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Episode 25 – Selecting Softball Drills
I’ve been away for a few months but I’m back with a great line up of podcasts for you, and thank you for coming back to listen.
Today I am going to talk about selecting the right drills for your team. We as coaches are always on the lookout for good drills to improve our softball program. We’re at the parks watching other teams, and even watch their pre-game warm ups to see if we can steal some good ideas. There’s something that we need to consider though when we are looking at adding to our list of drills.
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So how do you chose a drill for your practice?
First you need to consider what level of your team is. A young and inexperienced team, will likely have difficulty with complex drills that focus on advanced skills. I’m not saying that young players are not able to understand complex skills, I’m recommending that you keep the drills relative to your team’s current abilities. On the other hand, I feel that sometimes keep drills too simple BECAUSE the team is a young or inexperienced. Players need a challenge but it needs to match their current skill level. We need to consider the difference between complex and above their skill level.
Wouldn’t it be great if you had access to an equipment room like some do during the winter when practicing in the gym? Not all of us though have the nets and all the different types of balls and bats and tees that others might have. Most of us do though have access to what we need to run our practices. When you’re setting up your practice plans, keep in mind, that the more equipment you need, the more set up is required. It works well if you have assistants or spectators who can help you with set up. Ideally our drills will flow so that there is minimal down time for set up when moving from drill to drill. Having your practice plan posted in the dugout will help you with the flow because then the players will know what to expect as they automatically get their glove or bat because they know what they need and how to set up.
How long do you practice?
The amount of time you have to run your drills will determine the amount of drills you run which again depends on the complexity of the activities. A complex drill will take more time than a simple throwing drill not only because it might take longer to run but could also require more time because you may have to stop more often to explain the drill or to emphasize a specific aspect of the drill. If you fill the practice with new drills for new skills then you are likely to run out of time and lose the focus of your players before the cool down.
What are your goals for the team?
Including a drill in your practice because it looks fun or cool is not such a bad thing. Bud does it align with the goals of your team for the season? What do you want your team to accomplish in the season? If your goal is to solidify fundamental skills and maybe add a double play, you might not want to be including 4 different plays for runners at 1 and 3 until the team is good at the others. Too many new skills at once can add confusion and take away from solidifying the skills that you want to work on. Remember it’s better to be great at a few things than ok at many. The many things that you might be ok at, will not only cause errors but many of those errors will be a result of anxiety because the players are not 100% sure and confident with their abilities. Prioritize the technical and tactical skills you want to accomplish and work from there.
Placement of Drills
When you plan your practice, be sure to put new skills or complicated drills, at the beginning of the practice when your players are fresh and ready to go. The players will get physically and mentally fatigued by the end of the practice if you are running a good pace. It’s not such a bad thing to be tired when executing fundamental skills because that is more like game a simulation as you are having them focus on as perfect execution as you can after the previous drills that required full concentration.
Drills are the way that we teach and assist our athletes to improve as they move through the season from the first practice to the final tournament. It’s important to try not to get distracted by shiny objects or fun and cool drills if your team is not ready for them. A more effective idea might be to design or modify your own drills to make them fun. Most coaches don’t give themselves enough credit in their abilities to be creative when designing drills and practices. Find different ways to get the same things done and your team will never be bored.