As we head toward Spring and the softball season it’s time to start thinking about practice.
Keep reading to discover the 5 practice keys that can make a difference in how well your team plays.
The one thing all teams have in common is – they practice. School teams practice more than travel ball teams, and college teams more than high school, but in all cases – practice matters!
While we all have different facilities, weather, budgets and players, our practice principles shouldn’t differ. To help jump-start your practice-brain let’s check out 5 things I think are key whenever you sit down to make out your next practice:
1. Plan it Out – If flying by the seat of your pants is your idea of planning practice, then carry on. If not, then make sure you take whatever time you have and make a plan. Think about the players you have and what they need to get better at individually and as a team. Only go as deep in your plan as you know you’ll have practices. So if you practice every day (when you don’t have games) for 4 months, then you’ll plan a lot deeper than if you only meet once a week for 4 weeks. Either way, don’t write down everything YOU know about softball, write down everything your TEAM needs to know. Plan it out and you’re half way there.
A great example of planning that I will never forget was in the 2015 college football national championship game. Ohio State was facing Oregon and Oregon’s Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Marcus Mariota. While Mariota was an incredible quarterback with few weaknesses, Ohio State realized he did struggle going through his reads. They couldn’t take away all of his reads so they planned and practiced to take away his first read. By doing so, they took the nation’s top football player and forced him into his weakness; and, since the Buckeyes won the game – their plan seemed to work. Plan, plan, plan.
2. Spend Time on What Matters – If your team can’t throw well it’s a waste to practice 1st & 3rd plays. Your time is limited so make sure you spend your time on the skills that your team does the most. If you have dropball pitchers then your infield needs to be good at fielding groundballs. If you rarely get into rundowns then spend your time practicing things your team does, a lot.
3. Make Sure You Can Finish – Strong – It’s so easy to get pumped up and excited when practice starts every year, and of course we all want to do well when games start, but winning your first game rarely matters. Guard your enthusiasm and that of your teams by limiting your early season practice so your team still has some gas left in the tank when the season winds down and the playoffs start.
Oh, and watch those throws. Tired and worn-out arms make winning games pretty difficult. Your players, both pitchers and fielders, all have limited throws in their arms, so guard those throws with your life. Have throw and no-throw days at practice. Or when you hit those ground or flyballs, let them throw every-other ball while rolling the others off to the side.
4. Buckets, Buckets, Buckets – To help make your practices run smoother and more efficiently while saving your player’s arms, have TONS of buckets at your practices. Fill them with as many balls as you can get your hands on – they don’t all have to be new.You’ll have a full bucket near you if you’re hitting fly or groundballs, and an empty one by your players. After fielding, have your players toss the balls near the empty bucket, and then switch out buckets when theirs is full and yours empty. Over and over again. Buckets are your friend. Get them and use them.
5. Make Adversity Your Friend – Sure, you’re practicing softball, but the main thing you’re teaching your players is to overcome adversity. Embrace it and adjust to it every day. Whether it’s the weather, your facilities (or lack of them), your players, your opponents, your umpires, your whatever. Embrace it. Figure out how to adjust, do it quickly and then move on. Make this start with you, filter it down to your players and do it on a daily basis and you’ll be practicing the single most important skill any athlete can have – and that’s the ability to overcome adversity. Because it will happen, the only question is – will you skillfully adjust, or emotionally crumble?!
For more help with your practices, check out the following: