This blog was inspired by some really good questions we have received from youth coaches across the country. When we post what the Driveline Academy is doing on social media, we usually get questions immediately about how and why we do the things we do. In this article, I will talk about the how and why behind medicine balls in the Academy.
Here are four questions that were asked (referencing 12U and younger), along with our responses.
Q: In training rotational power, which of these are best suited to youth movement? Do you avoid the rope med ball ones?
Referencing this video:
We avoid the rope med balls for our academy only because we want to be cautious and aware of the injury risk they pose for young players. The rope med ball exercises require much more technique instruction, as well as constant supervision. Having anywhere from 30-50 kids training in one session with the rope med ball exercises is asking for trouble. They pose a high risk for very low reward. (That said, we have now transitioned to rope med ball exercises as a warm up for our older hitters in the gym. Those exercises are in the position of offset open and offset closed stance.)
The regular med balls help with the output we are specifically encouraging. We want our players to move fast, so taking a med ball and throwing it against the wall as hard and as fast as they can accomplishes that safely and easily. The rope med ball (especially with the younger ages) would not do that optimally.
Q: The med-ball relays look awesome. What motor output(s) can I tell the kids they are developing through these drills? Is the output different for the one where they pick up the ball and carry it while running versus the one where they pick up the ball and put it on a bench/box?
Referencing these videos:
The med ball relays are essentially just games to develop athleticism. They teach kids how to problem solve by moving quickly while carrying an object, all while competing and having fun, so there is benefit to this type of training even if it isn’t baseball specific. The game that asks them to put the med ball on a bench/box introduces an added constraint that requires the kids to decelerate their bodies in order to intentionally put the ball somewhere, rather than just dropping it or handing it off. We want kids to problem solve to create optimal movements within the games. That usually revolves around moving their bodies or an object as quickly as possible to complete a task.
Looking for more games to play in practice?
Check out our Youth Practice Games Book! 47 Easy to implement games you can plug and play into a practice plan.
Q: What’s the right med-ball weight for youth? For hook ’em, something like 4lb? Would it need to be slightly heavier for the other drills (the ones in the sprint/bench work look bigger)?
The weights of the med balls can vary depending on the drill/game. My recommendation for a 12u or younger team is the lighter the better when doing anything rotational or involving throwing. For the carrying drills/games, choose a weight where the majority of the kids don’t look like they are struggling to accomplish the task. One of the relay games we have done is a mystery ball relay. The player doesn’t know what weight the ball is because they are similar sizes and the same color and in a pile. The weights vary from 2 to 12 pounds.
Q: Seeing burst sprint speed in both (with clear maps to base-running and defense), but looking for the baseball link for the ball-to-bench move. I have the same question for the drill where they throw/catch the ball over the yellow goal-posts. I like to give a “why” or else players and parents will think I have lost my mind.
Understanding and being able to explain the “why” behind drills is super important. Because sometimes people wonder: “If it doesn’t look like baseball specifically, is it really helping the kids be better baseball players?”
Movement experience is how I like to look at athleticism. The more environments kids get put in, the more movement experience they will gain, which can lead to athleticism.
Here is an analogy that makes sense to me.
If you put Kid A on the same playground everyday, they will be able to maneuver around it better each time. But problem solving—i.e. how they move through the playground—will most likely not vary much. If you put Kid B—who only has experience playing in nature (climbing trees, rocks, hills etc.)—on the same playground, Kid B will maneuver the playground not only better/quicker but they will maneuver it way differently and most likely more efficiently because of the different experiences they had prior.
When training youth athletes, it is important to give them the opportunity to train in multiple environments so that they become better athletes. In these environments, the task goals should be framed around problem solving, moving fast, moving an object fast, intent in accelerating or decelerating, competing and HAVING FUN!
These questions are awesome, and I personally love diving in and responding to them! Some come from social media but we get most of them from our Driveline PLUS members, who have access to us and ask these types of questions frequently. If you are interested in joining the PLUS community (which I highly recommend), just click here.
It is a place to grow as a coach and player, but I have also found it to be a great resource for parents who want to learn more about the game and training processes to help coach their son or daughter’s youth team. If you aren’t sure about PLUS but have questions, feel free to reach out to our support team at (425) 523-4030 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They are the best in the business!