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Thread: 8u practice and drills

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    Checking out the clubhouse panthercoach's Avatar
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    Default 8u practice and drills

    Wow there is some really knowedgable folks on here. Coaching 8u this year. Have 7 players returning that I've coached or been assistant for 3 previous years. All started in kindergarten together. Anyways just wondered how you guys lay out practice at this age always trying to learn and see what I can do to make it better and more fun for the girls. What kind of drills do you guys do. Throwing has always been my pet peeve so always start with that and really focus on elbows up wrist snap at end etc. I feel I'm stronger on the defensive end than hitting (maybe why hs coach always dh for me when I pitched) so I could use some practical drills or tips for teaching this on their level. Thanks ya'll.

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    Axe
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    This should be a great thread. I've coached 8U for several years. However, I coach Rec ball so its a different group of kids every year with generally more than half beginners (we re-draft every season).

    For hitting, especially early in the season, I like to do several stations so that kids can get as many swings as possible. At least 3 stations (tee, soft toss (wiffle or wiffle golf balls) and coach pitch). Just make sure that all of the coaches are on the same page of what you are going to teach them and have your best hitting coach on the tee trying to get fundamentals down.

    The hard part of this for me is that you have to have at least 4 adults to do it. The other kids can work on fielding or just play catch. Like you overhand throwing is my pet peeve in our Rec league, we never seem to do as good a job teaching it as we need to. I've accepted that with limited time there's is only so much we can do if the parents won't go home and play catch with their kids.

    Biggest thing at this age is to limit the amount of time they are standing around or in line and keep things moving.

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    Softball Junkie SoCalSoftballdad's Avatar
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    At 8U you need to teach them the fundamentals: throwing, catching, fielding, hitting, baserunning, and sliding. You also need to make sure its fun and enjoyable so they continue to play this game for many years. As Axe mentioned, setting up multiple drill stations (especially for hitting) is key otherwise the kids get bored and get less reps each practice. Keep it simple at this age. Some drills you can use:

    Throwing: in the grass create two lines, have players kneel with throwing knee on ground across from a partner. With throwing elbow up at a 90 degree angle, toss ball to partner making sure fingers behind the ball and rotating with good backspin. Make sure they are gripping the ball correctly (four-seam grip). From this stance, move partners back and incorporate more of the shoulder and arm in the throwing motion. Ask coaches to continually check for proper technique. Next, have them stand and get sideways to the target with glove pointed to the target and throwing elbow up and ball facing somewhere behind them prior to making the forward throwing motion. The key here is making sure the fingers are directly behind the ball at release and you are seeing excellent backspin rotation.

    Catching: at this age, have them practice catching the ball without a glove. They can use two hands to catch the ball, initially. Once "mastered" have them catch the ball with only the bare-hand (glove hand). Next, have them use a glove and give them throws to the glove hand. Next, throw to back-hand until they get use to it. Lastly, throw the ball up in the air and make sure they turn the glove sideways to make the catch, with the throwing hand right next to the glove.

    Fielding: triangle drill - with a partner across from them, have them draw a triangle right in front of them, with the base of the triangle the same width of the feet. Make sure they are down in "ready position" with glove out in front of them, glove touching dirt, and throwing hand just above glove. Have partner roll ball to fieldier (and vice a versa). Once they get comfortable, have the partner throw one-hops into the triangle. If they ball gets by them, make them get it so they don't want to miss the ball and will try harder to not let it get by them

    Hitting: not going to go into a lot of detail but make sure you have stations for a) Tee work b) Front toss (ideally with TCB, worth the investment); and c) coach pitch station with real softballs. Try to get to the batting cages occassioanaly. Also, I don't think its too early at 8U to teach bunting technique if bunting is allowed games?

    Baserunning: divide into two teams and have players run the bases to see which team can complete their turn the fastest. Teams will start at home plate and 2B. Each player runs all 4 bases.

    Sliding: never too early to teach sliding. Start off using a sliding mat, card board, slip N slide, ect. Speed and good technique are critical. Once they are comfortable with technique, take it to the dirt infield. Make sure they have on proper equipment for sliding: sliding shorts, knee pad(s), batting gloves (they tend to drag their hands on the dirt). Practice stealing 2B, 3B, and home.

    Lastly, one fun drill incorporating fielding and throwing accurately is the water bottle drill. Two teams (one team at SS other at 2B), place large, empty plastic water bottle on top of a ball bucket at home plate and hit ground balls to the teams, alternating, each player has to field the ball and throw to home plate trying to knock off the water bottle. They get points each time it hits the bottle. First team to 10, wins. Note, if the ball is not fielded cleanly, they have to make the throw from where it stops, making it a tougher throw.

