The ages for most of these players will range between seven to eight-year olds. We will build on the foundational principles that were taught at the T-Ball level and start to challenge them more defensively. Practices will normally run between ninety-minutes to two hours. Continue to give information in small amounts and consider adopting the accordion style teaching method. Bring players in for a short talk about the drill you are about to do and then send them out to do it. Bring them back for another short talk during the same defensive or offensive station and send them out again. This helps players digest small amounts of info at one time.
On the offensive side we want the hitters to limit their movements at home plate, so their head stays still. This will keep their eyes on a level plane which will help with them see the ball better and make more consistent contact. They will want to have their own style which is great. We don’t want to squash their individualism. We simply teach them that as long as their style doesn’t affect their mechanics, then they can do it. Players also learn how to use their hips properly. Teach them that their hips take their hands to the baseball.
On the bases we want to encourage players to be aggressive and always think about taking the extra base. We need to teach them how to hit the inside corner of the base so they can be in a more direct line to the base they are going to. Players also need to learn to pick up their third base coach before and after they hit second base. They should also know that they can’t take off right away on contact and learn about going back to a base if the ball is caught in the air.
Like the hinges on a door, the front side of the body has items that work together. When one of them opens up early, they all do. Teach players the S.H.A.K.E acronym so they can keep their front side closed when throwing. This acronym can also be applied to their hitting. They need to be more consistent moving their feet and gain ground towards their target when throwing the ball. When receiving the ball, players learn to move their feet and watch the ball into their glove consistently.
Defensively we want to challenge an infielder’s range more by teaching them how to field balls to their backhand and glove side. Players need to understand when they should be covering a base and also to stay out of the runner’s path. Outfielders learn about communicating with teammates on fly balls and taking proper angles to the ball. Catchers are focusing more on receiving and their footwork for both throwing to bases and blocking. Start to teach some basic blocking drills from their knees with tennis balls at this level.
Players at this age will have most likely played baseball for at least one year and have some understanding of the game. Coaches should review drills that were done at the T-Ball level early in the season to see each individual player’s talent and comprehension level. You will most likely need to separate players into multiple groups based on your findings during these drills. Remember that the players are still young and expect them to be squirrely. Hold them accountable for their actions by sitting them on the bench for being disruptive in practice.
Please see the attached Coaching Matrix for Age/Division-level appropriate skills to develop and drills to work with your kids on. You can also view the most up-to-date version of the rules here.