Many teams will be starting their first practice soon, and it’s one of my favorite times of the year. After the arduous work of the draft (see the post I on preparing for the draft) and the cold of winter, its time for a new season. Hope springs eternal.
You’ve sent the HELLO email for parents —see my new book for the exact contents, but you probably can guess. Just make sure everyone knows your goal is that EVERYONE PLAYS AGAIN NEXT YEAR — so that everything has to be FUN and you need to have some success — you can’t go lose all your games, but if you are winning as much as you lose and everyone is learning — well that’s fine. I admit I get excited and like to win more, but the reality is that sometimes the baseball gods smile on you and sometimes they don’t. I was watching my son’s high school game this week — he was at a tournament in Myrtle Beach (mecca for baseball if you haven’t been there — 12 pristine fields modeled after the fields of yore —POLO GROUNDS, EBBETS FIELD, …but I digress) and a player from the other team in a close game smashed a ball to right, line shot, runners on base, it landed about 18 inches foul. Next pitch popup and all is well with he world. So don’t get caught up in winning every game — there’s a big element of chance in baseball and all you are trying to do is maximize your odds.
Anyway, for the first practice I recommend a lot of team building and conditioning work. Some kids will be in shape but some have been sitting around playing video games all winter.
Have ’em line up. One of my best teams did the following for the first 20 minutes of practices:
For each player, they called out their favorite thing from a list of
Run 20-30 yards with high knees
Run 20-30 yards with side shuffle
Run Forward 20-30 yards
Run Backward for 20 yards
Skip for 20 yards
Karaoke (left over right and then right over left for 20 yards)
Run for 20 yards and kick yourself in the posterior as you run
Maybe do some relay races for a couple of minutes too.
You get the idea — keep going back and forth for 20 minutes and there’s a thing for each player to be the leader.
Talk to them about if you WORK HARD GOOD THINGS WILL happen.
So is running back and forth FUN and gosh didn’t I just say to make it fun?
Well, all I can tell you is that if the team bonds, they will have fun. And if they are all are working hard on a common goal sometimes they will bond quickly.
For the rest of your first few practices do not under any circumstances PLAY A GAME OF BASEBALL. Its usually cold and it usually involves standing around.
Do drills and if you can’t think of any, look at the web site, read the book or just email me and say GOSH THE ONLY DRILL ICAN THINK OF IS TO PLAY BASEBALL.
So many good drills, so little time and all I ever see are coaches happily having their kids play baseball long before they are ready for it.
Do a drill in the infield, set up station in the outfield and rotate kids every few minutes.
And end with a game — something like pickle is good or sometimes called RUNDOWN but definitely end with a game.
Also encourage kids to go to the batting cages with any spare time — its good to get them time with a pitching machine and youth baseball doesn’t make it easy for coaches to carry around machines, etc.