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by Tim Covey
One of the biggest “pain points” for many high school and travel ball coaches is knowing how to develop effective softball practice plans. This makes sense if you think about it because 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. Somewhat of an unrealistic expectation in my opinion. While it may come naturally to some, it requires practice and guidance for many.
Unfortunately, the reality is that making effective softball practice plans can “make or break” your ability to run a smooth practice. In turn, this has enormous impact on your teams ability to improve.
While there are various components to planning an effective practice, below are four of my keys for any good practice plan.
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.
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 my Essential Equipment Every Coach Needs article as a starting point.
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.
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 is a sport that while it is a team game, it requires a ton of individual skill work. For example, players will need to be doing a lot of skill-work with individual swings, individual grounders, individual bunting reps, and so forth.
Because of this, it’s important to plan strategically so that your drills move quickly to 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 an effective plan, but the more you do it the easier it becomes!
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by Mark Ritchhart
by Tim Covey