    Good luck, 8U is a great age to get these kids excited about softball.

  4. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to SoCalSoftballdad For This Useful Post:

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    Checking out the clubhouse panthercoach's Avatar
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    great advice guys the throwing drills are pretty much exactly how I start every practice. This is rec league, so we get a mix, about 7 of my 11 players have been together for 3 previous seasons so that helps. Love the water bottle idea going to use that one. One thing I do with catching is toss them a tennis ball without their gloves on it really enforces fingers up to catch, we pretend they got their arm cut off and keep it behind back so they only use glove hand they really get a kick out of this.

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    panthercoach, I'll be doing 7-8 rec this year with youngest DD. This age is a blast, though I'm sure you already know that.

    You can do a lot of the drills you'd do with older girls just tone down the terminology and complexity. Not too much though, many of the 7-8s are sharper than we give them credit for.

    One thing I'll say if you are weak on teaching hitting, find a good AC who excels at it and be ready to turn a lot of the hitting stuff over to him/her to lead that part of practice.

    I like to do a bunch of dry drills to start out, drills with out the ball to work on fundamental form. Not too much though or the kids get bored but it really does help them feel the correct position. Progress to controlled coach lead drills and work you way up to game speed.

    Keep them moving so they don't get bored.

    I agree SoCal has some great specifics above, many of which I like myself. Love the water bottle one, last year at the 4-5-6 age we did something similar with a teddy bear in a chair and the girls got to throw the ball to the bear.

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    Certified softball maniac Momo'sDad's Avatar
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    Making plays on defense is cool, but turn your team into serious hitters and they'll have a lot more fun this season.

    If I could only teach 2 skills all season, they would be throwing and hitting.

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    Checking out the clubhouse Snapperny's Avatar
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    Good idea for a thread...and some good drill ideas.
    I'm coaching 8u this year also & I plan to set up my Bow-net with the strike zone attachment for fielding/throwing drills. The girls can work in 2 lines and make it a game to see how many "points" they can accumulate. 1 point for fielding the grounder, 1 point for getting the throw into the "sock" part of the net, and 3 points if the throw is in the strike zone. I find that kids like it to be a "game" and they feel less like your forcing them to learn.

    I agree 100% that you need as many stations as possible so the girls aren't standing around getting bored. The problem is that this requires 3 or 4 adults to run the stations. Often it's only me & one assistant coach at a practice. I guess you have to hope for some willing/helpful parents. I find it funny how some parents don't want to help out & clearly don't practice with their daughter at home, but wonder why their kid hasn't learned to catch a fly ball yet .

    Does anyone run any stations that you can set the kids up on to practice without needing a coach to stand over them while they do the drill...for those times when there are only 1 or 2 coaches trying to run 3 or 4 stations?

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    Certified softball maniac Sweet Lou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snapperny View Post
    Does anyone run any stations that you can set the kids up on to practice without needing a coach to stand over them while they do the drill...for those times when there are only 1 or 2 coaches trying to run 3 or 4 stations?
    I have yet to find one that would work with 7 & 8 year olds. If anyone does know one, that would be great.

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    Certified softball maniac quincy's Avatar
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    At this age I think that you need an adult to supervise stations just to make sure they do not get into too much trouble. Some of the best volunteers are the ones that say I donít know anything about softball. Prefect just watch the players, we will tell them what to work on, just make sure they do not start doing anything to stupid. For this age we usually had as many parents come to practice as players so it was easy to find volunteers just needed to ask them to help.

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    Checking out the clubhouse Snapperny's Avatar
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    Lastly, one fun drill incorporating fielding and throwing accurately is the water bottle drill. Two teams (one team at SS other at 2B), place large, empty plastic water bottle on top of a ball bucket at home plate and hit ground balls to the teams, alternating, each player has to field the ball and throw to home plate trying to knock off the water bottle. They get points each time it hits the bottle. First team to 10, wins. Note, if the ball is not fielded cleanly, they have to make the throw from where it stops, making it a tougher throw.
    Am I misunderstanding the drill? I like this idea, but I am not sure many of my 7 & 8 year olds throw accurately enough to have a legit chance to knock over a water bottle at home plate when throwing from shortstop or second. I'm pretty sure it would take me 2 or 3 throws for a direct hit!!

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