Teaching baseball to kids can be a rewarding experience. I spent most of my preteen and teenage years in the baseball field hashing out my skills under the supervision of a coach. And after my baseball career was over, I wanted to share my technical knowledge with the next generation.
What I learned within a few years of coaching is that it is much harder to make baseball practice plans for 11-year-olds than it is for teenagers. Their pitching strengths and fundamentals are not as developed.
Though I have coached kids under 12 who have already had a few years of baseball experience, their fundamentals are often lacking. So, I had to take a different approach when planning out drills and exercises for this promising young bunch of players.
I figured that pushing them too hard is never the right way. Preteen kids have a short attention span often and can lose interest if the going gets tough. So, I had to keep the drills simple and digestible while making sure that it efficiently accelerates their growth and understanding of the game.
I will share my personal favorite baseball drills for 12 year olds that I have used over the years to teach my kids the basics and get them a step closer to achieving their dreams of becoming major league baseball stars.
Best Baseball Drills for 11-12 Year Olds
Getting young players ready for a game requires hard work and dedication not only from the players but from the coach as well. You need to motivate them and work them through different drills to hone their skills and take them to the next level. But you do not want to push too hard and make it a punishment for them either.
Here are a couple of fun baseball drills for 12-year-olds to improve their game skills.
Baseball Hitting Drills for 12 year Olds
For those young hitters, building strike power and accuracy is extremely important. The players need to work on their focus and practice regularly to hone their skills to perfection. The following five drills have proven extremely effective at training young batters and improving their hitting efficiency.
1. Dry Swings
When I am working with a complete beginner, I like to start them off with some dry swings. The idea is simple, hand them a bat, and make them practice their swings without the pressure of hitting the ball. With this simple exercise, they will be able to grasp the fundamentals of swinging a baseball bat.
Make sure the hitter is keeping the barrel straight as he swings through the zone. A simple trick that I often use to help them better understand the strike zone is I draw a rectangle on a mirror and have them practice their swings in front of it. That way, they have a better visual cue of the strike zone.
2. Sled Pulls
Sled pulls are a variation of the dry swing and will help train the muscles and improve the strike power. Not only is it a good drill for a 12-year-old, but it is also equally as effective for youths who are trying to go pro. It is a time-tested drill and a personal favorite of mine if I say so myself.
For this training, you want to attach a sled or some form of weight to the knob end of the baseball bat. Because of the extra weight, the hitter will face resistance, adding an extra layer of challenge, when trying to swing. As they get better at striking with that extra weight, their normal strike powers will improve drastically.
3. Bryce Harper Drill
Named after the legendary Bryce Harper, this drill aims to improve the posture and stride of the player while hitting. Bryce Harper has a weird and exaggerated hitting stance where he almost shows the whole bottom of the foot to the pitcher as he is about to hit.
But funnily enough, this stance lets you gather extra power from the hips and unload it through the ball as you swing and connect. The idea of the drill is this, make your players lift their lead foot when striking and connecting the ball. This will help them activate their hips when striking thus increasing their strike power.
4. Hitting Net Drills
This drill is pretty self-explanatory. Have your hitters line up in front of a batting net and practice striking the ball in different parts of the net.
The goal of this drill is to train the hitting accuracy. By aiming at different parts of the net, the players will develop an understanding of how they should connect their bat to the ball to hit their mark. This is one of those drills that you should put your players through every single day.
5. Target Hitting
Target hitting is the next phase of hitting net drills. When you notice that your hitters are comfortable with hitting specific areas of the net, consider switching to more advanced target hitting drills. The first thing you want to do for this drill is get rid of the net.
Take your youngsters out and place a couple of targets around the field. The goal is for the hitter to hit the targets with baseball. Start with larger targets, such as cones or boards, and gradually work your way down to smaller targets like hoops or buckets. You can pitch the ball yourself, or have him use a baseball tee.
6. Chain Hitting
Consistency is the key to unlocking the full potential of a young hitter. And it is your job as a coach to make sure his hits and strike strength are consistent. The hitting chain drill is a fun and effective way to train muscle memory, reflexes, and developing consistent swings.
