Speed and agility drills aren’t just practice routines for young baseball players; they are the building blocks of elite performance on the diamond. Discover how these exercises can transform a promising youngster into a formidable player.
- Speed and agility are important assets in baseball, but not all players will possess these skills.
- Drills should be used to help improve speed and agility, with the range of improvement varying from player to player.
- Warm-up exercises must be performed before any drill is started.
- Run the bases drills can help teach players how to lead off and round bases properly while skip ropes can improve coordination as well as endurance levels.
- Shuffle drills with pop-ups allow for quick direction changes while foul pole runs provide an opportunity for sprinting practice at 80-90%.
Run the bases
This seems like a simple one, but it is an important drill. Make your players aware of the ballfield. Teach them how to lead off and how to round bases. They can’t get faster on the bases if they don’t know the best routes from each base.
The easiest thing to do is to have them start at home. First, they simulate a swing and then run through first. Have them repeat this, but then have them run through second, then third, then home.
Next, have them start at the beginning. Have them take a leadoff and run through second, then third, then home. Do the same thing with a leadoff at second and at third.
You could choose to time the runs either individually or as a group. Challenge them to beat their previous time. If you have the opportunity, video the players running so they can see their strides and how they round the bases. This is a perfect application of a skill that they will use in a game.
I worked with a coach who required all of his players to have a jump rope. Every practice. He had them wear turf shoes or tennis shoes to skip rope in, but before they put their cleats on, they warmed up, stretched, and then skipped rope. This may not sound like a drill, but it can be great for endurance and agility. Depending on the type of jump that they are performing, it requires different jumping skills and timing.
For beginners, you can have them do a traditional jump for time. You can also have them do a single-leg hop (alternating), the lateral hop (or side-to-side), the double hop, and the heel-toe jump. Keep it simple and have some fun.
These drills can be challenging for young players, both skill-wise and in terms of endurance. Build them up and don’t overdo it, but the jump rope is a great way to improve agility (and coordination).
Shuffle drills with pop-ups
Players need to be able to position themselves under the ball to make a play. Sometimes that play is a deep fly, sometimes a short pop-up. This drill helps with the pop-ups and those in between plays.
To begin the drill, have the player stand facing the coach. There should be about 5–10 feet of distance between them.
This drill could be done in a gym but is more efficient in an outdoor practice area. The coach raises a ball in front of him, and the player responds by sitting in the ready position with their glove out.
The coach will wave the ball slowly from side to side. The player should respond by shuffling their feet in the same direction that the ball is pointing in. When the coach shifts from one side to the other, the player should shift directions by pivoting into a drop step and shuffling in the other direction.
The coach will continue to wave from one side to the other. The player will continue shifting from side to side, slowly putting more and more distance between themselves and the coach.
Eventually, the coach will decide to throw the ball into the air for the player to the field. The coach could simulate a soft line drive, a short pop-up, a mid-deep fly, or even a grounder. Mixing the types of throws up adds variety and keeps players on their toes.
There are several important keys to this drill that a player must maintain. First, they need to make sure that they never cross their feet while shuffling. This helps to minimize tripping.
Next, players should keep their eye on the ball the entire time. They should never put their backs to the coach before he releases the ball.
This is a fun drill to do after players are warm and ready to move. You can add another element to the drill by including a throw to a player pretending to be a cut man or baseman. The other option is to simply make each player have a ball and run back to the line after fielding their throw.
This drill is a great agility drill because it offers an opportunity for players to change directions quickly – which may be necessary for outdoor games where there is a great deal of wind or backspin on the ball.
Foul pole runs
The last speed drill is a simple one. It should only be done when athletes are completely warmed up, stretched out, and loose. This could be an excellent way to end the practice or could be done in the middle of it. Using cones, set up three equal sections between the foul poles.
Players jog in zone one. When they hit the cone that begins Zone 2, they accelerate into a run. Their goal should be to run at about 80–90% in Zone 2.
When they hit Zone 3, they slow into a jog and touch the foul pole. Depending on the age and conditioning of your athletes, you may have them stop and take a short break or turn and complete the same sequence.
The middle zone is always the zone where they sprint. So whether they are going 3, 2, and then 1 or 1, 2, and then 3, zone 2 is the sprint zone.
This is a simple drill to complete. The transition from jogging to sprinting is a game-applicable skill. Again, depending on your players’ age and skill level, you can determine how many “laps” to have them do. You can also use it as a station in a rotation of stations for groups of players to work through, in which case you may make it a timed rotation.
These are just a few of the drills that you could use in any given practice to address speed and agility. Most can be done indoors or outdoors with some adjustments.
It is important to pay attention to the form and condition of your athletes. Make sure you have emergency plans and are aware of any health conditions (e.g., asthma). Make sure athletes are warmed up and hydrated. Keep your players safe during conditioning—the same as you would during a game.
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