Strength and Conditioning
The key is to do some light running before stretching to get some blood flow to the muscles. Also I do not advocate throwing to warmup. I tell kids to warmup to throw and not throw to warmup.
I try to do the same sequence every practice so kids can feel a sense of routine and a sense of a solid learning environment. I think if the environment keeps changing its harder for kids to learn. I like practices at the same field, the same time of day and the same warmup routine. Then we do the same routine every practice and before each game. This makes it so even a game has some of the feel of a practice so kids know that it doesn’t have to be the grand new thing.
I have them jog as a team around the field for their light running. Then I get them to line up on the foul line about 5 ghost-players apart. For younger kids, we practice lining up the first practice so this doesn’t turn into a problem all season. I get them into a huddle and then say 1,2,3 and we all yell the name of our team. Then they line up and I count down from 5 to get it done in 5 seconds. If they aren’t all on the foul line in five seconds with 5 ghost players between them I tell them to come back. And we do it again and again and again until its crisp. They are learning to listen to the coach and to get things done quickly. All good lessons.
Once they are in line I count how many players I have and I plan half arm exercises and half leg exercises — OK so I do have a little bit of variation but not much. I have the player farthest to my right come up and lead the drill. He said JUMPING JACKS, TEN OF THEM. Then he says GO and the whole team counts from one to ten together. I think its nice to get them working as a team and to make each kid the leader of one stretch. He runs back and the next player comes out (the one that is immediately next to the first player). We then stretch our arms with right arm over left, then triceps with elbow pulled back behind shoulder, then big arm circles, little arm circles, etc. Arm extended pull on top of the finger is good. Arms out like a T and then clap is good. Feel free to add any other favorites. Then we do legs. We do hamstring stretches, quad stretches and the last person does jump squats — you squat down like a catcher and jump high and clap at the top. These are great for baseball. Then we jog with high knees and maybe do some kareoki (cross front foot in front and then behind), then maybe some butt-kickers — run and kick yourself in the tail.
Some practices I even open up a strength and conditioning station where we work on some strength building things. Situps are key, holding in the plank position is key to throwing so I want everyone to be able to hold the plan for a minute (at ages 8-10) but we start the season at 15 seconds. Windshield wipers are good too -thats when we hold a bat straight up and move it like a windshield wiper back and forth.
You get the idea — anything that strengthens core and wrists I am a big fan.
Warmups for baseball are fairly standard, but for kids, keep them SHORT.
I usually start practice with a gathering drill that takes 10 minutes and makes it so the whole team can show up and do a little bit of running. Most fitness books talk about the need to get blood flowing BEFORE stretching. At older ages you can just have players take a lap or two around the field at a jog, but for younger kids I like wide receiver or racing from 2nd to home, etc.
After that I do the following sequence. I think its important to do it the same way EVERY time so kids know that its a ROUTINE and then even in a stressful game they will have something to fall back on. Kids line up on the foul line about 3-5 feet apart and I have one player come up and lead the exercise. I usually do 6 arms and 6 legs if I have 12 players. I always start with jumping jacks. The whole team counts to 10 for each stretch. We count together and we work on these together. Everyone is focused.
Then we do right arm over left to stretch biceps.
Then we do right arm back to stretch triceps.
We do some big arm circles followed by little arm circles.
For legs we do standard hamstring stretches — touch the ground with feet wide.
Then we do right leg over left.
Then we lift one leg up to hip height and try to keep a glass of water on the leg.
Always nice to do some plank — start with 15 seconds, but get this to 45 seconds or a minute.
Most kids have very little core strength — this is an awfully good one that kids can do correctly. Notice body is all in alignment.
I usually finish with jump squats. We start low and jump high. This works a lot of muscles.
4 v. 4 v. 4 scrimmage
Make sure your probable pitchers are spread among all three teams. Likewise, make sure each of the three teams has a player who can play catcher.
Team 1 gets to bat.
Team 2 plays P, C, and IF.
Team 3 plays the rest of the IF, and OF.
Once Team 1 makes 3 outs, it rotates to the OF.
Team 2 — which just pitched and played IF — now gets to hit.
Team 3 moves from OF to P, C and IF.
Once Team 2 makes 3 outs, it rotates to the OF.
Team 3 now gets to hit.
Team 1 gets to P, C and play IF.