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The results of our surveys are clear: One of the biggest “pain points” for baseball and fastpitch softball coaches is developing effective practice routines.

But this makes sense if you think about it. The truth is that the majority of coaches have not had any training in how to effectively plan for practices.

Teachers receive training in making lesson plans. And yet we sometimes expect coaches to automatically know how to make a practice plan. This is somewhat of an unrealistic expectation in my opinion.  While it may come naturally to some, it requires practice and guidance for most of us.

But the reality is that making effective practice routines can “make or break” your ability to run a smooth baseball or fastpitch softball practice.  In turn, this has enormous impact on your teams ability to improve.

As John Wooden once said: "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."

In other words, we can't ignore planning effective practices!

While there are various components to planning any effective practice, below are five tips for any good practice plan or routine.

 NOTE: If you are looking to go deeper in your understanding of running effective practices, you might want to check out our Free Practice Planning Video Series!

Practice Routine Tip #1: Write Down Your Baseball & Softball Plans (With Times)

Seems kind of obvious I know. But many coaches just try to “wing it.” A plan that is written (or typed) on paper is going to help you stay focused throughout the practice and get much more done. And when you have specific times allotted for each part of practice, you will get even more accomplished.

Basically, your practice plan is like a series of goals that you want your team to get through that day. And we all know that goals that are written down are much more likely to be reached! I go into more detail about the importance of writing down your plan in this article on Practice Plan Necessities.

Practice Routine Tip #2: Think Through Your Use of Buckets

Ah, buckets. These are the most underrated tool for practice organization. We have a shed filled with both full and empty buckets. When I get to the field, I will typically set out buckets in the places that I know we will need them in order to keep practice flowing.

Some items that day will need full buckets, some empty, and some both. When you think through this ahead of time your drills and transitions will happen much more fluidly. If you aren’t sure what equipment is essential to running an effective softball practice, I recommend reading our Essential Equipment Every Coach Needs article as a starting point.

Routine Tip #3: Make Some Components of Baseball & Softball Practice Competitive

Skills and drills are great. But after a while they will become stale if you don’t make some modifications. To help keep things fresh it is important to make some of your drills competitive. At least part of each practice should have a competitive element.

This can be as simple as giving points in the cage for line-drives, or making bunting a team competition.   It is amazing how when a drill becomes competitive (whether it’s a timed goal or a point system) the focus of your players will increase ten-fold.

Tip #4: Establish Pre-Practice & Post-Practice Routines

It's critical to establish practice routines in your baseball and fastpitch softball programs.  This will make your time more efficient and effective! 

Getting organized helps your players get mentally prepared for a great practice and leave each day feeling excited for the next one!

Watch the video below where Coach Ritchhart discusses some of these components. 

TO RECAP, HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS THAT YOU CAN DO TO START YOUR PRACTICE: 

  1. Greet them with a smile and a few words. Something as simple as “Hey, I’m glad to see you!” 
  2. Establish rituals on what the players will read each day. For example, you could put something on the board such as a daily quote for each day’s practice.
  3. Establish routines on speaking to the team. For example, it might be a quick pep talk or discussion about practice for the day.
  4. You could have a ritual for what they say as a team. For example, they could use some type of line or chant that they say in unison each day.
  5. Lastly, you can have the team form a group circle to chat or stretch before they start their warm-ups at the start of practice.  This could be led by your team leaders or captains.

HERE ARE SOME IDEAS THAT YOU CAN DO TO END EACH PRACTICE: 

  1. Competition exercises.  Use your imagination!
  2. Teams of players that have established "post-practice" jobs or responsibilities. 
  3. A team building activity. 
  4. Have another group circle to end each practice. This can give an opportunity for you or the players to end with something positive! 

Regardless of what you decide to do, the importance is having some routines that the players can come to expect!

Key #5: Minimize Standing Around

If you want to “lose” your players at practice, then put them in long lines or have them sitting out for long stretches of time. Softball and baseball are sports require a ton of individual skill work.  For example, players will need to be doing a lot of work with individual swings, individual grounders, individual bunting reps, and so forth.

Because of this, it’s important to strategically plan the routines for each practice so that your baseball & softball drills move quickly. This will give your players the maximum amount of reps in a short amount of time!

If you get the sense that players are standing around too long, take a step back and analyze what needs to be adjusted.  The drill may be ok, but it might need to be done just a little bit differently.

For example, if you are doing a simple ground-ball drill, perhaps you make two lines instead of one to keep things moving more quickly. There are many ways to minimize standing around, but it does take planning and analyzing when a drill isn’t “working.” If it isn’t working don’t sweat it. Oftentimes a simple adjustment will make a big difference.

Making quality softball practice plans is an often overlooked, but crucial component to your teams success and improvement.

It does take some time to make effective practice plans and routines for baseball and fastpitch softball teams. But keep at it, because the time invested makes it easier in the end!

(By Tim Covey, Founder of Covey Sports)

Have questions or comments? Leave them in the comments section below! 


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