With bunting mastered, it's time to find the next Crystal Bustos.

First 15-20 Minutes (Warm-up)

The warm-up routine is standard: stretching, moderate jog to a finishing sprint. Then, catching, throwing and ground-ball lines. Always stress mechanics. At this point, the girls should be proficient enough at throwing and catching to do it on their own. Have them pair off into two lines, facing each other and let them throw to themselves. Make sure you leave plenty of room between each girl. If they struggle with this, you can go back to the two or three lines, with coaches tossing them the ball.

Next 2 Minutes (Water Break)

Keep your players hydrated with a water break. But have them hustle back on the field.

Next 10 Minutes (Review Bunting)

Focus on the stance, hip turn, the angle of the bat and catching the bat with the ball, Also, focus on directional bunting. Remind them how to do it. Call out the direction and pitch the ball. You can do two to three kids at a time, depending on your number of coaches.

Next 15 Minutes (Hitting)

Stumped about Crystal Bustos? She's a one of the great hitters of U.S. Olympic softball fame. Now's your chance to develop some excellent young hitters.

Hopefully, you have access to a cage with more than one tunnel. If not, you can do this outside. Once again, explain the strike zone and let the kids know the object is to swing at strikes. Start with the grip. The bat should be in the fingers, not back in the palms, hands together with the knocker knuckles lined up. The stance should be balanced with the feet outside the shoulders, knees flexed slightly, hands back about three to six inches above the back shoulder, with the front shoulder tucked to the chin. Now the batter is set to attack the ball.

Teach it as a dance, 1-2-3. One is the stride (keep it short; 3-4 inches is sufficient to affect a weight shift). Two, squish the bug with the back foot. Three, swing (make sure to get the arms extended and rotate the back side hip through the ball).

A trick to teach the proper hip turn:  Have the girl stand facing a wall, about arm's-length away. Get in the proper stance - with a bat and swing without hitting the wall. You can't do it without a proper hip turn and keeping your hands inside of what would be the ball. Finish the swing strong by snapping the wrists. The idea is to accelerate the bat head through the ball. The biggest key to hitting is for the batter to keep her eye on the ball. You can't hit what you can't see. When you move them into the box, center them to the plate and make sure they can reach the outer half of the plate with the bat. 

Coaching Point
  • See the ball all the way into the bat. Get your arms extended and finish with your hands.

Next 2 Minutes (Water Break)

Keep your players hydrated with a water break. But have them hustle back on the field.

Next 15 Minutes (Hitting Stations)

Set up three stations: a tee station, a soft-toss station and live pitching. Have one coach handle each station. Have the kids rotate through each station. There are a number of different drills you can incorporate into each station. You can use a short, light bat and have them do one-arm swings off the tee (this is good for developing strength and working on extension). You can soft-toss or use the tee with deflated soccer balls (again, a means to build strength and to teach them to use their hands to accelerate the bat head through the ball). The key to you as the pitcher is to throw it where they're swinging. Nothing builds confidence in a kid as a hitter better than contact. That's why it's better for you to pitch to the kids when they're learning to hit than it is for them to hit off a machine. 

Remaining Time

It's time to put in your signs. Keep them simple. Tell the kids you're going to give a series of signs. If you touch your chin, that means you want them to bunt the next pitch, if it's in the strike zone. If they're on base and you touch your belt, it means you want them to steal. Emphasize that the sign only applies to the next pitch and they need to step out of the box and look for the signs before each pitch. At the young ages, they only need three signs: bunt, steal and take (which means they don't swing, no matter where the pitch is).

Congratulate the kids for 'crushing' the ball. Give them the next practice time (or game time) and follow up with an e-mail to the parents.