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Thread: Little League Drills

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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Little League Drills

    I didn't want to hijack the bats thread, but had some other questions related to little league baseball.

    I am not understanding the aim of some drills I'm seeing. One is soft toss, where the coach sits on the ball bucket beside the hitter and tosses a ball up in the air for the kid to hit. The ball is coming at the hitter from the side and then they want them to hit it straight out into the field. How could this be any better than standing at the plate and swinging at live bp with the coach pitching?

    Which leads to the other, I have had my kids on teams two different times now where the coach has kids pitching bp. Inevitably, my kid gets plunked. Not to mention the farm league kids pitching can only maybe get 2-3 out of 10 pitches in the hitting zone. This year it has only happened occasionally, but another year it was the predominant bp method. Is this common now days, or is this just bad coaching?

    I mean, how hard can you make baseball practice? Coach or coaches pitch bp, kids take their licks seeing live pitching, field the balls in play, then line up at the positions and take fielding practice. Base running practice, sliding practice (have seen none of this), and pitchers working on the side (also have seen none of that this year). Am I just old school, or is this a poorly run team?

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    First Time Caller SunDeck's Avatar
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Quote Originally Posted by traderumor View Post
    I didn't want to hijack the bats thread, but had some other questions related to little league baseball.

    I am not understanding the aim of some drills I'm seeing. One is soft toss, where the coach sits on the ball bucket beside the hitter and tosses a ball up in the air for the kid to hit. The ball is coming at the hitter from the side and then they want them to hit it straight out into the field. How could this be any better than standing at the plate and swinging at live bp with the coach pitching?

    Which leads to the other, I have had my kids on teams two different times now where the coach has kids pitching bp. Inevitably, my kid gets plunked. Not to mention the farm league kids pitching can only maybe get 2-3 out of 10 pitches in the hitting zone. This year it has only happened occasionally, but another year it was the predominant bp method. Is this common now days, or is this just bad coaching?

    I mean, how hard can you make baseball practice? Coach or coaches pitch bp, kids take their licks seeing live pitching, field the balls in play, then line up at the positions and take fielding practice. Base running practice, sliding practice (have seen none of this), and pitchers working on the side (also have seen none of that this year). Am I just old school, or is this a poorly run team?
    I remember doing loads of drills where the coach sat on a bucket and tossed balls from the side. Most of the time, he worked on specific swing issues with each kid. He'd toss a couple, watching the swing, then he'd tell us what he wanted us to try with the next few swings. He would also put the ball either inside or outside to get us to understand how to adjust to the pitch location. It was very valuable to me, but I imagine if had just sat there and tossed the ball up without any instruction, it would not have been very useful.

    My experience may be different than others and I don't know to what extent other coaches do the same thing.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Soft toss allows for the player to learn to hit the ball on the "sweet spot" so its a great tool and is good for your son. The coach really should be pitching bp at a young age I think, make sure that he is rotating the hitters after 5-8 pitches, more than that allows the batters to develop bad habits because they are tired. It sounds like your coach has a small clue of how to do thing but does not know how to execute it.
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    Matt's Dad RANDY IN INDY's Avatar
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Quote Originally Posted by SunDeck View Post
    I remember doing loads of drills where the coach sat on a bucket and tossed balls from the side. Most of the time, he worked on specific swing issues with each kid. He'd toss a couple, watching the swing, then he'd tell us what he wanted us to try with the next few swings. He would also put the ball either inside or outside to get us to understand how to adjust to the pitch location. It was very valuable to me, but I imagine if had just sat there and tossed the ball up without any instruction, it would not have been very useful.

    My experience may be different than others and I don't know to what extent other coaches do the same thing.
    That is the value of soft toss. Easy to see swing flaws, as well. We always have our kids to take a round of soft toss into the sock net before they hit live in the cage. Gets them loose, concentrating, and ready to hit live. In the cage, coaches always throw BP in our practices, and that has been the case with every team that I have ever coached.

    We sometimes have kids throw "live" on the field in a scrimmage type situation. It allows the kids to see kids throwing live, (more their own height which definitely affects the path of the ball to the plate as opposed to the path of a taller adult) and also allows the pitchers to throw to a hitter. I've seen so many kids that could hit the coach with no problem, then step in against a kid, the "fear" sets in, and they can't hit anything. With those kids, get out of the way is first on their minds. Hitting is definitely second. As a coach, you can't fix that fear. When the kids start "chucking" it, you find out who your baseball players are. Pitching live, also gives the pitchers a chance to work to a hitter. Some kids can throw nothing but strikes in the bullpen, but put a hitter in, and they can't find the plate with a search warrant.

