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In this edition of our ongoing Coaching Insight series, we explore one of our favorite topics: fun baseball drills for 8 year olds. For this very important age of play, coaches must instruct while at the same time ensure enjoyment for the kids while playing.
The primary goal for coaches of young baseball players should be for them to return and play again the following season, and the season after that.
To do so, coaches must help young players really enjoy or appreciate being in uniform, out on the field, on the mound, in the batter’s box, in the dugout ~ and any other situation the game presents.
A coach’s role is to create and maintain positive learning environments and situations; and manage practices and games in a way that’s fun and inviting for young baseball players.
That said, here are our fun baseball drills for 8 year olds, activities that hopefully are as cool to do as they are worthwhile from a learning perspective.
Fun 8-Year-Old Baseball Drills to Try
- Contact Drill
- Simulated Game
- Long Ball
- Off to the Races
Distinct Types of Baseball Drills for 8 Year Olds
You could divide baseball drills for 8 year olds into a couple of categories: for during practice, or for the end of practice. There are reasons for this, and much of it has to do with the player’s mindset during any phase of the practice session.
Just working kids to the bone for 90 straight minutes without a break, constantly driving home repetitions and perfection, can lead to burnout. It also can result in bad habits, which often develop when a baseball player tries too hard while fighting fatigue.
We could divide these drills into the during- and after- categories because the former is when specific physical actions should occur, including repetitions, specific to baseball skills. That is, each should be focused on improving hitting, fielding, throwing, or running.
The drills at the end of practice are for fun first, with the added benefit of honing some baseball skills.
Why does that matter? See the primary goal of coaches mentioned at the start of this article. End practices in an enjoyable manner so players will want to return to the next practice. Never send a team home in a bad mood.
They all worked hard for 60 or 90 minutes or so, so they deserve some fun. Those drills are designed to do just that, along with building camaraderie, teamwork, and more.
So here we are, 8 drills, all to help your 8 year olds to improve at the game, while having a whole lot of fun while doing it.
Our 8 Fun Baseball Drills for 8 Year Olds
1. Contact Drill
Skill Focus: Batting
Set-Up: 3 or 4 hitting stations, plenty of coaches
The Fun: Mini-tournamen to see who can hit the most balls consecutively without missing
How the Contact Drill in Baseball Works
Coaches of youth baseball teams often approach a single practice session with something he wants the team to focus on, whether it’s hitting, fielding, or even base running. When batting the topic, the Contact Drill is a solid way to end a serious regular session of station-to-station hitting.
In a practice focused on hitting, set up 4 stations for players to rotate to: a hitting cage for regular batting practice, a tee-and-hitting-net station for soft toss, heavy ball hitting for wrist strength, and a simple Wiffle-ball toss.
Players move from station to station, usually in groups of 3. Coaches can choose to cycle players through all stations up to 3 times. It’s afterward that the Contact fun begins.
Try to have prizes for winners, like being able to keep the last Wiffle ball
Contact Drill in Action
- Use either real balls, or Wiffle balls
- The drill is best with multiple coaches manning separate stations, allowing more pitches and therefore swings
- Team up the players in groups of 3
- Send a first player in each group to the plate
- Using coach-pitch, each batter keeps hitting until there is a swing-and-miss
- Goal: See how many consecutive times a batter can make contact with a pitch
- Foul balls count
- Taking a pitch ends the streak and the batter’s turn; they will learn to hit non-perfect pitches
- Players first compete within their own group, to see who gets the most consecutive strikes of the ball
- End with a mini-tournament with the winner of each group competing against one another for the “championship”
- Players learn to use controlled, compact swings to ensure contact
- Build experience hitting any pitch, even those not perfect
- Camaraderie between inner-team squads; and competition among the very best that day
Skill Focus: Throwing
Set-Up: Just need a cone or ball bucket , and maybe a chair
The Fun: It’s very good to hit the chair, or get close, but when kids actually hit the cone or bucket with a throw and it goes flying back, laughs are guaranteed
How the Knockdown Drill in Baseball Works
Playing defense in baseball depends on two abilities: to catch a ball, and to throw it accurately. Note that last word. Early on, parents or coaches might get excited about a child’s throwing strength, whether by distance or by velocity.
The excitement over young arm strength is overblown. Perhaps equally important, if not more so, is the ability to know where the ball is going when you throw it. Hence, the Knockdown drill.
This easy throwing drill is as effective as it is enjoyable for players. And all you need is something for them to throw at. What kid doesn’t like to throw things at random items?
The goal is to field a ground ball or catch a fly ball, take a good crow hop or foot shuffle, and knock down the target. We will often utilize a cone on top of a chair.
Knockdown Drill in Action:
- Usually set up by placing a cone or small bucket atop a chair, though any item that can be knocked over works. (Even batting helmets, or kids’ hats!).
