Enhance your young players’ throwing accuracy and strength with this guide to the best throwing drills designed for youth baseball development.
- Coaches and parents should familiarize themselves with training guidelines or suggestions that leading specialists recommend in order to protect young arms.
- The “T” pose is a simple daily drill used to remind players of the proper form for throwing, which can be done in sequence to cement fundamentals.
- Long toss should never be the first part of any throwing routine, and sessions should not be long with young players; it increases range of motion, arm strength, and endurance when done correctly.
- Footballs and softballs may also help build arm strength if they are thrown properly after warming up their arms beforehand.
- The cutoff drill is another way for infielders to practice receiving throws from outfielders while offering a big target; this can also become a relay race setup between multiple lines as well.
The “T” pose
This is a simple daily drill to remind players of the proper form with which to throw. This drill can also be done in a sequence to cement the fundamentals.
To begin, have players kneel about ten feet away from each other. Players should kneel on the knee of their planted leg. One player starts with the ball. Remind players before they begin that this is meant to be a soft toss. They should not throw with all their strength.
The player with the ball should lift the glove hand in front of them (aimed in the direction of their partner) and the ball straight back behind them. They should exaggerate and pause this pose. Their upper body should form a T.
Next, the players should practice tucking the elbow of their gloved hand into the body, rotating the shoulders, and delivering the ball. The partner catches the ball and mirrors the same process. It’s up to you how many reps you want your players to complete, but for this stage, it can be as simple as 10-15 throws each.
This is a great way for players to warm up, as it emphasizes the fundamentals of the throwing motion. The goal is not to throw the ball hard. The goal is to deliver the ball repeatedly with proper technique.
The next part of the sequence is for the partners to stand up and increase the distance to about 15-20 feet (depending on age). Partners should repeat the same process they did while kneeling, but they should add their lower bodies to the process.
Players should be sure to push off their back leg and shift their weight into the throw. Again, they should hit that T pose and slightly exaggerate their technique. The goal is not to throw hard but to practice the fundamentals.
In the next part of the sequence, partners should add a bit more distance between the two of them. Now players can start to make harder throws. They do not need to stop at the T and pose but should instead feel it as part of their motion.
They should not overthrow but should slowly start to work themselves up to about a 75% throw. This part will be the longest part of their warm-up as they start throwing in earnest.
Players should pay attention to where their throws are going. They should be able to hit near their target repeatedly. If you notice that the same players are running after overthrows, remind them to check their mechanics. Encourage them to slow their throw down a bit and decrease the distance until they are more accurate.
This three-part sequence is a great way to warm up at the beginning of practice or before a game. Once you have completed this portion and the players’ arms are completely warmed up, you can move on to the next section – the long toss.
The long toss must never be the first part of any throwing routine. Players’ arms should be warmed up before the long toss. Also, long toss sessions should not be long with young players, especially. The length of a session will depend on the age of the players and the condition of their arms.
A long toss is exactly what it sounds like – you are throwing from a long distance. Depending on the player’s age, it may be 2 to 3 times the average length of throwing. The purported benefits of long tossing are threefold – it increases the range of motion, arm strength, and throwing endurance.
However, it is crucial that the long toss is done correctly. If players are simply throwing far and wildly, then there is more likelihood of injury than there is of growth. As always, make sure players are controlled and pay attention to mechanics.
Long toss can be very controversial, depending on how it is done. It is important to pay attention to players’ arms. If in doubt, err on the side of caution. If you do choose to include it in your training regimen, be sure to move into it slowly.
Players should jump from close throwing to throwing long distances. It is often best to move apart slowly. If throws become inaccurate, move the players closer.
Footballs and softballs
In some cases, coaches encourage players to cross-train by throwing footballs and softballs. The thought is that using a ball that is larger and heavier than a traditional baseball will help to build arm strength. In both cases, you still want players to warm up their arms before they start tossing something heavier.
Some coaches will have players play catch with the football. This is usually pretty easy to do and fun for the players. Again, players can start with a small toss and then move into a long toss with a partner or partners.
Softballs could be problematic, as they don’t fit well in the pockets of some of the gloves. Some players use a bucket of softballs instead and throw them into a net to help develop strength.
As with any type of throw, pay attention to the technique. If a player’s technique gets sloppy, have them decrease the distance, weight, or size of the throw.
Hit the cutoff
The cutoff drill is a simple drill that can be done after players’ arms are warm. You set two players at a long toss distance. In between those two players, you cycle in your infielders, who act as a cutoff.
The goal of the drill is for the players on the ends to take turns hitting the cutoff. The cutoff (player in the middle) then turns, following their glove, and makes a good throw to the other end player.
You can set this drill up with multiple lines and have a relay race. You can also stick all your outfielders on one end and your infielders on the other.
The players in the middle should be players who must practice receiving a throw and relaying that throw. Players in the middle should practice offering a big target. Outfielders should practice hitting the cutoff.
Teach your players to take care of their arms. Teach them to warm up properly. Teach them to advocate for themselves when they are hurt. Take care of young arms.
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