I’m a brand new coach this season and need help with my baseball practice plans. I’m coaching 11 and 12-year-olds. Our practices are about 90 minutes long and I’m just having some trouble filling the time with something other than just infield, outfield & batting practice.
OUR COACHES ANSWER
Thanks for the message Josh. I would love to help!
It sounds like you have a good understanding of getting the basics of your practice in every day. One thing I would probably add to your practice on a regular basis is some kind of baserunning. Typically, I end my practices with some sort of baserunning which also is my conditioning for the players. Baserunning is such an important part of the game and kids need to be taught the correct way to run the bases. Yes, there is a correct way… Maybe another post or page in the future I guess…
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BASEBALL PRACTICE STRUCTURE
Before looking at how I structure practices, I want to give you a practice plan template, if you would like. I also want to let you know about baseball lineup rotation you could download and use if you want your players to have equal playing time. Just click on the links above if you are interested. They will both come to you in a single download (free) if you sign up to receive Youth Baseball Zone, my E-Zine.
Below is how I, typically, like to structure my practices:
- Long slow jog to get the blood flowing for your players (coaches too, actually).
- Five minutes of stretching out the entire body.
- Playing catch with a purpose – Start out with form throwing, then short distance and slowly work into a long toss to stretch and strengthen the arm. During this phase of practice, be sure to have players focus on catching with both hands and moving the feet toward the ball as it gets thrown to them. Don’t allow laziness during warm-ups. They should work slowly back until they are at least at the longest distance they will have to throw during practice/game.
- Defensive Drills – This could change on a daily basis and I will give you some ideas below.
- Offensive Drills – Live batting practice, tee work, soft toss, bunting (please teach your kids how to bunt properly which is another good page I need to add), and other drills. See more below.
- Pitching & Catching Drills – This can be done with only the pitchers and catchers pulled aside
- Baserunning & Conditioning
Sidebar – Many youth coaches (in any sport) don’t build conditioning drills into their practices. I think that is totally wrong and feel there is an absolute need to help these kids develop physically also. Conditioning helps with that. I don’t want to go on about this now, but will probably be a post or another page on the site in the future.
BASEBALL DRILLS AND PRACTICE PLANS
By doing the normal infield, outfield and batting practice, you are doing pretty good. That practice over and over will get boring and the kids won’t learn much else. Below are some other drills you can work into your practices. Just plug them in somewhere:
- Hitting Drills
- Fielding Ground Balls – Learn the proper footwork and what is necessary to field routine ground balls. Take the time to teach them the actual skill.
- Double Infield Drill – Save time and get more ground balls to your infielders using this infield drill!
- Double Play Drill – A Pitcher’s Best Friend! Teach your youth baseball team how to turn a double play.
- Baseball Bucket Game – Kids love this game! This baseball drill will help you reinforce proper throwing and fielding mechanics in a fun and competitive way. It is a great way to end a practice!
- Bunting Drills – Very important part of the game and something EVERY player should be able to execute!
- Pitching Drills – Some good drills to work with your pitchers on.
- Catcher Pop Up Drill – This is the only drill for catchers I have on my site currently, but is a good one. I will need to spend some more time putting others on here. I would recommend blocking drills, throwing to 2nd, receiving the ball, how to set up, etc.
- Baserunning Drills – Proper lead, rounding a base (hitting front corner for push off), stealing a base, how to read a pitcher’s pick off move, how to run through 1st base on infield hit, how to round first base on single to outfield, etc. I am sorry, I don’t have all of these things spelled out on my site, but all have great importance in the game of baseball.
Baseball Practice Equipment
Having the correct equipment for practice is essential for running a fun and productive practice. The right tool can also help a parent or new coach run a station allowing the players to get more reps and stay focused.
Baseball Practice Equipment
BASEBALL PRACTICE PLANS
For baseball coaches who are serious about having their team fully prepared when the season begins, getting their players ready is not just about working them out in the weeks prior to the season. Sure, that’s part of it, but putting practice plans together that include the offseason, preseason and in season practices can make all the difference. There are things that can be done during the offseason that can get a player more prepared once the better weather arrives.
