For the coach youth baseball practice actually begins before you get to the field. You need to plan out what you want to work on and what drills you will use to accomplish your objective. It is advisable to utilize parents and volunteers to help you. If possible you want to be the facilitator who walks around insuring everyone is doing what they need to do.
Youth baseball teams typically are assigned a practice field on certain days for a given time period, so depending on your teams needs and areas they need to work on will determine what your practice plan will consist of. Make sure to write it down and stick to the time allotted.
It is advisable to have the players warm up as a group. I ask two players to volunteer to be the captains for the day. They will lead the stretching and warm up. Once that is done we will move into our throwing routine. The warm up, stretching and throwing routine is consistent before every practice and game. The player’s become familiar with it and develops a routine they are comfortable with.
After warming up the following would an example of a normal practice.
- Rundown – Half the players will be on 1st base the other half on 2nd, and a runner in the middle, the runners run with their gloves so as to keep the drill moving. The goal is to keep the drill moving and teach one throw and get the runner out.
- Cutoff & Relay – Break your team into groups, if you have 12 players use three groups of four players. Make sure the players are moving their feet to the ball with their glove side to the target. I use the phrase, step-catch-throw to emphasize quick release of the ball. This is a good opportunity to make a competition between the teams and adds fun to practice as well.
- Individual skills – keeping the same groups as cutoff & relay one group will go to shortstop, another group to second base and a final group to center field. The infield works on ground balls, the outfield works on fly balls. You could have one of the infield groups working on charging slower grounders while the other group fields and makes a strong throw to 1st.
- Group skills – This is where you may work on 1st & 3rd defense, bunt defense, turning double plays, pop fly’s, pitchers fielding practice.
- Hitting – Like the above we will utilize groups. Most youth baseball fields don’t have a cage so to perform live hitting a coach(s) will need to throw on the field.
I have found that putting a screen on home plate and the hitters close to the back stop not only prevents lots of foul balls from leaving the field, but I can have two coaches throwing to two hitters simultaneously. This allows the other two players in the group to be working on the side with soft toss and/or tee drills.
I have one group shagging in the outfield, and one group fielding ground balls hit by helpers in the infield.
Another option you could do is have one group throwing a bullpen during this time.
This method of taking BP makes hitting practice efficient and productive, and the kids aren’t bored.
I finish practice with a base running drill. It may be step-by-step instruction or it may be a drill they like and have done before.
This type practice will typically last two hours. It encompasses a lot of instruction and repetitions. I look at practice as my time and games as the players time to show the world what they have learned.
The biggest thing for the coach is too organized. Save your practice plan as you may want to use it or a similar version later in the season.