Throughout this off-season as I’ve looked back at how we’ve run our practices, one theme keeps coming back up. Competition. I already wrote a blog about how we are going to create competition through BP, but I wanted to share how we are re-shaping our practice planning this year to try and get the most out of practice by creating more pace and more competition. There will be some trial and error and perfection is not the goal. The goal is to create an environment that fosters competition and creates a more game-like environment for our players. These practices may not look as pretty as some, but if they allow us to perform better in games then they have accomplished their goal. Here are 3 ways we are changing up the way we do practice this year. If you have any questions or comments feel free to share, this is a work in progress.
- ) Use Baserunning to warm-up, then make PFP’s live
One place we realized we were weak at last year is baserunning, the problem was we couldn’t figure out a great time to practice it consistently, and we didn’t create enough competition when we did practice it. Therefore, this year we are going to do it first thing at practice. The goal here is to warm-up slowly with some basic baserunning technique, then some dynamic stretching. Afterward, we will do our catch-play and then create live PFP’s. Our goal with our live PFP’s is to create decision making in our baserunning, as well as, in our PFP work. We will teach basic technique of both, but then the goal will be to get our athletes to make decisions and learn about both baserunning and defensive decision making at the same time.
2.) Mini-Scrimmage every thursday
We want to put our athletes in game-situations as often as possible and no better way to do that then to scrimmage and scrimmage often. Thursdays are our bullpen days, so the goal would be to have each pitcher throw, depending on how arms are feeling, one inning in the scrimmage (about 15–20 pitches), then go to their bullpen to finish working on technique. We will be purchasing a Motus Sleeve to make sure we aren’t creating too much stress for our pitchers. If we are we will make this a coaches led scrimmage and create as game-like environment as we can with our coaches throwing from a shorter distance and mixing pitches. There will be certain parameters of our scrimmages, such as situations each inning. Starting in a 1–1 count at times, and if you’re on first base you have to steal within the first 3 pitches (stolen from Wenatchee Valley College). This will create an aggressive practice environment, with our athletes learning how to compete in a game-like environment each week. After scrimmages we will practice our After Action Review and have athletes explain what went well and what we can improve.
3.) Live Reps and Live BP
Every day we will go through our individual routines for infield, outfield, and catching. In each of those routines will be a live-rep session where we will challenge them to make plays, creating opportunities for decision making in those live reps. Last year, our individuals were very mechanical, working a lot on technique, which isn’t a bad way to go and will still be a part of our indies, but we thought we needed to challenge our fielders more, therefore we will put them in a more game-like environment more often. Lastly, we will be going to the cages as a team this year to work on technique for 24 minutes (8 stations x 3 minutes per station), using Zona hitting technique and the weighted bat program from Driveline, then going to BP to be challenged. We have set up different types of live BP, from velocity machine, to Double Barrel, to coaches mixing pitches. As well as, setting up screens in the infield to hit over. Our goal is to make it as challenging of an environment as we can, with the hope that our athletes will grow through failure. We will be tracking barrels during BP, as well as, Put Outs/Defensive Web Gems to keep our players engaged. Each week we will have a Barrel champ and Defensive Champ who will get t-shirts and honored in front of the team.
These are a few ways we are looking to change up our practice plans. We have a few other things we are doing, such as implementing a mental game minute into the start of our practices, and creating different mental game routines, but that’s for a different day. If you have any questions/comments please feel free to share. This is a work in progress and something we are excited to explore more this year as we implement it. Again, perfection is not the goal, progress is.