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Making a Baseball Practice Plan Can Be Hard
One of the greatest challenges in coaching youth baseball is knowing how to prioritize the limited time allowed for practice to do the most good. The first thing to understand is that the most important part of coaching youth baseball is having a plan. There are many aspects of upper-level baseball that translate to the younger levels, and this is one of them.
The Perils of Having a Bad Plan
There is almost no way that a coach will be able to get the greatest benefit out of his baseball practices if there isn't a full and clear plan in place at the outset. This is even more important for youth baseball than it is for older levels because there is generally much less time for practices. A coach who doesn't plan his 90 precious minutes of practice time will almost always waste a large part of that practice time.
If 10 minutes of the practice is lost due to lack of organization or no clear and concise plan, then over 10 percent of that team's practice is wasted every day, all season long. I believe that 10 minutes would be a conservative estimate when it comes to time being wasted in youth baseball practice. It really doesn't matter what level of baseball we're talking about; a practice plan is imperative.
Rule #1: Know Your Priorities
Any coach has certain things they want to teach and certain training priorities. Write those things down and make sure you're covering all of your teaching points and priorities during each practice. It isn't possible to write out a practice plan if you don't know what it is you want to focus on and teach your team, so write those things down first and consult that list constantly while you're planning your practices.
This will force you, as a coach, to focus and narrow your priorities and goals. It's almost always the case that coaches have far too many ideas and not nearly enough time. Writing out your priorities and your teaching goals for the season will allow you to focus on only those that are truly the most important. A team that's training intensely toward three clearly defined objectives will often be more effective than if there are ten loosely defined goals floating around.
Rule #2: Budget Your Practice Time
Practice time is precious, so make sure that each minute is spent doing something valuable, or at least necessary. Yes, picking up balls is something that will have to be done during practice, so put it in your practice plan. If you schedule nine practice drills, 10 minutes each for a 90-minute practice, you'll be sorely disappointed when you discover that only a very small part of the drills got done. Budget every minute of the practice and make sure that time is being used wisely.
Rule #3: Consider the Big Picture in Your Practice Plan
It isn't possible to do every practice drill that you want to do during every single practice—not even close. That's why it's important to think about what your priorities are on a bigger scale than just a daily basis. Instead of trying to cram every baseball drill that you know and like into every practice, plan your practices so that every important point you want to cover is coached every week.
While one practice isn't enough to cover all the priorities, a week usually is close. No, not to master every teaching point of baseball, obviously, but a week is generally enough time to touch on every priority point that you have for the season. Plan the three practices you have each week so that you force all of your priorities to be touched on every single week of the season.
Rule #4: Vary the Drills Every Day
If you can fit four hitting drills into practice, then come up with eight that do what you want to teach. Some drills work better for some players than others, and varying the drills you're doing in practice will make practice more fun and more effective.
When you're forming your practice plans, make sure that the 30 minutes under "hitting drills" doesn't always have the same drills for the same amount of time. Even if there isn't an entirely different set each time, use your practice plans to make sure that at least a couple new drills are put in there from time to time to make sure that practice isn't exactly the same every day.
Rule #5: Have Your Practice Plan With You
Print out your practice plan and have it with you at practice. Make sure that every coach has a copy of the plan, and then do your very best to stick to it. There will be times when things change, but the best way to make sure you're following your plan is to have it with you.
The other benefit of having your practice plan with you during practice is that you can take notes on the actual plan about the time drills are taking or any other item of interest, and then use those notes to modify or improve your practice plans for the future. Always have a copy of your plan, and stick to it as best as you can.
Youth Baseball Practice Plan Summary
The first step to running a great practice is having a great plan. There is no exception to this rule. Take your time to really think about what you want all of your practices to include, what your priorities for the season are, and write it all down.
The additional work you do at the beginning of the season to make the plans for practice will save you untold amounts of grief and stress later on. Your team will waste far less time, your focus will be clearer and more consistent, and your team will be far better by the end of the season than they would have been without a good practice plan.