6 Tips for Building Better Baseball Practice Plans
August 1, 2012
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It can be challenging to devise baseball practice plans that addresses all of your team's needs, particularly since the NCAA limits the number of hours coaches are allowed to work with their teams each week. To avoid wasting precious time, coaches need to identify areas of their team's game to focus on.
To develop an effective baseball practice plan, you must first answer some questions. What are your team's strengths and weaknesses? What do you need to work on most? Will you be indoors or outdoors? And, most important, how much time do you have to work with? Once you have answered these questions, use the following recommendations to get the most out of your practices.
Budget Your Time
There's nothing more frustrating from a coaching standpoint than having a few drills left on your practice plan when practice ends. If every day were spring training and your team and players could work out all day, there would be no need to budget your time. However, this is never the case unless you are coaching at the big league level. If you want to cover bunt defense, first and third offense, live bullpens and on-field batting practice, allot enough time to work on those aspects without forgetting the basics of throwing, hitting and fielding.
This goes hand in hand with budgeting your time. If you feel that your team needs better bunt defense to win an upcoming game, that should be your priority. Don't waste time on areas that may not be as important to your team on that particular day.
Players' attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Avoid spending too much time on a particular skill or drill, so the players can focus on what you are saying and demonstrating. A good target is 15 to 20 minutes per segment. If you get to the 20-minute mark and feel like you haven't accomplished what you wanted, move on to the next drill. You can always come back to it later in the practice or even the next day. Limiting the time you spend on each drill will allow you to move quickly from drill to drill and make practice crisp and clean.
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Your target should be two to two and a half hours of practice. The longer your team practices on a given day, the less they will retain near the end of practices pushing three hours. In fact, they may not even retain what was covered at the beginning of practice.
Baseball practice plans should be about repetitions, focusing on quality more than quantity. This applies most to in-season practices. In mid- to late-April, there should be no need to practice as long as you did in January. Keep it short and get the most out of your players.
We have all heard it and said it a million times: pitchers are a different breed of baseball player. So it makes sense for them to have their own practice plan. Because team chemistry is so important, it's natural for coaches to want the whole team to practice together. However, to get the most out of practice, pitchers must be left alone (or with a pitching coach) to complete their daily routines. Too often a pitcher's time is wasted on shagging fly balls or running bases, when he could be working on specific drills, whether mechanical work or conditioning, that will help him on the mound.
Much time is wasted on stretching before practice. Don't get me wrong, flexibility has its place in baseball. However, if you have limited time for practice, warm your players up as quickly as possible. A dynamic warm-up is a great way to get their blood flowing in a short amount of time. The best warm-ups incorporate baseball movements in the drills, helping to prepare each player for their individual skill work. Be sure to allow time at the end of practice for players to perform static stretches. This will help cool down their muscles and improve their flexibility. This is also a good opportunity for coaches to address their teams about the days ahead.