In this article, we’ll cover practice plans for coaches that will help get their players and team ready well in advance of the coming season. In addition, we’ll look at how those plans can change once you get to the preseason timeframe as well as during the season and into the playoff period. Let’s start by looking at some offseason baseball workout plans.
Offseason Practice Plans
Before you start thinking about getting your players right back into baseball workouts, make sure there is a period of time in which they are allowed to get their bodies some much needed rest. Also, some players might jump right into playing another sport and may not be quite ready for baseball workouts. The normal rule of thumb is to wait a minimum of 6 to 10 weeks before starting up any new baseball offseason practices to give their body a break from baseball activities.
However, once you do start offseason baseball workouts, there are certain things that you’ll want to include in your plans. Getting the body in shape and including workouts that will help with their overall baseball conditioning should be a must during offseason practices. Here are some things you should be including in your offseason practice plans.
Stretching exercises should be included as part of your offseason conditioning program. Stretching is an important part of injury prevention and your performance. These types of exercises should normally be done in repetitions of five with each stretch being held for about 30 seconds. Increased flexibility can help to prevent injury and can increase a players overall range of motion.
In addition, strength building exercises should also be part of the plan. Players should work on building strength in all areas of the body, but core muscles should always be a priority. Baseball players with a strong core benefit greatly once they hit the field. Increasing a players arm strength during offseason workouts should be another goal that coaches should target for all of their players.
Preseason baseball conditioning should typically begin anywhere from 8-12 weeks before the start of the season. Daily flexibility exercises can be done while drills for speed and agility may be scheduled for 2 or 3 days per week.
Strength exercises should be included 3 to 4 times per week. They should start with higher repetitions on lower intensity and move to lower repetitions with higher intensity. And don’t forget to have a cool down period after each workout and make sure that you take at least one day a week off to rest up.
Offseason Baseball Conditioning and Training
The offseason is a great time for coaches to work with their players on improving their fundamentals. The proper stance, swing and body positions are all things that players can reinforce during the offseason that can help them when practices begin. If you are a pitcher, it is recommended to make sure you build your strength and endurance before doing much throwing. However, you can still work on non-throwing pitching mechanics as well as teaching your pitchers how to grip the ball in order to throw different types of pitches. Players can also work on proper glove work, footwork and throwing mechanics, especially if they can get some workout time indoors.
Hitting and Fielding Drills
Depending on what type of facility you have for your offseason workouts, it’s a good idea to build in some hitting and fielding drills to keep players practicing using their fundamentals during those non-baseball months. If you have access to an indoor facility, some simple ground ball fielding drills between players or off of a wall can keep things moving and help them practice their fundamentals. For batting practice, hitting off of a tee or into a net can help a player see how they are swinging and give them a chance to correct any flaws. Of course, these drills can be done with low-impact baseballs or plastic wiffle balls as well.
Preseason Practice Plans
Hopefully, once you get to the preseason practices for your team, they have spent the offseason working on things like conditioning and fundamentals and can hit the field ready for some baseball activities. That doesn’t mean that your preseason plans shouldn’t continue to include some conditioning drills and work on fundamentals, but hopefully your offseason plans gave your players a great head start. Here are some things to consider when putting together your preseason practice plan checklist.
Resource: Make sure you use our Preseason Skills Checklist to make sure you cover everything your players need to know.
Infield and Outfield Fundamentals Drills
Although you may have done some work on fundamentals during your offseason workouts, it has no way of matching an actual on-field drill. Players should be practicing fielding ground balls or fly balls and working on the proper fundamentals of each. For infielders, players should practice a variety of different plays. This includes balls hit right at them, to their forehand or to their backhand. Work with them on fielding short or in between hops and how to charge a slow roller. As the drills get more involved, they’ll need to practice covering bases, rundowns, making tags and going back on pop ups.
For outfielders, drills should include judging fly balls, keeping balls in front of them and making good throws back to the infield. Players should focus on the fundamentals of their position and should also learn the value of communication between other outfielders and the infielders.
Baserunning and Sliding
Depending on the level of your team and if stealing is allowed, you may or may not spend a lot of time on these drills. Obviously, all players should understand how to execute a proper slide. Spend some time reviewing this and having players practice it. In the running game, it is most important that players are aware at all times. They need to watch their base coaches for directions and keep a close eye on the pitcher when leading off.
