recoil back. This ensures that each batter is following through with power. It helps improve torque and get more strength in their hands. Together, those translate to power hitting.
These are five great hitting drills, but there are tons more out there that can be valuable to hitters of all ages and skill levels. If your team gets a little tired of these five, switch it up and try a different five.
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It is no exaggeration to say that participation in sports sets children up for a lifetime of success. In addition to the physical benefits of regular exercise -- reduced risk of obesity, improved coordination, and healthy, strong bones and muscles -- playing a sport teaches children the value of teamwork, perseverance, and communication. These are lessons that will serve them well as they grow into adulthood.
Staying in peak condition during the off-season, however, can be challenging. That's why we've compiled this list of great warm up exercises for kids to help them stay flexible, agile, and strong all year round!
Put together an exercise routine for your young athletes with some of the following activities. Make sure to vary the warm ups, so kids don't get bored doing the same thing over and over.
This is a deceptive exercise; it looks easy, but can really get your heart rate pumping and stretch your muscles. To do an inchworm, start in a standing position. Bend at the waist and place your palms flat on the floor in front of your feet. It's OK if you have to bend your knees.
Now, walk your hands out in front of you, lowering your body, until you've landed in a pushup position. Hold for a few moments, then walk your feet forward until you are once again bent at the waist with hands and feet on the ground.
If space permits, continue inch-worming along. If you're exercising in a tight space, reverse the entire process, backing up first with your feet and then with your hands.
Here's an exercise that will get kids giggling and having fun while also loosening and warming up their muscles. A coach or parent can start off as the leader, with all the athletes lined up behind them. They make their way around the field or gymnasium, doing different physical movements, that children will then copy.
In addition to walking, running, and skipping, the leader can do lunges or grapevines, kick their foot as high as possible on each step, tiptoe, run backward, do arm circles or overhead stretches, stop to do a squat, leap or jump, and so on. To keep it fun, throw in an occasional bunny hop or goofy walk, or add sound effects!
Follow the Leader can also be played in a stationary fashion. Form a big circle, and make sure everyone can see the "leader" as she or he performs various stretches or motions.
Good old-fashioned jumping jacks are a perfect full-body warm up. They can be done slowly at first, with the pace increasing as the athletes get more limber. If you are coaching kids who are a bit older, or who can handle more vigorous warmups, try burpees.
For a burpee, begin standing. Moving quickly, squat down and place your hands on the floor. Jump your legs out behind you, landing in a pushup position. Do one pushup. Jump your lower body forward again, landing in a squat. Thrust your body upward into a jumping jack, bringing your hands above your head for a clap.
For this warm up, you'll need a track. If you're indoors, set one up using cones or jump ropes. Next, divide the kids into two equal groups and have them begin the exercise at opposite sides of the track.
The object is for any person in each group to tag someone in the opposite group. This exercise is great for teaching teamwork. Participants who are lagging behind and in danger of being tagged should receive lots of positive encouragement from their teammates.
The ancient practice of yoga is a fantastic way to supplement young athletes' workouts with mindful movement. Sun salutations, which are a specific set of yoga poses performed in a certain order, also make a super warm up (or cool down), as they involve the entire body but are fairly gentle.
If you coach an athletic team filled with horse-crazy kids, try this fun warm up exercise. Call out "walk," "trot," or "gallop" to signal the participants to increase their speed as they move around the field or gym.
You can even incorporate low hurdles (an orange cone turned on its side works well for this) so that your horses can practice their steeplechase jumps. Be prepared for lots of neighing and lots of laughs!
Kids love the challenge provided by the classic game of Simon Says, so why not play an exercise-themed variation? "Simon" can tell the kids to reach their arms up to the sky, touch their toes, do a jumping jack, march in place, do a sit-up... the possibilities are unlimited.
Naturally, you'll want to throw in the occasional command that isn't prefaced by "Simon Says..." to keep the kids on their toes!
Especially if the kids' sport is one that requires quick and nimble feet and/or precise timing, jumping rope double-dutch style is a great way to get moving! Set up two stations, if possible, so that kids don't wait too long (and cool down) between turns. (Alternately, instruct anyone who is waiting in line to jog in place, do squats or jumping jacks, or otherwise keep their bodies moving.)
Have adults act as the rope turners, so that every kid gets a chance to jump. Or simply have the kids jump rope individually as their warm-up activity.
Everyone loves to shake their groove thing, and kids are no exception. Teach everyone the steps to some classic dances like the Charleston, the Mashed Potato, the Macarena, or the Electric Slide. Music will help get everyone in the mood, and chances are the athletes will break a sweat without even realizing it.
Individuals or smaller groups could also play a dancing video game, like Dance Dance Revolution, as a fun warm up.
As you can see, many of the best warm up exercises for kids are fun activities they'll look forward to doing. These exercises can help young athletes stay limber during the off-season, but more importantly, they'll also show kids that moving their bodies can be an absolute blast.
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