Baseball is a fun game, but your players may consider practice drills, designed to teach them the fundamentals of the game through repetition, boring and tedious. As a coach, however, you have the power to design drills creatively to make them more enjoyable for your players. Young players love competition, so you can turn normally dull and repetitive drills into contests to engage your players and make the drills more interesting. Do this for all the basic skills, including bunting, catching, fielding, hitting, throwing and sliding.
Bunting for Points
Bunting is not considered the most glamorous of baseball skills, but all your players need to learn how to bunt proficiently. Conduct a game called “Bunting for Points” during your practices to have your players practice bunting in an enjoyable way. Mark off three zones, worth one, two, and three points, respectively, down the first and third baselines. Have each player bunt five balls into the zones, trying to accumulate as many points as possible.
Baseball players generally love hitting, but may tire of it after days of the same drills over and over again. Use the dot drill occasionally to break up the monotony of batting practice. This drill teaches your players to focus on the ball as it travels from the pitcher’s hand to the strike zone. Mark a dot on several baseballs, each with a different color. Pitch the balls to your players and have them try to yell out the color of the dot before swinging.
Square Fielding Drill
It has been said that “if you can’t play catch, you can’t play baseball,” according to Bobo Brayton, a baseball coach and contributor to “The Baseball Coaching Bible.” For this drill, your players practice catching and throwing the ball repetitively, within a competitive framework. Place four numbered cones 10 to 15 yards apart in a square. Have one player stand at each cone. Player number one rolls the ball firmly to player number two, who fields the ball and throws it diagonally to player number four. Player number four then catches the ball and rolls it to player number one, who fields the ball and throws it diagonally to player number three. This pattern continues until a player misses the ball. Time how long they can continue the drill without making a mistake. Divide the rest of your team into groups of four to compete against each other.
Sliding is an often-overlooked but essential skill for baseball players. Your players need to learn to slide correctly so they don’t overrun second and third base and, more important, so they don’t get injured. Have your players practice sliding on a flat water slide as a fun way to learn the proper technique. First, teach them and demonstrate how to slide correctly. Then stretch out a long water slide in the outfield and hose it down. Have your players line up about 20 yards away and take turns sliding. Stand near the slide to give them constructive feedback about their technique after they finish.