- To perfect throws to bases for force outs, have the target raised off the ground a foot or two. To really perfect throws for tags, like catcher to 2nd base, or anywhere to home plate, put a bucket on the ground as lower throws are preferred for tagging.
- Choose whether they will throw after a grounder, or a fly ball. While Knockdown can be played by starting throws flat-footed, it’s best to make them move their feet and emulate a real play before throwing.
- Let each player have up to 10 or 12 turns.
- Track which players knock down the target the most, maybe even keep a running tally.
The Knockdown obviously is good for honing throwing accuracy. But if done in conjunction with fielding grounders or fly balls, it can help players develop comfortable footwork, and learn approaches to throwing like the crow-hop in the outfield, or foot-shuffle in the infield.
For coaches, they get a chance to watch for throwing form, and look closely at players missing badly, to try adjustments. A lot of this is just like pitching: involving proper stride, or release point; but some adjustments could be for opening the front shoulder too early (or too far), or being unbalanced during or after the throw.
Skill Focus: Catching, throwing, timing, footwork, teamwork
Set-Up: Several balls, maybe optional small agility cones, or a timer to set records or keep track of progress
The Fun: Kids find faces exciting. Plus, there is the thrill of several successful transfers in a row, or the agony of a dropped ball or errant throw.
How the Relay Drill in Baseball Works
In advanced levels of baseball, relay throws are very important and, done properly, can prevent runs from scoring. However, at very young ages its value is less so, because the fields are so much smaller.
Nonetheless, lining up players to catch a ball coming from one direction, turn the complete opposite way, and throw to another player, as fast as possible, delivers a lot of benefits for players beyond just the relay play.
Catching ability, speed of transferring the ball from glove to throwing hand, footwork involved to turn while in the act of catching, maybe a crow hop at the end for momentum, before hucking the ball accurately to the next player, involves quite a bit of skill. Do this over and over and young players almost have to improve.
Relay Drill in Action
- Divide players into 2 or 3 teams
- Line them up equidistant apart (both players, at about 50 feet apart, and spread the lines apart but parallel)
- At one end, give each player a ball to initiate the race
- Yell GO!
- Player 1 throws to player 2, who turns and throws to player 3, etc.
- Once the ball gets to the other end of the line, that player throws it right back startying the relay back toward the place where it began
- First team to return the ball to where it began wins.
- Note: For advanced versions, use cones to keep track of where players started, and in time push the cones farther apart to indicate where each player stands. You could even zig-zag them to add even more spice.
- Players learn to concentrate on catching while at the same time moving feet to prepare (in advance) for the throw
- Players get experience in remaining cool under pressure
- Great drill to hone concentration
- Teamwork is required for the best results; this knowledge should transfer to other parts of their game
Skill Focus: Base running
Set-Up: Just need at least 3 anchored bases firmly set (throw-down or rubber temp bases are not optimum)
The Fun: See above about kids and races …
How the Cycle Drill in Baseball Works
This drill is often called at the end of practice so as not to wear them out too much for hitting or fielding work. Basically, this allows instruction in sprints to 1st base for singles, then home-to-2nd base for doubles, and triples, and home runs, all the while building stamina in young legs.
Cycle allows ample opportunities for coaches to instruct, such as how to round 1st base on a single, locate the ball, decide whether to keep going or return to 1st. Coaches can be placed at 1st and 3rd base as in games, and players taught how to look for them or listen to their instruction.
Cycle Drill in Action
- Line up players just off home plate, maybe along a fence
- Each takes turns from the batter’s box, starting with a fake “air” swing (no bat)
- Spring the bases according to which type of hit the coach calls before the round
- Of course, begin with a single, and later move on to the other bases
- Note 1: Runners also could be started on 1st or 2nd base, and sprint to 3rd, or home plate, on a base hit
- Note 2: Slides can be ordered at the end for advanced players
- Instruct players on proper ways to cut and round bases, stop and return, watch the ball while running (“read” hits).
- Helps improve speed, and even to avoid injuries
- Gets them to expend a lot of energy, all the while building stamina
- Great opportunity for kids to learn how to let the base coaches guide them
5. Simulated Game
Skill Focus: Game play, teamwork
Set-Up: Regular bases, regular game field setup (though chalking not required), maybe some sort of handheld run tracker.
The Fun: Gives players opportunities to learn to play with other players , they might not be familiar with; and to compete in a different way on the field, without an opposing team.
How the Simulated Game in Baseball Works
Young baseball coaches may assume games can be played only if another team is available. Not true.
Even though most youth baseball teams feature only 12 or so players, you can divide them strategically to allow game-like defense and hitting opps.
