For all of our young hitters out there, it’s important to find a balance between boring drills and movements, and exciting drills to help build the foundation of their swing.
As Coach Lisle always likes to say, “we trick our players with drills.”
Especially at a young age, tricking your youth hitters with drills are a great way to start building elite swing movements while keeping it fun. For baseball hitting drills for 9 year olds, we’re sharing with you 5 of our favorite drills in The Hitting Vault to help the youngsters develop elite habits while keeping practice fun!
Anti Wrap Drill
The anti wrap drill is exceptional for creating good habits in young hitters right from the get-go. The load position is the first step in the elite swing movement, so this drill will help build that foundation. All you’re going to need here is a bat and a shoelace or a rope to tie to the end of your bat. This drill demonstrates how to properly load and gives immediate feedback to the hitter.
When we load, we want the knob of the bat pointed towards the catchers feet, but we do not want to wrap the bat around our heads, as that will create a long and flat swing. See the image below. Do you notice how the bat is wrapped around the hitters head? The string provides us with a perfect visual for where our bat head ends up in our load. The image below is a great example of wrapping the bat and exactly what we don’t want to see in the load position.
OK great… Now we know what we don’t want to see in the load position.
Next, let’s look at a good example of how to do this drill.
You start the drill in your normal stance, then as the hitter loads and points the knob of the bat at the catcher’s feet, keep the string in the right place, not wrapping the bat. You should notice the string in the middle of the hitters face, or on their helmet.
For young hitters to be able to repeat this motion and engrave it into their muscle memory will help them tremendously in the long run. This is a great drill to teach the feel of a proper load position and not wrapping the bat around your head.
Put out the Fire Drill
As we progress from teaching good habits in the load aspect of the swing, it is important that we continue to work the rest of the body. One of the main sources of power and ability to drive the ball stems from rotation. The Put out the Fire Drill — might be the most fun drill we have — it’s meant to develop rotational power. The hitter should have the bucket of balls gripped the same way as it is in the picture below. From there, the hitter is going to go through his or her swing and when done correctly, the entire bucket of balls will come flying out cleanly. Working on rhythm in the load and then driving through the point of contact is the most important part of this drill.
So as we can see in the pictures, the hitter goes into the load and stride and then rotates to the point of contact driving the top hand through the zone, thus sending balls out of the bucket and “putting out the fire”. This drill is great for young hitters because not only is it fun to do but it also teaches good habits of loading, transferring weight, and driving the top hand through the zone.
Pool Noodle Drill
Like the put out the fire drill, the pool noodle drill focuses on teaching good habits while developing rotational power. This drill is an extension of the half turns drill, but it reinforces staying balanced when rotating. With younger hitters, we often see the head lunge forward or collapsing at the waist when the hips explode, this drill helps the hitter feel that movement and stay balanced through their hip rotation.
Begin this drill by pinning the bat against your back leg, for righties, that is the right leg, and lefties it is the left leg– keep it there throughout the entirety of the drill. Then continue through the swing to the point of contact. This is where a coach, teammate, parent, or a baseball buddy from down the street will be holding a pool noodle in front of the hitters face. The pool noodle is there to make sure the hitter does not lean forward and throw off his balance.
The correct way to do it is depicted below, the hitter begins in his stance and rotates with the bat pinned to his back leg while keeping his head behind the noodle.
We like this drill because it builds another element into one of our staple drills with young hitters — the half turn drill. The pool noodle makes it fun while maintaining its key lessons and providing direct feedback to the hitters that like to lunge forward.
Don’t Squish the Bug
Head out to any youth baseball field or batting cage and I can almost guarantee you’ll hear this from parents or coaches when the youth hitter is rotating through their swing:
“squish the bug”
At The Hitting Vault, that is not our philosophy. When studying elite hitters, you very rarely see them squishing the bug. Check out this short video of Mike Trout and watch how his back foot gains ground during his swing.
OK, now that I got that rant out of the way, let’s get into the drill!
The don’t squish the bug drill helps young hitters break the habit of not exploding off their back leg and helps them start to create power for themselves through the ball. The drill is very simple, all you need is a tee, bat, and a bucket. It is similar to the anti-wrap drill in the sense that it gives you immediate feedback. When doing this drill, you are going to be hitting off of a tee, but place the bucket directly against the outside of the hitter’s back foot as shown below:
From here, the hitter is going to load, stride to the tee, and swing. While swinging, the hitter will get immediate feedback if they are performing the drill properly. If the back foot rotates in place, the hitter will make contact and knock the bucket over. If the hitter explodes off their back foot with good hip rotation, the front foot will actually come unanchored from the ground and move forward a couple inches.
You’ll notice in the image above that the foot is driving towards the point of contact and creating a ton of rotational power. That separation from the bucket will help drive the ball because it is creating forceful torque in the core and in the legs.
See Saw Happy Gilmore
The See Saw Happy Gilmore drill ties together the four drills before this. It works rotational power, the load, getting off the back side, and a good swing path. This drill is done by starting a few feet back from the tee in a normal relaxed stance, with your feet about shoulder width apart.
From here, you want to take a small step forward with your foot while loading the hands back towards the catcher’s feet (remember the anti-wrap drill) and load up while not wrapping the bat behind the hitter’s head.
The next phase of the drill is to take a step with your back leg behind where your front leg is with a reverse crossover step. Note how Coach Lisle has his hands loaded towards the catcher and is in a good launch position.
Then, take another step with your front foot to the tee, and attack the ball from here. This drill is excellent for tying the previous four drills together. Creating rhythm and good habits in loading, weight transfer, and top hand driving all comes out of this drill when executed properly. While it is a little complex in its origin state, it is great for youth baseball hitters to master and practice regularly.
When coaching or working with youth baseball hitters, it is essential to work the basics of an elite swing pattern. With that said, it’s just as critical to keep the drills fun and not overwhelm them with complicated movements and boring drills. For hitters that are around 9 years old, the 5 baseball hitting drills for 9 year olds that i’ve outlined above are a great place to start. If you’re looking for other drills that we like for younger hitters, check out our article 3 baseball hitting drills for beginners.
One quick tip that I have for not overwhelming your younger hitters is to split up your cage our practice time by tricking them with drills for a half or quarter of the time, and then letting them hit live so they can start to feel the movements themselves. The sooner our hitters start to feel their mistakes and understand elite movements, the closer we are to helping them unlock their power and seeing big results on game day.