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What is the best way to run/structure a baseball practice? What works for you?

How do you run your practice?  How do you make it efficient and keep everyone learning/involved at all times?  How do you work in individual and team fundamentals?  Stretching, Running, BP, Pitching, Fielding, Situations, Cutoffs, etc.  Share your best practices for any age group.

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Fro infield reps I put half the team at SS and the other half at 2nd and with coaches on either side of home plate adn a safe distance up each line and we hit one right after another bothe directions for about 20 minutes at the beginning of every practice and then they back up into the of and do the same with everyone rotating thorugh the cut off positon.
then we break down into groups for hitting pitching and situationals and rotate in and out of those groups as needed with everyone spending at least 20 minutes running bases during situationals.
Typically a 2 hour practice will get you everything you need and the coaches job is like a traffic cop, to make sure to keep everyone moving from station to station.
I have been coaching for years and I am still working on what I believe to be an affective practice. Of course we do the fungo drills and BP, we then try to break down what individual players need and as you know not one size fits all. Being short handed is probably the biggest obstacle I face. I'm at the point of actually having players work with each other trying to show them their own personal reasons for success in one area or the other. I have found that as long as the team mates respect each other that this has been affective. keep in mind that I don't recomend this for teams under 16u. My guys play as 18u and range from 16-18 and it seems to work. One of the things I have been advocating in recent years is having older players 14u and up, work with younger age groups. This seems to work extremely well, it seems as if the younger guys look at them as just bigger guys, not coaches and therefor they pay more attention
A wood fungo will change your life. I suggest an SSK

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.

Two things:

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.

The younger the kids, the more they can benefit from group drills. As they get older and begin to specialize, these groups need to get smaller and the practice needs to be tailored to specific deficiencies of the specialized group. The goal should be to always maximize development. The older the kids get, the more their skill sets are distinguishable. It also becomes more difficult to take a kid who doesn't show aptitude for a specific position and try to add those skills in limited practice time. If serious about learning new skill sets, players need to put in extra time on their own. Don't take repetitions away from the better players to bring up the skills of the weaker players. You are limiting the growth of the better players by doing that. Each time you halt a group drill to give individual and specific instruction there is loss of development opportunity for the rest of them. If you don't have the support staff to give that person one on one attention then schedule that person extra time before or after practice or get the parents involved in between scheduled practices. It's not all on you, Coach.
Well said

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.


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