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Players at the 14u level should be just beginning to sharpen their skills enough to play at a noticeably more competitive level. The pace of the game will be faster, the players will hit and catch with much more consistency, and in general the game will start to resemble more of what you would see at a college level game.
So how do you continue to challenge your players and sharpen their skills when they reach the 14u level? We’ve assembled four great drills to run with your 14u players every practice after the warm up and stretch. We’ve laid out two throwing drills and two hitting drills, which are best practiced one after another in the sequence they appear in this article.
This is also a good opportunity for the coach to watch the players, to see if they’re using the proper techniques, and any corrections can be made if necessary.
Throwing Drill #1: Wrist snaps.
The purpose of this drill is to isolate your players’ wrist mechanics, so they can focus-on and improve this vital aspect of their throwing technique.
Start by having the player kneel down so that the knee touching the ground is on the same side as their throwing arm. Then, have the player take their glove hand and put it straight across their chest and underneath the elbow of their throwing arm. The player should have a ball in their throwing hand. Make sure the elbow of the player’s throwing hand is at the same level as their shoulder.
Then, have the player throw the ball while never taking their elbow off their glove. The point of this is to practice the snap of their wrist. Their fingers should always finish the throw pointing towards their glove so that the ball gets proper rotation.
The player should be aiming to put the tightest spin as possible on the ball. Have the player do twenty throws like this, or have them keep throwing until you feel they’ve mastered their wrist technique and are putting proper spin on the ball.
Throwing Drill # 2: Around the horn.
The purpose of this drill is to simulate the speed and accuracy that is needed during competitive gameplay. With this drill your players are not only practicing moving the ball around the diamond as quickly as possible, but are also improving their catching skills, and how quickly they can move from a catch into a throw.
This is a drill that will require four players. Start by having all four players take a base on the diamond—one on home base, another on first, another on second, and the last player on third. Starting with the player on home base, have your players throw the ball around the diamond—from home to first, then to second, then to third, then back to home. With a stopwatch, time how fast your players can make the ball do three complete laps around the diamond. Each time you run this drill, your players should be working to improve their speed without compromising form.
Run this drill twice. For the first round, when each player catches the ball, have them turn to the inside—so that their body spins clockwise—to face the next player, then wind up and throw the ball. For the second round, have your players practice their spin maneuvers by catching the ball and quickly spinning around counter clockwise so that the momentum of their spin leads immediately into their throw.
The players should not only be working on their speed, but also their accuracy. The less each player needs to move away from their base to make the catch, the better. Don’t stop the stopwatch until the player at home base is touching the base with their foot (if they aren’t already.)
If you’re working with a big team, make this a competitive drill by creating teams of four and seeing which team can make the ball do three complete laps around the diamond the fastest.
Hitting Drill # 1 Upper body isolation.
The purpose of this drill is to isolate your players’ upper body mechanics, so they can focus on improving the bat path of their swing, and their timing.
Have your players pair off in teams of twos. These players will take turns being the “hitter” and the “tosser”.
Have the hitter kneel down so that their back knee is touching the ground and their other leg is out in front of them with a slight bend in the knee, and foot planted on the ground. Have the tosser kneel down as well, about eight to ten feet away from the hitter, and on a 45°angle from the hitter.
Now, the tosser will lob the ball into the hitter’s strike zone. The hitter will try to drive the ball into a net that you’ve set up in front of them, or into an open field. After ten hits, have the hitter and tosser switch places.
Once this drill gets too easy, draw random numbers from 1 to 10 on your softballs and have the hitter identify and call out the number on the ball as they swing. This will force the hitter to really concentrate and keep their eyes on the ball.
When running this drill, make sure your pairs of players are evenly spaced out in a way that they won’t be hitting balls in a direction that could hit another player.
Hitting Drill # 2 Rapid fire balls.
The purpose of this drill is to help improve your players’ bat speed, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination.
Start by having your players pair off into teams of twos. Again, these players will take turns being the “hitter” and the “tosser”. Just like the last drill, have the tosser kneel at a 45° angle from the hitter, eight to ten feet away. The tosser should have five balls—one in their hand, and four more beside them where they can quickly and easily be picked up and tossed. The hitter will stand in their normal batting stance.
Have the tosser lob the first ball into the hitter’s strike zone. The hitter will try to hit the ball as effectively as possible. The moment the hitter’s bat makes contact with the ball and begins to reload their swing, the tosser will lob another ball. Repeat this until all five balls have been thrown. The hitter’s goal is to hit all five “rapid fire” balls as effectively as possible.
After all five balls have been thrown, have the tosser and hitter switch positions.
Looking for more great drills?
The best drills are those that help players to sharpen their form and technique, so they can improve their gameplay. One common problem many players have with their hitting technique is not being able to “keep their weight back” when they swing. If you have players on your team who are struggling with keeping their weight back, try these great drills! But hitting is only half the battle. How are your players’ catching skills? If you have any players that struggle with catching and need to improve their consistency, speed, or accuracy, try these fantastic catching drills!