A Guide to the Productive 2-Hour Practice

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by: Lindy R. Snider

So you’re managing a kid’s baseball team and you think the Major Leagues are a phone call away. Before delusions of being John McGraw have you contemplating your ticket to The Show, here’s a little secret you need to know ...

Most youth teams can practice for two hours without a problem. So, for two hours, how do you keep young players active and still sharpen their individual skills, plus improve the team’s skills?

Divide the time into four parts. I always need three or four dads to help.

1) First 15 minutes are to stretch and warm up. Do it as a team. Do it right. Use this 15 minutes to bring their young minds to a “baseball focus.” If the dads/coaches focus on baseball, the kids will do also. Demand a “baseball focus” from everyone involved.

2) Second session is 45 minutes. This is a time to work on individual skills. The ballfield is divided into three areas. One-third of the players hit, one-third go to the ground ball area, and the remaining third go to the outfield/fly ball area. Rotate to the next station every 15 minutes.

Hitting Area: Requires three to five batting tees and 10 to 20 whiffle balls (you may want to wrap athletic tape around the whiffle balls to prevent them from breaking). Put the batting tees in a safe and large circle as illustrated, with a dad in the center. The dad shags balls and tosses them back to the tees. The hitters tend to ‘feed’ the hitters across from them with their own hit balls. This is why it’s arranged in a circle.

Outfield Work Area: Work on fly balls. Can be thrown by the dad/coach, or hit. Work on cutoff throws. Work on calling off the infielder on ‘in between’ pop flies. Work on fly balls to their left, to their right, in front, over their heads.

Ground Ball Area: Work on ground balls and throwing. Rotate the players every five to 10 ground balls from fielder to first baseman. Throw or roll ground balls to the players. The coach can be 20 to 30 feet away. Each group throws to their respective first baseman. Keep the same group of kids in the 3B group, and the same in the SS group, but rotate from 1B to fielder. This keeps the kids within their own group of two or three and are certain which first baseman is their player to throw to at this practice, this day. The first baseman rolls the baseballs over towards the coach. Works best with 10 to 20 baseballs. You have now practiced one hour. Hopefully each kid has had around 50 swings, 50 ground balls, and 25 fly balls.

3) Third Session is 45 minutes. This is a team skills time. Rotate three kids at a time to hit for a given amount of time. The other players play defense. Everything is game speed. The out count is always restarted after three outs. Batter rotation is not by the three outs, but by a time allocation. Take this time to try players on two or three defensive positions. You can use a kid or dad to pitch (providing they can throw strikes). The goal is to create “game speed”
situations.

Use dads to coach first and third bases, and a dad to roam the outfield, instructing on backing up the throws on the infield.

4) Fourth session is 15 minutes. Coach’s choice: baserunning, long-toss catch to stretch and strengthen arms, teaching rules of the game, etc. The last 15 minutes can be anything, but end with a two-minute run/jog to get fresh blood into the throwing arms to avoid tired or sore arms. End with an injury check to see who might have a new injury, soreness, or other problem. Compliment their desire and focus and have a loud “Go (insert team name here)!”

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