Provided by: Baseball By The Yard
I'm not a fan of marathon baseball practices. Occasionally, a two-hour practice may be needed but usually 90 minutes has been my limit for practice time from the youth levels on up to high school. It takes a lot of pre-planning but if a coach organizes things efficiently, 90 minutes is all you need. (Note: For help with timing and planning, check out my age-level appropriate practice templates by clicking HERE.)
One way to trim down practice time is to "kill three birds at a time" so to speak. Pre-practice warm-ups is a great example. To maximize your team's warm-up routine, be sure to include all three of these components:
Warm the body up. Of course, the purpose of pre-practice or pre-game warm-ups is to get the body warm and loose to allow for peak performance and to reduce the chance of injury.
Use baseball movements. I grew up with mostly "static" stretching like bending over and touching your toes and pulling your arm across your chest. Research shows that these "static" type stretches are not very effective and may even increase the chance of injury. Watch professional athletes warm-up with their trainers and you will see lots of "dynamic" style warm-ups that involve moving the body in ways similar to how it will have to perform during competition. Short sprints, squatting, shuffling, arm circles, trunk twists, hip flexor work, and quick feet movements like "karaoke" drills all involve movements our players will need to do on the baseball field. Warming up the body while using baseball-related movements kills two birds with one stone. However, you can add a third by doing the following:
Add skill work. Coaches always struggle to find enough time to add all the skill work that needs to be addressed during practices. Along with wasted time, this tends to be a big reason for long, drawn out practices. Take care of some of it during your warm-up routine and you can trim down those marathon practices.
Here are six ways skill work can be added to your warm-up routines.
- Rundowns. If you are going to have them run sprints, do a rundown relay drill so they can work on all the finer points of a properly executed rundown. Don't use base runners.
- Hit and run. While sprinting, have your runners look to the left upon take off as if they are watching the pitch. After four or five steps, have them look to the right as if the ball was hit into right field. They should be able to do this and still run in a straight line.
- Zig-zags. This running drill replicates an outfielder drop-stepping and running after a ball hit over their head. Have them use their gloves since they will be wearing it during the game. No balls or throws needed. Just footwork and head work.
- Run/shuffle and squat. With gloves on, players replicate running or shuffling to their left or right and then squatting down to field. Don't use balls. Check for proper footwork and glove/hand placement. Great for pitchers who need to work on fielding bunts.
- Short sprint and shuffle back. This replicates a hard, aggressive turn around a bag and then the return shuffle back with their eyes on the ball.
- Shuffle and Catch. Players shuffle left or right in-sinc with a partner facing them about 8-10 feet away. As they shuffle, the ball gets tossed (underhand) back and forth to the players. Use bare hands or gloves and allow them to work on a basic baseball skill – catching while moving.