I have often heard parents or other coaches say, “I wish I had had a practice like this when I was a kid!” All too often, baseball practices are organized in ways that are ineffective, or unpleasant, or both.
For example, we have a new player on our team who is very talented, and he and his parents both told me that the coach he had the previous year just had the players doing the same things over and over, without giving instruction. After awhile, no one wanted to show up for practices. And this was at the competitive level, where we’d expect to find better coaching.
Boring practices can lead to kids wanting to try out for other active sports, like soccer. Let’s keep our kids interested in baseball.
So, here are some tips for organizing practices that players will love, and that will improve your team more effectively:
1. Split into groups for drills, depending on how many coaches or dad-helpers you have. Have smaller groups of players at different stations, so you don’t have so many waiting to do something. Keep everyone busy as much as you can.
2. Give them something new from time to time. There are tons of baseball drills, and even if your old standbys are effective, they’ll have a better attitude if there’s a new challenge now and then. (For ideas, check out The Baseball Drill Book (The Drill Book Series). It has loads of useful drills to keep things interesting.)
3. For a new drill, make sure you explain in advance why they’re doing this, what they’ll be learning. It helps with motivation.
4. Don’t overload them with too much new material all at once. Start with the basics, and work up from there at a pace they can keep up with.
5. Find a way to make some drills competitive. This gets them fired up.
6. End an outdoor practice with a scrimmage if you can.
Here are some examples of making drills competitive:
- If you’re teaching bunting, put down some baseball cards where you want them to bunt. Then, if they bunt over the card, or close to it (depending on what you’re wanting to accomplish) they win the card.
- For a relay drill, set up 2-3 lines of 4-5 kids each, with lots of space in between. When you say “go”, see how quickly they can relay the ball up one way and back the other, with overhand throws. The purpose is to practice throwing to cutoffs. The line of kids that gets the ball back first wins. Have them practice it a few times first so they can get in the groove and you can also give them pointers on how to do this properly.
- For pitching accuracy, set a softball on a batting tee out at the distance of the batter’s box, and have them try to hit it off. It gives them something to aim for and usually, just a few of them will be able to do it.
- Have a coach pitch batting practice with fielders in position and baserunners on base. See who can score the most runs before hitting out.
- Have a verbal quiz on various subjects, (back up positions, where to throw to, rules of the game, etc) and give out baseball cards to the first ones to answer correctly.
The point is to make it both educational and fun.
I also tend to have a pre-practice talk and a wrap-up talk, but that’s a whole topic in itself.
I hope you find these ideas helpful in organizing an effective, fun practice!