Coaching: Practice Progression
I have discovered through years of trial and error that the order of the drills you do in practice is just as important as the drills themselves. Every practice should start with jogging and stretching to loosen up the muscles. From there, drills should progress in sequence in order to accomplish an end goal for the practice.
I am most experienced in coaching basketball and baseball, but having a practice progression for your drills is important for every sport. Ultimately, the goal for practicing is to get the athletes ready for game situations. In baseball we start by loosening the arms after we have stretched. We do this by playing basic catch. After we play catch, we will do “dry ground balls,” which is essentially fielding a ground ball with the ball being stationary. This helps footwork and form. We will then roll ground balls and then progress to hitting ground balls. With fly balls we start with throwing them and work towards hitting them with working on different types of fly balls (right at them, line drives, in the alley etc.).
After these drills are done as a team we will split off into groups by position to work on position-specific drills. Catchers might be working on foul balls, throwing to second, and blocking pitches, while pitchers will pitch in the bullpen, cover first base on ground balls to the right side, and practice covering home on passed balls. Each position has their set of position-specific drills.
The ultimate goal for practice is to simulate game speed and situations. We do this by ending with taking “live” batting practice. Typically, a coach will pitch in order to keep the practice moving. We have the batter take 10 swings and the fielders will play each hit live, meaning they will make the play as if it were a game. The batter then will run on the 10th hit and then will run the bases while the next hitter takes their batting practice. Eventually we will have a few scrimmages, having the pitchers throw live to hitters and treating it like a game situation.
I have found having a practice plan that progresses towards the end goal is much more effective. We treat our pre-game routine similarly to make sure they are game ready. If you come to practice and start with a scrimmage you will find more often than not the practice/scrimmage will be a disaster. Each practice does not have to end in simulating game play, though a series of practices should work towards this goal. If you have ten practices before your first game you should progress in such a way that you have simulated game situations before that tenth practice in order to have your athletes ready for a game.
- Tags: Coaching
- Chris Donohue