Baseball Coaching Tips for Pre-Game Warm Up Routine
When most people think of coaching a baseball team, the last thing they probably think of is the pre-game warm-ups. It seems like a minor detail but in reality is actually an essential part of “game day”. Let’s not pretend that youth ( 10-12 yrs old) need to loosen their muscles to prevent injury because they really don’t. However, what is important about pre-game warm ups at the baseball level is building confidence and setting a positive tone for the upcoming game. Let’s take a look at some Baseball Coaching Tips for Pre-Game Warm Ups that will help get the team ready for the big game!
#1 Arrival Time
A baseball coach will want to set an arrival time for game day. I would suggest at least 20-30 minutes before the actual game time. I would also suggest that the coach arrive 5-10 minutes before the time that has been set for arrival. It will look better if the coach is either the first one at the field or at the very least 5 minutes early. If there are players who arrive early then I would put them to “work” right away-helping set up equipment, play catch, play pepper, etc. Keeping the early arrivals busy will help keep them out of trouble. There isn’t a coach out there who wants to have a conversation with a parent about how “Little Johnny” sprained his ankle fooling around on the bleachers before the game. Avoid that conversation by simply starting your pre-game warm-up with the first arrivals.
Also check out: What a Coach Should Bring to a Game
#2 Stretching, Jogging, & Exercises
As was touched on in the introduction, younger baseball players with young muscles aren’t really a concern for major muscle injuries due to lack of an effective warm up routine. However, there is nothing wrong with running a brief warm up drill that includes some stretching, jogging, and simple exercises. If the decision is made to run such a warm up drill then the key (as with everything else) will be running it in an organized and structured fashion. I would advise running the warm up drill in the outfield. Players should be set up in rows with plenty of space in between them which will allow them room to safely perform exercises like jumping jacks. The team can also take a light jog ( maybe from the dugout to the centerfield fence and back) as a part of the warm up routine.
Learn More: Proper Warmup & Stretching Procedure
I would advise running the warm up drill in the outfield. Players should be set up in rows with plenty of space in between them which will allow them room to safely perform exercises like jumping jacks. The team can also take a light jog (maybe from the dugout to the centerfield fence and back) as a part of the warm up routine.
#3 Playing Catch
Playing catch seems like a simple task, right? See how simple a task it is if the only direction from the coach to a team of youngsters is “Go play catch!” Structure and organization are key even with a simple activity like playing catch. My advice would be to have the team pair up which avoids “three-way” catch which I am not a fan of ( a coach might have to be added to even up the numbers). I would run the drill in the outfield because I find when just simply playing catch to loosen up the arm that objects like the pitcher’s mound and bases can get in the way or be a distraction. Instruct one group of players to stand on the foul line with their partners across from them. These rows that have been created should also have some distance in between them. This formation allows for adequate spacing ( it also prevents “criss crossing” which looks bad and shouldn’t be allowed) so the team can safely play catch and it also just looks great. Encourage the players to make accurate throws and the only sounds coming from the formation will be the snapping of gloves which is simply music to a coach’s ears.
Learn More: How to Play Catch
#4 Sharing the Field
Some of the activities that have been already mentioned may involve sharing the field with the opposing team. For this to work both coaches will have to be “on the same page” and respect an imaginary line that will run down the center of the field. Players will be confined to their side and drills should only be run on the designated side. If there is a coach in the league who is having a problem sharing the field -opposing players going on your side, hitting or throwing balls to your side, or just not respecting the “line”- then I would not address it at the field because the discussion could become an unnecessary distraction but immediately bring up the topic for review at the next league meeting.
#5 Pre-Game Fielding Practice. Pre-Game Batting Practice?
The team should be given independent field time to perform infield/outfield practice which will usually happen 5-10 minutes before game time. My advice is to run a quick but efficient practice that will serve to get the “juices flowing” and build confidence. The coach should make sure that all players get to make a couple of plays. In my coaching days I would see a coach run out of time because they wanted to see “Little Eddy” make a clean play. If a player does not make a clean play on any of their chances then so be it. I know that sounds harsh but time is going to be a factor.My advice is to give each player at least a couple of chances and make them easy plays to make. Remember, this is just a warm up with the intent of just simply making the players look good while getting in some very basic practice before the game. Now is not the time to challenge your players to get dirty on a diving play. Also, make sure the players are hustling on and off the field especially if the opposing team is waiting to use the field for their pre-game infield/outfield practice. As for batting practice, I never ran batting practice as a part of my pre-game routine. It was too time-consuming and very difficult to run while sharing the field. However, I would occasionally run a batting practice on game day for those who wanted to participate and that would be done maybe an hour before game time while the opposing team had not arrived yet.
