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My recommendation is to not think taking bp on the field is such a negative for so many players. Pitchers can be involved in this. In a quick summary, I like the idea of having the team field the ball hit like a real situation with nobody on and nobody out. Outfield hitting cuts pretending to prevent the runner from advancing. If the ball is hit in the outfield, two pitchers standing with fungo bats can hit to third and first have them field it and throw in to the kids hitting fungo. So every ball someone is doing something. If you have more players then you know what to do with you can make them rotate from base runners with a scripted scenario for each at bat of the hitter taking bp and allow them to rotate from base runner to hitter. Honestly, Bp can be the greatest game like situation allowing a lot of reps and improvement for your team. I would be happy to send a detailed practice plan and pictures of how this would look if someone is interested.
1. Keep things moving. With multiple coaches, you can run stations - one hitting to outfield, one to infield, one throwing to hitters in the cage, one supervising pitching in the bullpen, whatever. You can also have one coach take one player at a time for some individualized instruction - every player has at least one weakness that can benefit from one-on-one time. The less down time the better.
2. I try to make as much as possible a competition:
- rather than standard bp, which is boring to everyone other than the hitter, I divide them into two teams for a "home run derby". 5 swings per batter, award points based on how far the ball is hit. But the defense can make plays to block points from being scored. I've seen more hustle on the field with this than in games, because they are into it.
- I end practice with knockout drills. For instance, I'll line them up, and hit grounders. You miss it, you are out (or you make the throw to first base part of the skill). Again, the competition fires them up, and as the better players are left, I can hit it harder to make it tougher.
I find doing that makes practice more interesting, both for the players, and for myself.
I find the best way to run a practice is to keep everybody busy by using stations. Whether I'm dealing with six-year-old or 16-year-olds attention spans are short and practices need to be fun yet functional. Depending on the amount of coaches you have it is easy to break the kids up into small groups of three or four and work on specific stations. I found the one most important thing is to maintain consistency in practice. The only way that they will learn the fundamentals is by repetition and by having a fun structure practice it accomplishes both. In regards coaching older kids I found that when I was coaching 16-year-olds that they were able to work themselves into their own stations and in essence coach themselves in a structured practice setting.
There are tons of drills and everyone can go back and forth all day on this. The key for a practice is to keep everyone involved at all times, so stations are key when it comes to skills development drills.
But, I find that many coaches fixate so much on the efficiency of a practice that they forget to use the time to teach. Game time is not the time to teach situational baseball. It's the time to let them utilize what you've taught them in practice.
I like to run topic practices. Pick an area you want to work on - ground ball defense, fly ball defense, cutoffs, baserunning, etc. If it's about individual skills development, make it that. If certain players need one on one direction, pull them to a separate group and have an assistant work with them. But regardless of what area we were working on that day, I always devote a good portion of time at the end to situational baseball.
I put everyone in their regular positions. Line up runners behind home plate, and play out an inning. As the coach, I hit the ball so I can force certain situations. You MUST pay attention to every single player so it helps to have an assistant or 2. One on each side of the field is best to watch all players on their side. After each play, we discuss what happened. What was the situation? What was the proper way to play it? What were the positional responsibilities? We ask players in other positions to discuss someone else's responsibilities. They call out each other on missed responsibilities or opportunities. Everyone learns everyone else's job. At the end of each half inning, we shuffle players in and out and start over.
If you watch youth baseball, you'll see that more often than not, success on the field comes down to the decisions made by players on the field, not the individual physical talents. Of course, you're job is to help them hone those abilities, but teach them to react properly and employ the correct strategies based on situations and you end up with a smart, devoted TEAM that knows how to work together, and enjoys playing the game because it doesn't just boil down to hits and errors. You'll find you have a team that communicates well before and during plays. Everyone's a quarterback, and everyone's on the same page. It does wonders for morale and it fends off frustration and insecurity with themselves. Everyone works harder and no one quits.