Youth Baseball Coaching Practice Schedules and Fields
By John Nowly
Practice is defined as doing or repeating a pattern, or polishing a skill. What we are trying to do is polish the skill. Practice is the tires that make the vehicle go. Practice is the oil that makes the machine run. You will be shaping young minds on your new endeavor. Some of the youngsters you get might be stepping onto the field for the first time in their lives. It is quite possible you will get kids who do not have any ability to make contact with a baseball or have any idea how to judge a fly ball. As a coach, it is important that you provide an informative environment to learn a new skill and develop an effective program for developing that skill.
The informative environment is something we will be covering in lesson seven with baseball drills. Developing these skills happens in the running and planning of practices. In today’s high tech, instant satisfaction, high-energy world, everyone is always in a hurry. I suggest setting up a consistent practice schedule. You will find it can be extremely beneficial for everyone involved. Chances are when the season starts you will not have your game times yet but you will have an idea of which nights you will be playing.
One of the advantages of deciding your practice schedule as soon as possible is so you can get the fields locked up. At the beginning of the year before the games start, you will want to get in as much practice as possible. Typically, practices can be for 2 to 6 weeks before your first games are scheduled. I would suggest that you would want to practice at least 1 and a half to 2 hours per session. Any longer than that, depending on the age of the kids, you risk losing their attention. After a week or two of practice, you will get a feel for how long you can practice before the learning curve takes a belly flop into home plate. This is something you need to be in tune with as a coach in order to maximize your time while you have their full attention.
What you want to do is set a practice time that is the same every single non-game day. In the beginning of the year, you should not have problems getting in all your practices. Once the games start, fields and peoples schedules get full. Make sure to print your practice schedule out on a piece of paper and give to the kids. Start with a Monday thru Friday practice schedule. This gives everyone his or her weekends open for now. A start time that is after work is recommended as this time works best for all involved. It gives time for the kids to get their homework done, stay after school as necessary, and gives the parents time to get home from work. Setting practice at 5 to 6:30, 5:30 to 7 or 6 to 7:30 seem to be the best times for parents. It gives them time to get the kids from daycare, and drive your future All Star shortstop to baseball practice. It will also give the parents time to be involved, sit, and watch their child practice. Another benefit is that this time will be consistent with game times after the season starts. Consistency is easier on everybody as it is one less thing to remember. Practice is everyday at the same time.
When the games start, the practice schedule will change. Say your games are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Practice will then be every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Alternatively, if you play Wednesdays and Fridays, practice is every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Do you notice anything about the above schedule? I will give you a hint. I do not do windows on weekends. Ideally, your league does not schedule games on Saturday. This can vary from city to city and having a Saturday morning game is still quite popular. If that is the case, you might be playing a Thursday, Saturday schedule. Schedule your practices then for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. My philosophy of practice schedules is that weekends are off days for family. Many people work all week and the weekend should be time for the family to be able to get together and go out of town or spend quality time together.