One of the responsibilities of a softball head coach is to execute an effective and productive practice for your players. Team practice is important in softball because it takes an entire team effort to win games. Softball players can practice individually all they want; it’s encouraged. However, if a team full of all-stars only practices independently, they will have a hard time getting on the same page on game days.
Successful teams in softball rely on trust. This trust starts with the coaching staff and filters down to the players. Team practices are a great place for trust to be established. Coaches will learn what their players can do, and teammates will learn from each other. There are many ways a coach can run a successful practice that will benefit the players and the team. Long draining practices aren’t always the answer. Spending hours on the field, working together as a team isn’t always the most productive way to execute a practice. It’s better to show up as a coach, prepared for that day. Below are three suggestions that coaches can use to improve team practices, possibly.
Make a Practice Plan: Always show up to practice with a plan. Having a practice plan will keep the flow of practice moving and keep things on time. Player’s attention spans lessen as practices drag on because there isn’t a plan in place. To draft your practice plan, make a list of the drills and situations you want to be covered. Then, put the amount of time down next to each drill or task. Hold yourself accountable on time, wear a watch, or use a stopwatch to lead the practice. It’s incredibly beneficial to have a practice plan to follow on practice days, and it will benefit the team.
Focus on Fundamentals: Even if this portion of the practice is only for a small amount of time, make sure you work on fundamentals. When warming up arms, make sure your players are using lined balls, so they know they are using the correct form. Make it a competition and tell them they have to make ten perfect throws. On the infield, roll ground balls before hitting balls off the bat. Rolling them will help players maintain fielding form. Take swings off a tee, or work on tee drills before taking front toss or live at-bats. Focusing on fundamentals is essential because players will maintain their skills. Those skills will then hopefully carry over to the games.
Set Expectations: Set expectations before the first practice at a team meeting. Set the expectations for the coaches, the players, and the parents before the season begins. That way, everyone is on the same page and can be held accountable. It’s also helpful for teams to set some team goals before their season begins. Setting goals brings teams together because they come out every day and work together to achieve those shared goals. If the team wins, we all win. As a coach, it’s your job to establish those vital team guidelines for all to follow.
Every coach is going to run their team practices differently. Take the time to draft a practice plan for the day, focus on the fundamentals, and hold everyone to the same expectations. Push your players to treat practices like games. Ever hear the saying, “you play like you practice”? This statement could not be more accurate. Set the tone for practices, and it will carry over to games.