The softball season is in full swing and everyone’s attention is on games. Tournaments and league games fill the calendar as teams make a push toward the postseason. In between those all-important games, though, are the all-important practices.
Yet at this point in the season, there never seems to be enough of them.
Coaches who want to make the most of their practice time must have a good plan heading into the heart of the season.
“The most important thing to planning (practices) I believe is being efficient and making sure all coaches and players know what you are trying to accomplish,” The Woodlands (Texas) High assistant coach Paula Miller said. “Everyone needs to be on the same page and working towards the same goal.”
Here are some other tips from high school softball coaches for getting the most out of your in-season practices:
Planning is Key
“Our practices are planned to the minute so we maximize the use of every second we have. Use your assistants to divide and conquer. Give coaches a practice plan before practice and review with them what you expect in each practice, down to specific skill development needs for each player. Divided groups mean more reps and more coach-to-player feedback, which equals skill improvement." — Rachel Smith, Piedmont (Ala.) High coach
No Dead Time
“The most important thing at our practice is no dead time. (You should) be doing something to make yourself a better player, not a better gossip.” — Glynn Lott, Macon East Academy (Cecil, Ala.) coach
Fast and Furious
“This means to each player and coach that we are going to work hard for a shorter period rather than have a lot of standing around and making practice long and tedious. I believe that you get more out of your athletes this way. They are more committed to doing well for a short time.” — Paula Miller, The Woodlands (Texas) High assistant coach
“Develop routines so your players know what to expect and how practice will go.” — James McClanahan, Fort Bend (Texas) Ridge Point High coach
“Practice fundamentals every day. Always have some live aspect to your practice (hitting, situational defense with base runners). Challenge your team daily and make them think.” — Joseph Huber, Mesquite (Texas) Poteet High coach
“If there are drills or activities in practice that are not being run directly by a coach, make it a competition activity so the girls will give it their all, even if the coach’s eyes aren’t on them.” — James McClanahan, Fort Bend (Texas) Ridge Point High coach
Focus on Specific Needs
“During (in-season practices) we still address fundamentals, but a lesser percentage of practice time is used to work on fundamentals. More time is devoted to address specific, identified team needs revealed during games or scrimmages.” — Rachel Smith, Piedmont (Ala.) High coach
Drills, Drills, Drills
“You cannot simulate game situations and scrimmages all the time. You cannot stand around and hit BP every day. Drills keep everyone involved. I like to have 15 drills (ready). On average we practice three days a week (during the season). This way I have five drills a day (ready to go), or three drills a day gets me through five practices.” — John Chilman, Las Vegas Faith Lutheran coach
“Of course (we) work on some things that are going wrong in games. But at some point play a game or make something fun. The grind of the season can be tough, especially if you’re having a tough season. Try to make (practice) fun but be competitive.” — Jeff Serbin, Hendersonville (Tenn.) High coach