Ray Adams, a youth travel team coach, submitted this article on running an effective team practice. I particularly like how these tips keep all players (pitchers and position players) active throughout the entire practice session. As always, I encourage you to submit your articles, details here.
With cold weather upon us and the excitement of the upcoming season just around the corner, one of the greatest challenges of a youth baseball coach is not only finding an indoor practice facility for off season workouts, but also trying to cover as many aspects of the game as possible if and when you do find such a place.
As a coach for a youth travel team, I spend a great deal of my free time planning our indoor practices. Our setting is an old office building that has been setup with a single full size batting cage, and a space that's around 60 sq. feet behind the cage. The limited space creates the biggest challenge in planning practices, but here are some tips that may help those of you who are in similar situations.
1. Divide the team into halves and have two separate - one hour practices. When we first began practicing in December, we had the entire team show up for the first two practices of the month. This was only to let the new guys get to know each other and gel a bit. Afterward, we split the team up to arrive at separate times which cuts down on "idle" time.
2. Set up stations. Have assistant coaches or parent volunteers to assist. Every week, two of our three stations are the same. At station 1 we have a guy hitting off the tee, with a coach feeding the tee and covering fundamentals. At station 2 another coach pitches live. Finally, station 3 is where I am. I call it the classroom part of practice because each week we cover a different topic and always review our discussions from the weeks before. In our six practices thus far, I have covered pitching mechanics, pickoffs, rundowns, 1st and 3rd situations, batting and pitching signs, and how to take primary and secondary leads. You can't actually perform some of these things at the cage but a dry erase board works great for covering topics like run downs and relays.
Remember, the purpose of covering these topics indoors in the offseason is to save time on the field when you practice outdoors.
3. Give them homework. For example, some of our guys have never pitched before, so going over pitching mechanics for one hour a week at practice just isn't enough. Have your pitchers work at home 10 minutes a day, 3 days a week simulating the pitching motions they learn at practice. You'll be able to tell the ones who actually work at it.
4. Also, you can utilize the cage for working with catcher's on mechanics, throwing ground balls and short hops to infielders, ground balls and do or die situations to outfielders, and pitchers can actually throw a bull pen in the cage.
Covering as many aspects of the game as possible at your indoor off season practices will not only save you time later on , but it will also allow you to have more productive workouts. Good luck to you and your team in 2009!