Youth Baseball Practice
by Marty Schupak
Conducting a successful practice is not complicated as long as you have spent time in the preseason planning. This preparation allows you to run a crisp, upbeat, one-hour practice that covers the fundamentals. Remember, a practice of more than an hour and fifteen minutes is not necessary for baseball players 7 to 12 years old. A well organized practice should include five to eight drills, with one or two backup drills in case the team does not respond to some of the planning exercises.
Start your practice with one or two warmup drills. After the warm-ups is a good time to gather the team to review the last game and to go over what they will do during the day's practice. It is also a good time to point out player's achievements in the last game. Point out two or three players at each practice and make sure to mention every player during the season.
The main goal of each practice is to actively involve as many players as possible in every drill. This limits downtime, where players would otherwise stand around watching. The coach, therefore, must use assistant coaches to run several drills at the same time, focusing on different skills. Even during batting practice you can set up two on-deck stations with one player using a batting tee and the other player working on soft toss with a coach.
Assistant coaches are an important part of a youth baseball team. When choosing your assistant coaches, do not simply go with parents who show up early for a game or stay's to watch the team's practice. Your assistant coaches should be someone who has experience coaching or is eager to learn. It should be someone who can naturally step in to coach if you can not make a game or practice.
A well-rounded practice should include basic skills and skill oriented drills as well as work on strategy. And don't forget to include a warm-up or cool down drill or two to break up the practice. Think of your practice as having a flexible structure. Plan to go over certain drills, but be prepared to deviate if necessary. For instance, if a drill works extremely well and players want more repetition, extend the drill. On the other hand, if a drill just isn't working, move on to something else.
Mix things up once in a while and hold a mini batting practice or play your team's favorite drill at the beginning of practice. These are great strategies for making sure players arrive at practice on time.
The following are guidelines for designing a practice session: