Organizing Youth Baseball Practice

organizing youth baseball practiceBefore you agreed to start a youth baseball team, you had high hopes for your role as a coach. Yet trying to organize youth baseball practice can prove to be challenging and headache-inducing. Working with kids in any environment has its hardships, especially when you need them all listening, following directions and learning by example. Fortunately, there are many effective strategies for working with youth, managing large groups of kids and running successful sports practices. Just think: You may be coach-of-the-year after all.

For starters, remember the main priorities of your baseball practice. Your goal is to teach kids the fundamentals of the game, help them improve over the course of the season and most importantly, have fun. Balancing these areas can be difficult, which is why it’s an ongoing struggle for youth coaches, and possibly the reason you were offered the job in the first place.

Whether it’s your first practice or your last, it’s important that you come to the field well prepared. Kids can get distracted easily, and sometimes, kids just don’t want to cooperate. When you have an outline for the day as well as Plan B, you’ll feel more comfortable in running the practice and being flexible if need be. For the first practice or two, start simple and take the time to get to know your players and their individual strengths.

A good way to start youth baseball practice is to have the kids run bases. This releases bottled-up energy and allows kids to be better focused for the rest of the practice. In fact, all practices should be divided up into segments of approximately 15 minutes, with variation based on the age of the children. What you choose to do during this time will be based on the age of your youth league and their level of competition.

After running the bases, continue on with baseball practice by practicing specific skills. You can work with the team as a whole or split everyone into groups. Remember that even though smaller groups are easier to work with, you’ll need an adult to lead each group. If you’re short on parent volunteers, this won’t be possible.

One example of an effective, youth-friendly exercise is hitting grounders and fly balls to infielders and outfielders. Show the proper technique for groundballs, which is catching them with two hands low on the ground. Then have the players switch so that they each get equal time catching and throwing.

Batting practice will be another part of your sessions, but don’t think that this has to be limited to the person at the plate. You can develop a system that puts the focus on the team as a whole. For example, assign a point system, such as five points for a well-hit ball, three points for an infield grounder and no points for a swing and a miss. Each player should get to bat a specific number of times to keep things fair.

As your players learn more throughout each practice, you can set up scrimmage games or stations where they can work on their own. For example, some players will benefit more from practicing a specific skill set, such as a pitcher that should practice pitching more than other drills. Other examples to include in your practices are stretching, conditioning and infield/outfield drills.

Organizing youth baseball practice is certainly not as easy as it sounds, but the more you practice with various setups, the better you can learn what works for you and your team. Sometimes, kids do best by just having fun and playing scrimmage games versus working on numerous drills. It will be up to you to balance the areas of having fun, developing skills and applying them on the field, and with time, you will build the trust of parents and the kids on the team.