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Get all of your parent’s email addresses and use them for two things:
Communicate – Communicate – Communicate. Not necessarily lengthy, just frequent. Subscribe all your player’s parents (and maybe players, if they are a bit older) to our Baseball Tips Newsletter. It is a quick read 2 times each month. We do not rent or sell their names and just want to supply our 14,680 (at last count) baseball families with some added knowledge and fun. Of course, they can delete us easily if they so choose. (You can add them individually. The sign-up box is just below our logo on www.baseballtips.com home page). Rule #8 –Good Teams Practice Well! Every league is different. Some restrict practice times. Others have limited fields. Some coaches have limited time as well. HAVE A PLAN! Plan tomorrow's practice today. Plan next week, this week. Planning is operative word. I don’t think that any drill should take longer than 20 minutes! (OK, excluding BP – more on that later).
TIME ANYTHING & EVERYTHING! If you will keep a watch, you can get their blood flowing even more. More as in, “OK guys, 10 more minutes, let's do it right. Pick up pace…Ok, 5 more minutes…Keep it going”…you get idea. And it becomes more fun! The blood is pumping, kids are focusing. Just be sure to tailor it to your player’s age and skill level.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW! Teach something new each practice. As importantly, review and drill a particular skill taught in a previous practice using one of your 20 minute segments.
Quality repetitions are vital and incredibly important! Too many coaches teach a skill and then next season, they teach it again; once a year…need it or not! If you think about how counter-productive this is, you will never do it…or do it again.
ARMS – ARMS – ARMS! There are more throwing errors than fielding errors! It may not sound correct and it is not my opinion…It is a fact! Teach proper throwing and work on arms every practice.
Have them constantly throwing to or at a target. (The exception will be when teaching one of your pitchers a new pitch.) You begin by throwing to a tarp, net or fence. The reasoning is that accuracy will not be great until a skill like a new pitch is learned. Accuracy will follow proper mechanics and you can avoid unnecessary shakes in confidence.
THE LAST 10 MINUTES OF PRACTICE IS JUST FUN! Preferably doing something that requires players to use oxygen. Leave them with their tongues hanging out. I learned this many years after I began coaching.
Many players think baseball is boring…and that is why they leave sport too soon. They are kids…and kids want to run, play games, have contests, run races, hit balls, etc. You know…fun stuff.
Well, drills can get boring if that’s all there is to a practice. But drills are really important, vital lifelines to improvement and success of both player and team…or not!
But let’s not forget fun aspect and prime reason most kids play. (It is play ball, not work ball, right?)
Get creative! Here are some of my ideas. (Do not limit yourself to these, got it?)
Relay Races – ½ of team at home plate and ½ at 2nd base with hats on backwards. 1 simple relay race. Then 1 race backwards, then 1 final race for all marbles, running sideways (or heel to heel side-kicks like basketball teams do....you may have some better variations).
Ball In The Trash Can – Find a trash barrel from dugout or near practice field and place it on home plate on its side. Now take your team to a distance where most all players can throw to target at least on a bounce or two.
Now toss them a short fly ball where they can make like they are centerfielder throwing runner out at home. They ooh, aah and cheer on close throws (there are always a bunch of these). I have no idea why but they really like to do this…Go Figure!
Home Run Derby – Find a spot where about ½ or more of team can hit one over fence and soft toss 3 per each player (soft toss, also known as flip drills, is drill our automated Wheeler Dealer machine does automatically. It can be seen on our training aids page if you are still unsure how to do this.) Have a second round, then have a finals. Maybe player who comes in 2nd gets to go after all homers. Watch ‘em cheer for each other.
Basketball Game – If there’s a court or a hoop nearby, simply produce a hidden basketball AFTER dividing them up into teams. Announce a 10 minute game. Watch ‘em go. Totally unexpected…and a lot of fun
Water Balloon Toss – Pick a hot day and have a supply of filled baseball-sized water balloons (make sure they are small balloons to begin with so they remain taut). Partner them off in lines (like you do when warming up their arms) with players about 6 to 8 feet apart and with a partner on one row having balloon.
USE 2 HANDS! Express to players that in baseball, every ball you can catch with 2 hands should be caught with 2 hands. Also, display how pinkie fingers of both hands should be near and parallel to each other with hands being parallel and held below waist.
SOFT HANDS Explain that all infielders must have soft hands. This begins when both arms are outstretched (elbows are not locked) and then cradled toward body as underhand toss comes toward you. Water balloons will require special focus on soft hands to keep from breaking.
READY…GO! On coaches command… Player underhand tosses to his partner who catches and holds balloon. His partner then tosses it back to his partner.
After 2-4 rounds, teams with a full balloon step 2 feet further apart. Repeat. Then 2 steps further apart! Keep going until you have a winner.
Once you have a winner, coaches produce as many extra full balloons as there are coaches and winning team gets to “blast coaches.” Yes, turn around coach…and do use typical precautions as boys will be boys. (Now you tell me that 10 or 20 years from now those players won’t remind you of how much fun that was?!)
It’s not all about baseball…but it is all about fun!
Thanks for reading. Best of luck this season. Now get out there and Have Some Fun! ----Coach JP
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John Peter, presently aged 50 something, is a lifelong student of the greatest game on earth. After being asked to find a more suitable occupation at age 26, many seasons after donning his first uni at age 7, he has transcended his skills into the much more important role of coach and especially as an instructor! He prides himself as never having charged any player or coach for a single lesson!