Practice Stations

I spend a lot of time at the Little League Fields in the spring and it always amazes me to see how some teams practice. Having one coach hitting balls to the entire team is quite possibly the biggest waste of practice time there is but I see it happening almost every day.

Practice time is valuable time and the kids can never get enough practice before the start of the season. It is important to maximize the efficiency of your practices so each kid can work on a variety of skills. Enlist the help of your assistants and willing parents to help you run your stations

I always use practice stations to maximize the efficiency.

My main station is infield. I'll take five kids and two buckets-one filled with balls, one empty. I will set the kids up at infield positions (1B, 2B, 3B, SS & Pitcher) and just fire grounders at them. The first baseman has the empty bucket next to him to just drop the balls into as they are thrown to him. When its full, he runs to me and switches buckets. While that's going on, the other infielders shag the ones that got through. While doing infield we work on the pitcher covering first, back up situations and any other infield play that needs correcting. In 10-15 minutes each kid will handle the ball 30-40 times! That is a lot of reps. With the smaller group it is easier to make sure they grasp defensive situations and the continuous barrage of ground balls keeps them on their toes and focused. No on has the chance to get bored during this drill. My team's infield play is always amongst the best in our League! Work with a whole group while the other kids work at other stations and switch up en mass. if there is an "extra" kid, employ him as a shagger for this drill and rotate the kids in and out.

Another station I have going is a hitting station. I'll put two kids in the outfield with a parent. They have a bucket of plastic practice golf balls and a Swif Stik. The parent pitches the plastic balls at a 45 degree angle from the open stance of the batter and the batter hits the balls. The second kid is the shagger. Once the bucket is empty the two kids switch. The light weight of the Swif Stik helps the kids build batter's "muscle memory" and the small size of the ball aids in hand eye coordination. This will help the kids develop better bat speed and aid them in pitch selection as well. The Swif Stik is THE BEST BATTERS TRAINING AID YOU CAN BUY BAR NONE. If used consistently throughout the practice season and regular season, your team will make better and more frequent contact, guaranteed.

Have two kids and a parent do an out fielding station. The parent throws fly balls to one kid and the second kid becomes the "cutoff man." It is important that a variety of fly balls are thrown with the kids running to balls at different angles. Once again, many reps can be done with this small group set up.

One kid can conduct this next drill on his own. Get 10-12 old soccer or basketballs. Have the kid hit them off a batting tee into the backstop. Have him hit it 30, 40 or even 50 times, it won't take too long to do this. This will subtly teach kids only to swing at balls in their good hitting zone. It also will strengthen their swing and create more confidence (who CAN'T hit a soccer ball!).

Bunting is important in Little League and kids who can bunt help their team win. Have a coach demonstrate proper bunting technique and pitch balls to a kid who will practice his bunting. One on one is the best way to do this. The coach can also keep an eye on the kid hitting the soccer balls. Once the kid has the hang of bunting have him bunt for a target. The target can be a cone, a jacket or the kids glove. The goal is to get the kid consistently getting close to the target.

Once each kid has completed every station you'll have used up about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes of practice time! In that time, your team will "practice" as much as most teams practice in two or three practices.

If you have more practice time to fill, check out some other ideas!

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1 comment:

  1. I have seen too many little league teams not spend any time practicing their bunting and you can tell in the games.

    Bunting is very critical at the little league level and can determine the outcome of close games.