    A lot of the trend in baseball practice is to have stations with individual instruction on various things for the first part of practice, then try to put it all together at the end of practice with live infield/outfield, and baserunning at the end. It usually works out very well, but it definitely takes a plan, and assistant coaches that know what they are doing. If you don't have good assistants, it won't work. In the hitting side of practice, we usually would usually try to split the kids into 3-4 stations, with tee work, soft toss, live in the cage and then mixing something in like the "drop drill" or "toss from behind," two ball soft toss, asking them to hit the top or bottom ball, (you can do this one with different colored wiffle balls) or the hitting stick which I have never been a fan of and usually discourage.

    As far as pitching, we usually would try to mix in pitching only practices if we had a portable mound or access to the bullpen mounds at our facility. I always would ask for my pitchers to run after practice, because I feel that legs are so important in keeping the arm sound and strong.

    The worst practices are the ones where everyone spreads out to shag balls while one kid hits and nothing much is getting done. I haven't seen one of those in a long time. I served as "Coaching Development Director" for a few years at our Little League before we left this year for travel baseball. I always had a spring and fall coaches clinic where we would give the coaches ideas on practice planning and instruction. I usually would invite a couple of the High School coaches in or have some of our veteran coaches to help out with this. It worked wonders for our League and raised the bar for the coaches. Bad coaching was not tolerated and coaches were reviewed by the parents and league officials every season. Bad marks and you don't get to coach the next season.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Live BP, or the players pitching batting practice is very common. We use it before the season, at least 2-3 times, to get the players on my team ready for game conditions. I know from experience that it is a lot different going from an adult pitching BP, to a person who is your age, with approximately equal talent to the competition. I have always felt that it helps, especially in moderation.

    My former knothole coaches always found it benefical to do soft toss with players spread out to catch the balls. Often, we would have players up who could not hit, and thus we had a lot of standing around. Soft toss is a great drill, and I have felt that it helps train your eyes to stay back, and watch the ball as you hit it. So often now, kids are seemingly looking at the pitcher as they swing.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Soft toss is always good for hand-eye coordination. We always did soft toss and then rounds hitting off the tee. When I first started, I thought it was really dumb, but it really does work.

    Soft toss keeps the shoulder in, head down, eye on the ball, etc. where as the tee keeps your swing on a nice plane.

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    Re: Little League Drills

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamSelig View Post
    Soft toss is always good for hand-eye coordination. We always did soft toss and then rounds hitting off the tee. When I first started, I thought it was really dumb, but it really does work.

    Soft toss keeps the shoulder in, head down, eye on the ball, etc. where as the tee keeps your swing on a nice plane.
    That's exactly what I always considered soft toss to be good for. When I played, we did soft toss pretty much on an everyday basis. Someone else mentioned using stations, soft toss was always one of those stations.

    Our coach even had us doing soft toss using a broom stick and golf ball sized whiffle balls. Not very easy, but it really does help you learn to focus on the ball.

    Anyone else heard of form hitting? I always thought it was the corniest thing I've ever heard of when I played, but it ended up helping me learn the proper swing. It's basically where the coach yells "stance," you get in your batting stance and stay there until he says relax. You do that a few times, then he says "stance, inward turn." He repeats this all the way through your entire batting swing from stance, inward turn, stride, whip.

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    Re: Little League Drills

    Have to agree with the others on the benefits of soft toss. I'll add one more -- since the ball appears in the hitting zone suddenly and doesn't stay there very long, the kids have to trigger quickly and keep the swing compact. It's a good antidote to the swing-cheating and overly long swings that are common to that age.

    Also agree with what Randy said re: stations. When we're dealing with young kids (and Little League counts), it's about development, and standing around is the enemy of development.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Quote Originally Posted by RANDY IN CHAR NC View Post
    That is the value of soft toss. Easy to see swing flaws, as well. We always have our kids to take a round of soft toss into the sock net before they hit live in the cage. Gets them loose, concentrating, and ready to hit live. In the cage, coaches always throw BP in our practices, and that has been the case with every team that I have ever coached.

    We sometimes have kids throw "live" on the field in a scrimmage type situation. It allows the kids to see kids throwing live, (more their own height which definitely affects the path of the ball to the plate as opposed to the path of a taller adult) and also allows the pitchers to throw to a hitter. I've seen so many kids that could hit the coach with no problem, then step in against a kid, the "fear" sets in, and they can't hit anything. With those kids, get out of the way is first on their minds. Hitting is definitely second. As a coach, you can't fix that fear. When the kids start "chucking" it, you find out who your baseball players are. Pitching live, also gives the pitchers a chance to work to a hitter. Some kids can throw nothing but strikes in the bullpen, but put a hitter in, and they can't find the plate with a search warrant.