Types of Baseball Slides
How to Manage the Running Game
Assuming that you are coaching in a league where stealing is allowed, it’s important that your team be taught how to manage the running game. This includes holding runners close, learning pickoff moves to multiple bases, and how to properly cover bases and make tags. Include some practice time in your preseason workouts that includes your pitchers, catchers and infielders.
Developing a Good Pickoff Move
Once you get to preseason practice, players can focus a lot more on hitting drills. These should be part of each practice with each player getting a chance to get some swings in. Once again, the focus should be on the fundamentals with coaches providing feedback and assistance. But don’t forget to also include other areas of hitting in your drills. Things like hitting the other way to move a runner over, or laying down a bunt. Practice doesn’t need to always include a pitcher as coaches can also use tees or hitting against a fence to help refine their players swings.
Preseason practice plans should always include drills specific for your pitchers. By now they should have practiced their mechanics and improved their conditioning and arm strength. But getting on the mound and throwing to hitters is something that should be included in preseason workouts. Coaches should also work with pitchers and catchers on the side and practice a variety of other drills. These should include basic mechanics, pickoff plays and practicing different grips and pitches. But make sure that pitchers build up slowly to full speed so they don’t hurt their arm before they even get started.
Preseason Skills and Drills to Teach Proper Fundamentals
Mid Season and Playoff Practice Plans
Once your team has reached the midpoint of the season, players should be more comfortable with game action and many of the fundamentals should come to them a bit easier. Certainly, that doesn’t mean that you stop working on them. There is always room for improvement or a reinforcement of something you are doing that needs an adjustment. But as you move towards the latter part of your season, coaches may want to make some subtle changes to their practice plans. Here are some things to consider when putting together your mid-season and playoff practice plans.
Tighten Up Hitting and Fielding Drills
Obviously, these two area of the game are extremely important and you want to continue to work on them. Coaches may want to tweak some of these drills as the games get more important. For instance, work with your hitters on making sure they put the ball in play and reduce strikeouts. Strikeouts can be an inning killer and in close games every run counts. Instead, move the focus to moving runners along or hitting the opposite way. Of course, you still want them to het balls hard but have them work the count and wait for their pitch if at all possible. Fielding drills should be targeted on the fundamentals with an emphasis on making the right play based on the game situation.
Work with your Catchers
Since catchers can be considered a coach on the field, make sure your catchers have a good handle on everything that’s going on. Catchers are used to relay signals to other players, move players around and also help to contain the other teams running game. Coaches should try to spend a little extra time with their catchers and also institute a few drills they may see during an important game, such as picking off a runner whose a little too far off the base. In addition, a good catcher can help to calm down a pitcher and get them back on track when they are struggling.
By this point in the season, your team has seen other teams and have a better idea of the type of players they have. Make sure that your players know when to make adjustments with their defensive positioning. Not just based on the opposing team, but also with the game situation. For instance, make sure infielders know what is meant by double play depth, and that outfielders know where to move when they are trying to prevent doubles. Coaches can also work on where players should be positioned when they want the infield to come in to prevent a run.
Relays and Cutoffs
This is also a good time of the year to work on those relays and cutoff plays. A perfectly executed relay and throw can cut down a potential go ahead run and help your team win an important game. But missing the cutoff man or not being in the proper cutoff position could cost you a game. Take some extra time during your mid season and playoff time practices to work on making good relay throws to the cutoff man and having the cutoff man make a good accurate throw to the base they are targeting. Chances are, it may save you an important run which could be the difference in a close game.
Relays and Cutoffs
Thinking the Game
Learning how to think the game is a learned skill. It comes from instinctively knowing what to do at any point in the game. By this point in the season, it’s not a stretch for your players to feel much more comfortable about making the right play at the right time. Coaches should try to add some situational baseball plays into their practices to test them. For instance, what to do with two men on base and one out and the ball is hit to you in a tie game. It gets the players thinking and also gives the coaches the opportunity to explain the right play if the wrong decision is made.
As you can see, baseball can become almost a year round game and if coaches are looking to have their teams ready, they should develop the appropriate practice plans based on the time of year. Although they don’t vary greatly, it makes a lot of sense to modify your plans based on the time of year and the progress of your team.
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