How To Create An Effective Practice Plan

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The 2-Hour Practice

There is a lot that goes into creating a practice plan even for youth teams. You want to make sure that you’re spending your time (often limited) on the areas that are going to give you the most significant results during actual game play.

The real secret to creating a productive practice plan is to come up with a system where you and your players have a template and know what to expect each day. This puts your players in a routine. If you can get your kids on a routine and they have a general expectation of what is going to happen every day, you’ll see them start to be a lot more efficient and get more done in a smaller amount of time.

General Template for Practice

This is a template that we’ve had a lot of success with and it’s great as a coach because you have a certain set of things that you do every single day and your players start to gain better focus. Once your players understand and connect with the routine they’ll gain a level of comfort that lends itself to efficiency and productivity.

Also as a coach, having this format alleviates a lot of the everyday hassles of planning. You now have a set format that will allow you to run more streamlined, productive practices…. and you don’t need to spend an extra hour a day on a practice itinerary.

Since of the set format you simply have to plug and play. Developing these types of systems will give you more time and improve your practices, win-win!

Here are your basic parts:

  • Stretch & Throw (15 min)
  • Defensive Maintenance (30 min)
  • Defensive Team Integration (30 min)
  • Offensive maintenance/Offensive Team Integration (30 min)
  • Efficient Conditioning (15 min)

I understand that you may not know exactly what all of these drills are and how to implement them.  If I were to explain every detail of every drill in this email, it would just be ridiculously long.  I am happy to answer any questions you have about specific drills.  So if you need clarification on something please email me at infieldfundamentals@gmail.com and I will get back to you.

Stretch and Throw (15 min)

The stretch and throw should be exactly the same every single day and should be able to be done without the supervision of a coach.  You need to be very detailed in what you want done and exactly the way you want it done. We like to take the kids through a dynamic stretch where they are always moving.  Avoid having your players go out there and sit in a circle and just end up talking the whole time.

The throwing portion should be exactly the same every day as well.  It’s important to note that an every day catch play routine will be different for different groups of players, and that’s why you have infielders play catch with infielders, outfielders with outfielders, and pitchers with pitchers.

Defensive Maintenance (30 Min)

Again, the defensive maintenance portion of practice will be something that is done every day.  Here’s where you will start to plug and play a bit more. You will add or subtract things depending on the certain aspects of defensive play that your players need to work on. This portion of time is more focused on developing individual defensive ability. Players are working on their individual technique…as they improve the team improves.

It’s important to note that each of these drill sets can be done with a partner throwing the ball or a coach hitting a fungo.  You want to designate a 30 minute time frame for defensive maintenance every day. You will split the players up into 3 separate groups: infielders, outfielders, and pitchers.

Each group will have certain drills they do every day to improve basic fielding and throwing techniques, as well as, selected techniques (determined by the coach) that they will do that specific day.

For Example:

Infielders will do the following during individual defensive maintenance

  1. Short Hop Drills (Every Day)
  2. Robot Drill (Every Day)
  3. Forehand and Backhand Drills (Every Day)
  4. Choice (Pick 2 to 3 Every Day)
    • Up, out Drill
    • Left Foot Timing Drill
    • Knee Drill
    • Knee to FP
    • Flips & Feeds (Square drill)
    • Diving Drill
    • Spin Plays
    • Replay Drill
    • Drop Step Drills
    • Chop Step Drills

Outfielders will do the following during individual defensive maintenance

  1. Drop Step Drill (Everyday)
  2. Ground Ball Drill (Everyday)
  3. Fungo Flyballs (Everyday)
  4. Fungo groundballs (Everyday)
  5. Choice (Pick 2 or 3)
    • Communication
    • Fence Drills
    • Inside Turn Footwork
    • Sun Drills
    • Hitting Cuts
    • Long Hop, No Hop Throwing

Pitchers will do the following during individual defensive maintenance

  1. Form Throwing/Part Practice (Everyday)
  2. Change Up Catch (Everyday)
  3. Band work (Everyday)
  4. Hip work (Everyday)
  5. Choice (Pick 2 or 3)
    • PFP’s
    • Fielding Bunts
    • Pick off practice
    • Mix timings and looks (cadence variation)
    • Intentional walks
    • Flat Grounds
    • Off-speed pitches

Catchers will do the following during individual defensive maintenance

  1. Blocking Form/dry reps (Everyday)
  2. Blocking, ball thrown by partner (Everyday)
  3. Receiving (Everyday)
  4. Throwing Footwork/T-Drill (Everyday)
  5. Choice (Pick 2 or 3)
    • Fielding Bunts
    • Back Pick Practice
    • Bare hand receiving (tennis balls)
    • Framing
    • Catcher’s pops
  1. Short Hop Drills/Quadding Out (Everyday)
  2. Robot Drill (Everyday)
  3. Forehand and Backhand Drills (Everyday)
  4. Choice (Pick 2 to 3 Everyday)
    • Up, out Drill
    • Left Foot Timing
    • Knee Drill
    • Knee to FP Drill
    • Flips and Feeds (Square Drill)
    • Diving Drill
    • Spin Plays
    • Replay Drill
    • Left Eye Drill
    • Drop step drills
    • Chop Step Drills
  1. Drop Step Drill (Everyday)
  2. Ground Ball Drill (Everyday)
  3. Fungo Flyballs (Everyday)
  4. Fungo Groundballs (Everyday)
  5. Choice (Pick 2 or 3)
    • Communication
    • Fence Drills
    • Inside Turn Footwork
    • Sun Drills
    • Hitting Cuts
    • Long Hop, No Hop Throwing
  1. Form Throwing/Part Practice (Everyday)
  2. Change Up Catch (Everyday)
  3. Band work (Everyday)
  4. Hip work (Everyday)
  5. Choice (Pick 2 or 3)
    • PFP’s
    • Fielding Bunts
    • Pick off practice
    • Mix timings and looks (cadence variation)
    • Intentional walks
    • Flat Grounds
    • Off-speed pitches
  1. Blocking Form/dry reps (Everyday)
  2. Blocking, ball thrown by partner (Everyday)
  3. Receiving (Everyday)
  4. Throwing Footwork/T-Drill (Everyday)
  5. Choice (Pick 2 or 3)
    • Fielding Bunts
    • Back Pick Practice
    • Bare hand receiving (tennis balls)
    • Framing
    • Catcher’s pops