Learn More: Baseball Practice Equipment
#6 Warming Up the Pitcher
At some point during pre-game warm-ups, the pitcher will need to be warmed up. Generally speaking, most of my pitchers would warm up just before game time ( maybe 5-10 minutes before). However, a coach may adjust exactly when the pitcher warms up based on the pitcher’s preference. Also, just how long a pitcher should warm up can be determined by preference. Generally speaking, most pitchers I worked with would throw 10-15 pitches to get loose and feel good.If I saw the pitcher get to 10 warm up pitches then I would prompt them to wrap up. The coach will need to get to know the pitchers and that will allow the coach to develop a pre-game routine for each pitcher.
Learn More: Pregame Warmup For Pitchers
#7 When Should the Catcher Dress?
I don’t believe it is necessary for the catcher to be dressed for the entire warm up period. However, the catcher will be fully dressed to warm up the pitcher and should be fully dressed at least 5 minutes before game time if you are the home team. Other than that, my suggestion would be to allow the catcher to be “undressed” for the first 5-10 minutes of the warm-up period. I would then suggest that the catcher at least have on the leg protectors for the second part of the warm up period. The leg protectors are always the most time-consuming item for a catcher to put on so it is always a good idea for a coach to think proactive as it relates to the leg protectors.
Learn More: Catcher Drills
#8 Players & Staggered Arrival Times
It’s your first game and you’ve put a lot of thought into the pre-game warm up routine. That’s great. At arrival time, you are standing there with only two of your players. Not so great. The reality is that no matter what time you set for arrival, there will be times in which you’re going to have staggered arrivals times due to circumstances that are out of your control. In this situation, a coach needs to “roll with the punches”. In this case, the coach should run simple activities ( playing catch for example) until more players begin to arrive. When another player arrives, simply plug them into the drill or activity that the team is currently participating in. A baseball coach must learn to be able to turn negatives into positives.
#9 The Line-Up
Players can make filling out the lineup card into a very difficult ordeal for a baseball coach sometimes. A baseball coach always has to be prepared for the unexpected like “Little Johnny” got in trouble at school and is grounded, “Little Joey” got sick,”Little Larry” is on his way but stuck in traffic, etc. The number one thing for a coach to avoid with a lineup is to announce it and then change it. It is no good for morale to tell a player that they are playing first base and batting fourth only to tell that player a few minutes later that they have been “scratched” because “Little Johnny” just showed up. A firm limit has to be set around making the lineup card and announcing it. I always found it really difficult to put a player in the starting lineup who missed the infield/outfield practice just prior to game time. Pitchers and catchers can also be difficult if they are not showing up to the field on time. The pitcher needs to warm up and the catcher needs to be dressed to warm up the pitcher. If I had to warm up another pitcher or suit up another catcher than those players would start the game in those positions. The only time that I would bend the rule was if a player let me know in advance that they had a very good reason for being a bit late. So now I bet you want to know how a baseball coach can make filling out the lineup card a less difficult ordeal. My advice would be to have a “Plan A”, “Plan B”, “Plan C”, and maybe even a “Plan D”.
Free Resource: Get Our Lineup Rotation Template
#10 Pre-Game Motivational Speech
When I was a baseball coach, one of my favorite parts of the game was the pre-game motivational speech. I used to like the team to gather around me and we would then put our hands together in the middle.There is a right and wrong way to speak to the team before a game. I would never speak poorly of the other team and would always focus on what we could do that day to achieve a win. I think what’s important is that the coach express confidence in the team and also promote that the players can have confidence in each other. Win or lose, positive energy will help the team to relax and perform better.
Learn More: Ultimate Guide to Coaching Baseball
A baseball coach can only benefit from providing a structured and positive pre-game routine. It will not only help the players but also help the coach transition smoothly into the game.