A practice plan for a two-hour practice working on both defense and offense. A detailed explanation of the plan is shown below the graphic.
Explanation of Practice Organization #1
Defense - Practice Organization 1 is a "traditional" practice approach. It is a system which basically splits the practice time into two sections, approximately ½ the time for each, for defense and offense. In the defense portion players play primarily one position and the team practices those plays or skills which are of greatest need. In the offense portion players may rotate through hitting/bunting stations or play a simulated game.
In this practice approach the optimal length is two hours, divided into four sections:
(1)Warm Up 15 minutesRun, Stretch, Throw
(2)Defense 45 minutessee details below
(3)Offense 45 minutes see details below
(4)Situations 15 minutes see details below
For the defensive portion of the practice, as the form and example show, break the 45 minutes down into nine five minute segments. Then plan and schedule desired practice activities into the five minute segments. For some segments the team may be split into groups, with each group working on skills specific to that group. For example, pitchers and catchers practicing pitch outs; infielders fielding ground balls and throwing to first base and outfielders catching fly balls and throwing back to the coach hitting the fly balls. Another example, pitchers, catchers and infielders working on pick off and/or first and third plays; outfielders fielding ground balls and throwing to a coach through a relay person.
For other segments, part of the team may be working on a specific play (bunt defense, cut off on throws to home, practicing the pre game routine, etc.) while the remainder of the team serves as base runners or observers.
The key factor in planning the defensive portion of the practice is to determine what skills the team, or individual players, need to practice and structure the plan to meet those needs. Thus, practice may be different from day to day depending on current needs.
For base runners use "non starters" and/or players not actively involved in the specific play being practiced. For example, outfielders are runners when the remainder of the team is practicing pick off plays, first and third and bunt defenses; while infielders are base runners when the remainder of the team is working on outfield plays.
In this practice approach assign players to their primary defensive positions and go through the plays you desire to practice. This may require that some positions have two or three players sharing time at that position.
In planning the offense component of the practice a major factor will be the availability of facilities and equipment to allow the utilization of "stations." A "station" is a place where one specific skill is practiced. For example, stations might be: hitting against the pitching machine in the batting cage; hitting against live pitching on the field; soft toss; and bunting with wiffle balls. If several "stations" are available players will move from station to station, practicing each skill in turn. Time at each station is a function of how many players are practicing and for how long.. For example, with twelve players, four stations and sixty minutes, each player would spend five minutes at each station.
A pitching machine and batting cage will allow for more hitting repetitions. A fence net or Porta Net, batting tees, etc. can be used to establish stations. Players may hit soft toss, fungo or using a tee. In any case, batting practice on the field will be a major component of the offense practice. Live pitching is preferable, with a coach, parent or team pitcher pitching. Shortcomings of using the teams pitcher include wearing them out and the possibility that they will not consistently throw strikes. Also, especially at the younger ages, pitchers often do not like to pitch against their teammates. Another option is to use a pitching machine.
There are plusses and minuses to using a pitching machine. On the plus side, because the machine consistently and quickly throws "strikes" the hitters will get lots of swings. On the minus side the hitters do not get a lot of practice hitting balls which are in different locations or coming at different speeds. On balance, except at the highest competitive levels of play, use of a pitching machine can be very productive.
When organizing the offensive practice, consider how many players you have who must hit, how much time you have available for offense and what activities you wish to practice. If you have 15 players and schedule 45 minutes for working on offense, there are options. Several examples:
1.45 minutes of hitting or 3 minutes per player.
2.30 minutes of hitting or 2 minutes per player and 15 minutes of base running.
3.15 minutes of hitting or 1 minute per player and 30 minutes of base running.
Once you know how much time each player has to hit you will need to determine how you will schedule the hitters. Here again there are options:
1.Each player hits for three minutes, rotating through the entire team.
2. Three groups of five playerss hitting for fifteen minutes as a group and alternating as the hitter. Each player gets several swings then the next player gets several swings, etc. This keep the players from getting tired and may help them to maintain a greater level of concentration.
3.Five groups of three players hitting for nine minutes as a group.
When using the group option, each member of the group can rotate through several skills or situations. Some examples: each player gets six bunts (two each of sacrifice, squeeze and surprise); then each player will get six hits; then six situations (three hit and run and three runner on 2B, try and hit the ball to the right side to advance the runner). In the example shown, the team is divided into five groups of three players each. The groups will cycle through five stations, spending nine minutes at each station. Each player in a group will have three minutes to practice leading off, bunting or hitting depending on the station.
For the Situations portion of the practice the entire team practices situations on which work is needed. For example: runner on 1B, sacrifice bunt; runner on 2B, need a ground ball to advance runner to 3B; runner on 3B, squeeze play; winning run on 3B, two out; runner on 1B, hit to the outfield; etc. Using the entire team situations can be practiced either from an offensive or defensive point of view, or both. If you allow five minutes per situation you can practice three different situations each practice.