Simulated Game in Action
- Divide the team into 3 squads; be sure each has at least 1 pitcher
- Send Team 1 to bat
- Teams 2 and 3 then are on defense
- Coaches can fill in positions if any exist; or use of a catcher can be skipped
- Once Team 1 gets 3 outs, those players go to the field, and Team 2 comes in to hit; so Team 3 plays defense the first 2 “half innings” before hitting
- Apply everything used in a real game: balls and strikes, an adult calling outs, batting lineup, etc.
- Continue play as long as needed
- Lets coaches see players in game situations
- Allows coaches opportunity for instruction immediately following real action
- Great time to let players try other positions
6. Long Ball
Skill Focus: Tee hitting, sprinting
Set-Up: Hitting tee and enough baseballs for entire team to hit
The Fun: This is a fun end-of-practice practice, where players can show off their slugging prowess, and in the end everyone gets to see how each fared in a neat visual.
How the Long Ball Drill in Baseball Works
Also sometimes called Chase, this drill is an opportunity for players to try to hone in their tee-hitting skills to lengthen hits.
It gives coaches opportunities to watch player swings in motion, and get them to try changes so the results can be seen instantly.
It also forces in a few sprints at the end (without players knowing it, rea)
Long Ball Drill of Baseball in Action
- Set tee up immediately in front of home plate (where players should be striking pitches, by the way; tees should not be placed directly atop home plate)
- Each player gets a turn to strike just a single ball, anywhere onto a field without defenders.
- Once the ball is struck, the batter drops the bat and sprints to chase the ball
- Once caught up with it, the player grabs the balls and sits right on that spot
- Each player repeats
- At the end, each player can see who hit balls where
- It can be done in several rounds, so players might try hitting in the opposite direction, or try a coach’s tip
- End-of-practice opp for players to cheer each other on
- Gets some swing perfection in at the very end with hope they will remember for the next time up
- Sprinting for stamina
7. Off to the Races
Skill Focus: Sprint running
Set-Up: Just need a field and a fence
The Fun: Competition, in a sort-of reverse tournament setup.
How the Off to the Races Drill in Baseball Works
Off to the Races is a fun way to end practice ~ and the players are responsible for just how fast they can be done.
This is a 1-on-1 foot race between 2 players, from any point in the infield to an outfield fence, and back.
There are all kinds of twists for coaches to add, like tournament brackets. See below for the most typically used format.
Off to the Races Baseball in Action
- All players to the infield, near the mound
- Coach explains start and end point (often the edge of the grass and the infield dirt, but it could be the mound, or home plate)
- Coach explains rules: 1-on-1 race, and winner stays, loser has to stay and race again
- Coach picks first player, who then picks his opponent
- Repeat until all players are eliminated.
- To not hurt feelings, have a coach lose purposely to the last player!
- Strong end-of-practice cardio workout for players
- Game to cheer each other on to end practice; good for camaraderie
- Players can work on strengthening legs for more speed down the road
- As the weeks progress, runners can perfect the turnaround at the fence, a key element to cut time
Skill Focus: Teamwork, camaraderie
Set-Up: Just need an open field with 2 lines far apart
The Fun: Competition, playing baseball against one another but without a diamond
How the Cricket Drill for Baseball Practice Works
This is not cricket the international sport ~ but a baseball drill “borrowing” elements of it.
Like the simulated game, this is a fun opportunity for youth baseball teams to compete against one another.
Only this is on a football- or soccer-like field. And there are a few rules twists.
Cricket Drill of Baseball in Action
- Find a field with 2 “end zones” ~ rectangular, plenty of space to hit baseballs as far as they can
- Split the team into 2 squads
- Send a team into the field for defense. They can play anywhere in the rectangle. There are no assigned “positions”
- Batting team starts behind the “home” line
- They bat according to a batting order
- Anyone can pitch to batters anywhere along the line; as long as the batter hits from beyond it
- It can be underhand soft-toss, or medium-speed overhand (no catcher needed)
- Player 1 puts the ball in play either by bunting or hitting it so it bounces on the field of play
- Only ways to get outs are catching a ball in the air, tagging a runner, or (if so desired) plugging a runner with a thrown ball
- A run is scored when a batter touches the opposite end zone, and comes back to the first end zone safely
- The batter can choose to run, or stay in the initial end zone and wait for the next player to hit; only the final batter is required to run immediately after the hit; otherwise it’s optional
- This can go on until there is a last batter. Everyone must run on the hit at that point
- Swings and misses are strikes; 3 strikes is an out
- Pop fouls are live and can be caught for putouts
- Every batter can bunt the ball inches forward and stay in the first end zone if they wish
- Struck balls are all in play as long as they go forward past the original line
- Innings end when 3 outs are recorded, or (if so desired) all players on a team get an at-bat (chosen sometimes if time is limited)
- Defenders will learn really fast that teamwork, like the relay, is needed to nab runners
- Great end-of-practice drill that combines sprint running with thinking ~ how to avoid tags on offense, how to tag or plug runners on defense
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