Most established programs in any sport conduct well-organized, meaningful practices. Regardless of whether a program is well-staffed or understaffed, practices can and must be organized and consequential. The goal of practice is to do what needs to be accomplished, in quality fashion and in the least amount of time.
Baseball can be a boring sport if a coaching staff allows it. Most of the boredom shows up at long, unorganized practices. Programs conducted in certain areas of the country must contend with another detracting factor, the weather. There is nothing romantic about standing around for two and a half hours in freezing weather, watching inactivity in an unorganized practice. Bring on basketball and soccer!
At La Porte we have a basic philosophy about conducting baseball practice. We believe that success results from pitchers being able to throw strikes (and early in the count), defensive people being able to play catch properly and thus able to make the routine plays, and hitters being able to make contact. Sounds easy! Some coaches show their players an abundance of videos on how to play the game. Some coaches develop a reading list of books for their players to learn the fundamentals. The successful coach conducts well-organized practices. His players witness ground balls, fly balls, pitched balls, and thrown balls by the hundreds and thousands. You learn the game by doing the game.
When indoors, we break the game down into a lot of individual and position work. Once we move outdoors we devote a lot of time toward team concept work.
We believe in the Sesame Street approach to teaching fundamentals. We tell, we show, we do, do, do, again and again! When working on team concept drills, we work extensively to establish these drills into our team’s thinking caps. Throughout the season, we review these concepts on the theory of doing a little frequently rather than a lot seldom.
Equipment and how you use it can strongly affect how organized your practices are. Programs that have facilities where equipment can be used in practice have a tremendous opportunity, but the coach must take advantage of the opportunity. The ambitious program will find ways to accumulate and use the needed equipment.
When you are considering equipment, baseballs are a must - lots and lots of baseballs, baseballs of any description. Programs that attempt to conduct practices with a handful of balls are kidding themselves. When working on a skill or a mechanic, a player should not have to be constantly interrupted by having to round up baseballs. The only skill this improves is how to pick up baseballs.
Equally high on the priority list should be cages and protection screens. These pieces of equipment permit multiple drills to take place at the same time, allowing you to conduct practices in less time. The players are more active and are protected from potential injury. There are no substitutes for baseballs, cages, and screens when it comes to conducting well-organized, meaningful practices.
Make every effort to use drills that simulate game situations, even in your conditioning drills. The players and the teams that practice the little things and emphasize details have the best opportunity to excel. Players learn from practice - well-organized, meaningful practice.
This is an excerpt from The Baseball Coaching Bible.