    A lot of the trend in baseball practice is to have stations with individual instruction on various things for the first part of practice, then try to put it all together at the end of practice with live infield/outfield, and baserunning at the end. It usually works out very well, but it definitely takes a plan, and assistant coaches that know what they are doing. If you don't have good assistants, it won't work. In the hitting side of practice, we usually would usually try to split the kids into 3-4 stations, with tee work, soft toss, live in the cage and then mixing something in like the "drop drill" or "toss from behind," two ball soft toss, asking them to hit the top or bottom ball, (you can do this one with different colored wiffle balls) or the hitting stick which I have never been a fan of and usually discourage.

    As far as pitching, we usually would try to mix in pitching only practices if we had a portable mound or access to the bullpen mounds at our facility. I always would ask for my pitchers to run after practice, because I feel that legs are so important in keeping the arm sound and strong.

    The worst practices are the ones where everyone spreads out to shag balls while one kid hits and nothing much is getting done. I haven't seen one of those in a long time. I served as "Coaching Development Director" for a few years at our Little League before we left this year for travel baseball. I always had a spring and fall coaches clinic where we would give the coaches ideas on practice planning and instruction. I usually would invite a couple of the High School coaches in or have some of our veteran coaches to help out with this. It worked wonders for our League and raised the bar for the coaches. Bad coaching was not tolerated and coaches were reviewed by the parents and league officials every season. Bad marks and you don't get to coach the next season.

    The Hitting Station approach is my favorite, on any level of amateur baseball. As you say, it's success is dependent on the quality of your assistants. It gets the kids engaged and kills boredom.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    I have always HATED soft toss. I'm more of a fan of T work. From there I like front toss (underhand from the side of the L). I just don't see why you would practice hitting a ball coming from the side? When will you ever see that again? To each his own I guess.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Sometimes it has to do with keeping the kids engaged and the amount of space you have to execute. I know that most Little Leagues don't have a bunch of cages and nets. Ours was wonderful. We had 10 fields, 10 batting cages, and soft soft toss nets at every cage.

    I'm more a fan of sitting behind the "L" screen and throwing overhand to the kids. Never been a big fan of the underhand toss from the "L" screen. How often do you see a ball coming from that vantage point? Kinda the same as soft toss.
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephenk29 View Post
    I have always HATED soft toss. I'm more of a fan of T work. From there I like front toss (underhand from the side of the L). I just don't see why you would practice hitting a ball coming from the side? When will you ever see that again? To each his own I guess.
    The point of soft toss isn't to simulate in-game hitting, but rather to focus on simple hand-eye coordination without having the distractions of pitch recognition, etc. You isolate one skill, work on it for a while, then add other elements.
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    Unsolicited Opinions traderumor's Avatar
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    Re: Little League Drills

    Perhaps some of my objection to soft toss is in execution. For instance, the potential value I see is to teach the concept of hitting the ball out in front. However, the soft tossers I have seen throw the ball parallel with the batter, which is very tricky to hit and usually requires a contortion to hit, which I think is teaching really bad habits with how the hips and legs work in the swing.

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    Re: Little League Drills

    We would do soft toss from the side and from behind. The player would assume his batting stance and keep his eyes forward and then a player behind him almost in the catchers position would toss a ball out in the strikezone and the hitter would have to see it and react quickly in order to keep from hitting the ball off the end of the bat or missing all together.

    I think that was pretty effective at getting us to quicken our swings and react to the ball.

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    Matt's Dad RANDY IN INDY's Avatar
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    Re: Little League Drills

    I always try to position myself in front and off to the side of the hitter. That position allows the ball to come to them, somewhat, from the front. What Johnny said, a couple of posts back is exactly on the money when it comes to soft toss. It does help create a solid repeatable swing and allows the coach to focus on what the hitter is doing. We always try to work the hitter, up, down, in and out and get them to hit the ball in a particular portion of the net, based on the location. There are kids that struggle with soft toss, and it is usually the "lungers" who swing and stride at the same time. So important to get the front foot down, keep the head and hands back, hit the ball out front, and extend through it to a high finish. We try to get the kids to "pose" at the end to promote balance throughout the swing. Soft toss is a great drill to get this working.
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