Baseball and Softball are failure sports. Players are rated by how much they fail. Pitcher’s ERA tells you how many runs they are likely to give up while a hitter is considered good for getting on base only one-third of the time. That’s why it is imperative to keep the game as fun as possible for younger players by breaking down skills into games themselves.
Bunting is an incredibly powerful tool that is especially useful in tight games. It requires determination, courage and touch. Nervousness destroys these requirements. So, when you put down the bunt sign, you want your young player to crouch into the bunting position with fun on her face. Having fun is the optimal psychological state of mind for performance. And she’ll be having fun on the field because you made learning the skill fun with these engaging bunt drills.
The Hoola-hoop Game
You want to bunt the ball softly into no man’s land; that Bermuda triangle of turf between the pitcher, catcher, corner infielder and the foul line. That’s what’s going to make the fielders work the hardest to earn the out and it will guarantee your on-base runner advances without incident. So, buy some hoola-hoops and toss them on the ground in that sweet spot.
Now turn it into a game. This drill will teach them how soft they have to handle the bat in order to lay down the perfect bunt. It will also teach them how to get into an effective crouch in order to deliver that soft bunt. Lastly, it will teach them the importance of controlling the bat height with their body instead of their arms. All of these skills will be learned while they have fun trying to out-bunt each other for more points. And when it comes time to bunt during a competition, just remind them of that invisible hoola-hoop target on the ground. Then positively reinforce them by telling them to go nail it.
Don’t use buckets tipped on their sides or other stand-up targets. This may teach them to bunt through the target which will rocket the ball right to a fielder during a game.
Learning the Zone
One of the most common mistakes made while bunting, even at the professional level, is the urge to bunt at balls outside of the strike zone. This often leads to easily fielded pop-ups and it can put the batter behind in the count quickly. And once you’re at two strikes, the bunt option is out the window and the batter becomes a likely out.
Remember, a walk is as good as a hit. Even during a sacrifice bunt when the whole stadium knows what’s coming, the pitcher still has to execute a strike. The burden of execution is still on the opposing team. Your little ballplayers need to learn how to be selective.
Line your little guys up. Each gets a soft pitch to either bunt or take. Instruct the hitters that they must pull the bat back when taking a ball. The hitter gets a point for taking a ball and a point for bunting a strike fair. No points are awarded for foul bunts or taken strikes. Turn it into a competition and crank up the pitch speeds throughout the session and season.
The Bunt Game
Now that the kids have the touch and know the strike zone, it’s time to play an all-out game. But here’s the catch — teams can only bunt. Make it a race to first base and feel free to start runners on base during an inning. You may have to make multiple teams as you’ll only need an infield on defense. Parents and coaches can pitch but don’t let the kids leave their defensive posts until the bunt has gone down.