All of the different parts of defensive maintenance are happening in the same 30 minute interval every day. As a coach, you just have to make sure each group knows what choice drills they will be working on that day.

Defensive Team Integration (30 Min)

After the first portion of defensive maintenance (Individual defensive skill progressions) we will implement a team defensive portion. Basically this portion focuses on defensive schemes more so than individual skill sets. Although, it should be noted, that simply participating in the team integration drills will develop individual skill sets.

This is another 30-minute time slot where all three groups are integrated on the field to work together.  As a coach, this is where plugging in the new and essential team techniques are applied.

For Example:

  • Bunt Plays (Outfielders running bases)
  • 1st and 3rd situations (Outfielders running bases)
  • Pick Plays (Outfielders running bases)
  • PFP’s (Outfielders running bases)
  • Back Up Situations and Scenarios (Pitchers rotating between running bases and backing up)
  • Fly Ball Priority (Pitchers running bases)
  • Double Cuts (Pitchers running bases)
  • General Situations (fungo)
  • Splitting Runners (Pitchers running bases)

Offensive Maintenance / Offensive Team Integration (30 Min)

When it comes to offensive maintenance and team integration, I’ll kind of leave it up to you as a coach or parent.  This is a website focused on defense, so I’m absolutely biased that it should get a larger amount of practice dedicated to it.

I would suggest taking the same approach as above when it comes to outlining your offensive drills.  Having said that I would choose either offensive maintenance or offensive team integration for each practice rather than trying to do both.

Individual Offensive Maintenance Examples:

  • Dry Hacks
  • Front Toss
  • Cage BP
  • Field BP
  • Bunting
  • Hit and Run Drills
  • Score the runner from 3rd less than 2 outs
  • Move the runner over
  • 2 out hitting

Offensive Team Integration Examples:

  • Live BP
  • Coach Pitch Situations
  • Squeeze Practice
  • Live Bunting (with base runners)
  • Live At Bats

There are so many drills you can institute as a coach when it comes to hitting that it would be extremely long winded if I were to list them all.  If you have specific questions feel free to shoot them to us at infieldfundamentals@gmail.com

Efficient Conditioning (15 min)

We use a term called “KT drills” which stands for “killing time drills.” In certain instances coaches put in conditioning simply to kill time, let me just be frank, to have your players condition by just running long distances is an absolute waste of time and actually counter productive from a performance standpoint.

We are interested in functional conditioning that will help improve performance. It is vitally important to recognize that we have a finite amount of time, therefore that time must be spent on the most important things…running poles is not one of the important things.

There are a couple reasons that you would connect conditioning to baseball specific activities.  First off, when you connect your conditioning with specific baseball movements it reinforces skills that were learned earlier in practice.  Second, it helps manifest a level of mental toughness to fight through the physical strain and practice the skill in an effective way every time.  Lastly, it mimics a game because there will be instances during a season where a player will just get done running the bases and be winded and not have enough time to recover before they have to make a defensive play in the following inning.

Efficient Conditioning Examples:

Infielders: Side to side, rapid fire ground balls; Fly ball tracking; Double cut positioning; slow rollers without rest; soft toss ground balls without rest; double play drill without rest; etc

Outfielders: Fly ball communication without rest; Playing balls in the gap and hitting the correct cut man without rest; backup assignments without rest; diving drill etc

Pitchers: Tradition tells us that pitchers need to run long distances to build stamina and reduce lactic acid build up in their arms. This is one of those false pieces of coaching folklore. The fact is that there is substantial research that argues against long distance running for pitchers. Here are a couple of the key issues with distance running: it decreases hip mobility, it trains the incorrect type of muscle fibers, and it trains the incorrect energy system.

There is extensive research done on this topic and if this incrimination of distance running challenges your current training paradigm I encourage you to look further into the science and research rather than holding tight to tradition and folklore. We will discuss it further in later posts.

Well what should pitchers to do instead? Consider more explosive movements, such as sprints, medicine ball explosions, agility ladders or hurdles. Again the options are quite extensive, this article offers some great options: http://www.webball.com/cms/page7180.cfm

Base runners:  Straight steal, hit and run, delayed steal, practice with coach simulating pitching motion; running first to third; running out a double with a slide and jog back; down angle reads; running out of the box and running out a base hit, a double, a triple, or an inside the park HR.

The key is to keep your players moving and to stress correct technique with all baseball movements while exhausted.  This is called complex training and can be extremely beneficial. It will feel like you have to say something to every single player on every single rep at first.  This is OK.  You need to do this and eventually you will see that your players will improve their skills while getting into shape and creating mental toughness.