Jamie Joy Feature
Volume 5, No. 6 - July 2010
Coaching When Practicing
Now that the tournament is going on, practice is what makes perfect. Too many times I watch practices being conducted the old fashioned way. Place all the kids out on the field, hit them groundballs and fly balls. After everyone takes 5-10 balls each then players will come in to hit live pitching and that will normally conclude a practice. This is fine, but what it doesn't do is give each player the maximum number of repetitions they need. It also doesn't work on angles the players need to work on.
To start practice have the players come together, to stretch get loose, and as a team run one pole to get their legs loose. Now have the team gather around home plate and work on their footwork. First player will run (sprint) to first base, Shuffle to second base, back pedal to third base, shuffle back home, carioca from home to second and back finally sprint down to first base. You can also use ladder drills or have the players run cones.
This is followed by playing catch. When your players are playing catch they need to play with a purpose. What I mean by this is give a two-hand target, practice catching with two hands so the receiver can be ready to return the ball quickly. The ball needs to away in the four seam grip. Once players have completed warming up you can then move on to practice.
For more ground balls there are a variety of drills one can use, I am going to discuss two-man fungo. This drill allows for more repetitions by the infielders. Each coach should have a catcher (with mask and throat guard on) and five balls. One coach will take shortstop and third base, the other will take second base and first base. Each coach will hit 15-20 ground balls to each infielder, with the infielder returning the ball to the coach's catcher. Next, the coach hitting to the shortstop and third base will have the players throw to first base and the first baseman will return to the hitting coach's catcher. The other coach will have the second baseman return the balls to the catcher.
Outfielders will work on a variety of drills, ones that I will use for this practice is angles. You will line up your outfielders and give them a direction left or right. You will then throw the ball in that direction and the outfielder has to track the ball down and make the catch or get the ball in to the cut off. The cut off can either be a player or the coach. After working the outfielders back on the ball you can then have the outfielders run towards the coach and work on coming in on the ball. This drill will work on four ways the players might move in the outfield and you can get more reps in shorter time.
When hitting the coach should have more players engaged then just one. You can have many stations going on at once as opposed to one. For example players could be bunting, soft toss, tee, wiffle balls, cage and live on the field. This gets the player as many swings as possible.
The Coach needs to plan out the practice and try and get the players as many repetitions as possible. Nothing is better than a well thought out practice. The players enjoy it and get more out of it. Now after doing these drills, the coach can put the players back on to the field and do a round of infield-outfield and see how they look after getting more repetitions from your practice.
These were just some examples of how to get more out of your practice time and help improve the talent levels of your players. There a variety of different drills that you can use and many can be found at: www.LittleLeagueCoach.org.
Enjoy your summer on the ball fields and get the most out of practice. Remember that practice makes perfect and perfect practice leads to precision on the field.