You need two things for this drill, a hitting screen, and a few markers. Set the markers on the ground in a line at different intervals. You will be positioned behind the screen and the batter will face the screen with his bat. The batter should stand so that there are three markers in front of him and three markers behind him.
Your job is to pitch the ball from behind the screen and the hitter will strike the ball. If he misses, he needs to move back a marker. And each successive hit will mean he gets to step forward one marker. Though it sounds quite simple, in practice, this is one of the most hardcore training routines for a young hitter.
Baseball Fielding Drills for 12 Year Olds
With the hitter drills covered, there are a couple of specific baseball fielding drills that I like to do to focus on my infielders and outfielders. My main priorities for these roles are developing their reflexes, communication, teamwork, and positioning. The drills I make my youth do focus on these skill sets.
1. Footwork Drill
I like to start off with footwork first because a new player rarely understands the importance of proper stance when fielding.
Scooping a traveling baseball and throwing it with momentum towards the base requires proper footwork. The entire fielding movement should start from the feet and work its way up to the hand and baseball gloves.
You should start with a basic demonstration of the proper stance; how you bend at the knees instead of the back and how to place the glove perpendicular to the ground for better scoops. After that, instruct your players to replicate your movement. For better results, you can place a ground ball in front of them to scoop up while practicing their footwork.
2. Left or Right
You want your fielder to stand in front of you at a distance of about 5 to 10 inches. Instruct him to stand in the correct catching posture. Now, start throwing balls to either the left or right of the player and his goal is to catch it before it touches the ground. Make sure you switch up the direction every now and then.
Left or right is a simple drill that trains the reflexes of the player. After showing this drill, you can pair up the fielders to practice among themselves. While they are working the drills, you can monitor them carefully and instruct them if they are doing something wrong.
3. Intercept Drill
The goal of the intercept drill is to teach the fielders how to defend line drives. You need three players in total for this drill. Two of them will serve as throwers while the other one will be an interceptor. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that the two throwers are Player A and Player C and the interceptor is player B.
For the drill to work, Player A will throw a ball to the interceptor who is standing around 50 yards away. The interceptor then catches the ball with a crossover step and passes it to Player C. Repeat the drill and remember to switch up the roles so that everybody gets to play the interceptor.
4. The Call and Catch
The last fielding drill I make my players do is all about teamwork and communication. It is a fun little exercise that forces the players to communicate so that they do not get into each other’s way. The main focus of this drill is on the third baseman, the left fielder, and shortstop.
You, the coach, will hit a fly ball right in the middle of the three players. As the ball flies the players will have to communicate with each other yelling “I got it” while the others get in position to intercept. The one who has the best and quickest access to the ball needs to call out to the other two players so that they do not interfere.
Baseball Pitching Drills for 12 year Olds
Teaching 12-year-olds to pitch the right way is extremely important. You need to focus on the fundamentals including correct stance, throw posture, along with developing pitching strength and techniques.
How do you teach a 12 year old to throw a baseball, you ask? Consistency is the key. I like to keep things simple and have them drill out the basics as much as possible.
1. Arm Action Pitching Drills
There are many different variations of the arm action pitching drills, and frankly, I love all of them. It teaches basic pitching mechanics and rectifies any posture-related issues to ensure you get the highest power from your body as you pitch. The one I use is quite simple.
I make many pitches stand in front of the target, usually a net, and pitch the ball. While pitching, they need to twist their arm back, to generate power, and as they throw the ball, the chest and the upper body bend forward slightly to accommodate the momentum. By doing this simple drill, I can help them achieve a better posture and get a better feel for how to pitch.
Since this drill only focuses on the upper body, do not worry too much about the legs. We will get to that with other pitching drills.
2. Velocity Drills
You might be wondering why velocity drills at such an early age and I wouldn’t blame you. Truth is, many people do not want to train players under 13 year old velocity drills since it exerts a lot of pressure on the hands. But I believe starting early is never a bad thing as long as you take it slow.
I mainly focus on single squat leg drives when doing velocity drills. This develops your ground force reactions allowing you to drive the ball harder towards the target.
First, you want to get your pitcher with his gloves to the ready position. As he is getting ready to pitch, he has to do a single leg squat, bending down enough to get a good flex. And then he is going to drive out of that position, throwing the ball with the generated momentum. Give them a net to practice their pitch with this drill.
3. The Net Pitching Drill
The drills I mentioned above are my go-to choices when it comes to pitching drills. But I like to wrap things up with a good-old net pitching drill. In fact, you do not even need a net for this drill. Pair your pitchers up and have them pitch towards each other. That way, you can train two players at once.
However, make sure your pitchers are practicing their posture and stance more than their pitching strength if practicing with a partner. The last thing you want is for them to get hurt. For developing pitching strength or while doing velocity drills, you should always use a net.
Conditioning Drills for 12 Year Olds
There are some drills that I make my players go through to condition their physical strength and stamina. Whether you do it before other drills or after is entirely up to you. Personally, I do it before, give them a few minutes of rest, then get them doing other drills.
1. Progressive Sprints
Progressive sprint is one of the core training drills in basketball. But it is also equally useful for other sports like baseball, soccer, etc.
You want to place the baseball catcher’s mitts on the ground in a straight line. Have your players run to the first mitt from the start position, come back, run back to the second mitt, and so on. This is a difficult drill though, so make sure to let them refill their energy in between repetitions.
2. Footwork Ladder Drills
Footwork ladder drill trains agility, stamina, and control, and all you need for it is a small ladder. Place it on the ground and have your players run over it stepping in between each step of the ladder.
Tips When Coaching Youth Players
Before we head further, let me give you one solid bit of advice. Never for one second think that only your players have to work on themselves. You, as a coach, need to develop with them and be a total guiding light for them. Youths around the age of 9 to 12 respond well to someone they view as a role model.
So, to be a successful and effective coach, you have to become their role model and lead by example. Here are a couple of tips that can help you become a better coach for your youngsters.
1. Keep the Training Sessions Fun
Turns out, when you are having fun while learning, you develop quicker. Sure, drills are not always fun and if you prioritize fun over training, you are not being a very good coach. But that does not mean you should suck the soul out of your training. Adding a touch of personality to the drills can often get good results.
Besides, you are teaching kids under 12 years old, not adults who are already playing as a profession. If kids get worked too hard, they will lose interest in the game.
2. Mix up the Drills
Baseball drills can often get monotonous and repetitive. While that is completely fine if you are trying to get your player to develop a specific skill, sometimes switching this up is the better way to go. It helps the brain to accumulate what is gathered and when you get back to it, you progress faster.
Knowing when to mix up the drills and when to keep repeating them is your job as the coach. You need to see if the speed of learning has declined and decide whether to try something else. So, whenever you are training your players on a specific skill, try to monitor them closely.
3. Positive Mental Attitude
Do you want to know the difference between a good coach and a bad one? Positive Mental Attitude! Remember, nobody can win every single game and it is also pretty normal to go on a losing streak once or twice. If that happens, you need to be there for your players instead of pushing them harder.
The mental condition of your players is just as important as their physical prowess with a baseball bat or stamina on the outfield. If you see one of your players underperforming, try to motivate them and get them in a positive mood. This can make all the difference in the world.
4. Play Games
Playing baseball with your squad in a friendly setting does two things. One – it lets them apply what they learned in a real-game context. Second – it is fun and helps the team bond better. Don’t get me wrong; you should never put off training drills for a fun and friendly game.
However, sometimes giving your squad a break and letting them play a game of baseball with their friends will help refresh their energy. When they come back the next day, they will be in a fresh mindset which will help accelerate their growth. So, consider playing friendly, pressure-free games with your squad.
There are nearly thousands of baseball drills out there. But for kids of the age group 9 to 12, these are the best ones if you ask me. However, I also add different extra training exercises to this list depending on the requirements of my players.
Most importantly, teach them to respect the game and their equipment and keep their gears neat and clean.
Hopefully, my list of best baseball drills for 12-year-olds could help you find a couple of good options to train your players better and help them play to their fullest potential. Good luck!