How to Set Effective Practice Goals
Provided by Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) | For Active.com
Practice is the most important part of any team's season—even more important than games. You will practice anywhere from two to five times more often than you play games, so what you do with your practice time is crucial to your team's success.
Practice is the time for players to improve their skills. Most of the skills involved in softball, such as throwing, hitting, catching,fielding, pitching, and running, are reaction/reflex type skills. This means that your players will not only have to learn how to execute each of these skills, but how to perform them correctly in game situations.
Learning a reaction-type skill takes the average person about 600 repetitions before it becomes automatic. This is also true for your players. You must create practices that allow each athlete a minimum of 600 repetitions per skill to ensure they learn the skills well enough to perform them successfully.
Using the following information on practice organization, your common sense, and your imagination, you can ensure that your players get the proper amount of repetitions to learn a skill.
(Also, keep in mind that doing something over and over does not make us better if what we are doing is wrong. This simply makes us good at the wrong thing.)
Make sure your players are practicing a skill correctly before you have them do a lot of repetitions. When it comes to improving, quality not quantity is the rule to follow.
Plan Your Practices
One of the most important things you can do as a coach is to plan your practices. Planning is critical to successful teaching and coaching.
If your practices are unorganized you will waste valuable practice time and your players will get frustrated and become inattentive. Use your practice time wisely.
Try not to plan your practice in the car on the way to practice. Take the time beforehand to organize your thoughts and put them on paper with goals and time-lines. Your team will greatly benefit from a well thought out, organized practice plan.
Goal-Setting For Your Team
Depending on what age and skill level you are coaching, before the season begins it is a good idea to set various goals for your team and each player. If you are coaching young players, say 10 and under, your goals should focus on teaching them how to properly perform basic skills.
How to throw overhand.
How to catch a thrown ball.
How to catch a fly ball.
How to field a ground ball.
The correct fundamentals of hitting, and how to hit off of a batting tee.
The correct sequence of running around the bases.
If you are coaching older players who have good basic skills, your goals for the season may be to teach your players:
How to sacrifice bunt.
How to slide correctly.
How to steal bases.
How to pitch correctly.
The basic concepts of offense and defense.
The rules of softball.
When working with older players, it is a good idea to sit down with each player and set individual goals. This will help them with their continued growth and development.
Individual goals will depend upon a player's position, their skill level, and their potential for improvement. (Any goal that is set, for both the team and an individual player, should be realistic.)
Break it Down
Your role as a coach of young athletes is to expose them to the basic concepts and skills of the game. Keep the learning to small doses.
Avoid teaching your players everything you know. They don't really care how much you know, what is important is how much you care about them. They are kids, and they want to stay busy and have fun. Think of ways to make softball fun.
Finally, remember that it is easier for you to change then for all of your players to change. If what you are doing does not keep their attention, then change what you are doing. It is harder for them to change their attention span than for you to change your approach to a drill. Be flexible in your thinking and teaching.
Coaches and Parents, please share this with your players.
I stress this (almost) all the time as I watch players warming up with no focus on what they're doing. Warm-ups are when every throw and every catch should be perfect because ther is no pressure. It is the one time you can work on your mechanics. I often tell them I would rather they make 15 really good throws than 50 throws just going through the motions.
Even chatting with your partner, you should be able to put enough focus on your warm-ups to make good throws and recieve that ball rather than standing there like a lump and expecting the ball to fly into your glove.
As an FYI, I highly recommend checking out anything you find online from Sue Enquist, Big Al Baseball and Morgan Stuart and her partners at The Packaged Deal. The following article is from Morgan Stuart.
If the most important part about defense is PLAYING CATCH, why are we still so bad at it??
Most defensive plays (those that aren't strike outs or pop ups) require a team to be able to
1. Catch the ball 2. Throw the ball and 3. Catch the ball again... Playing Catch IS Defense.
Too many times, in practice or pre-game, players go through the motions--Dropping balls, overthrowing them, and not paying attention to the adjustments that can be made each rep. This drives me CRAZY. Especially when those same players ask their coaches after practice-- "Coach, what can I work on?"
Be aware of what you're teaching your body to do. Take pride in how you practice the little things (move your feet when catching the ball, hit your partner in the chest, maintain your balance when throwing).
We should EXPECT to make a good throw and to catch the ball (without REACHING) every single time- especially in practice. That's what's expected of us in the game-- WHEN THE PRESSURE IS ON.
When you're not rushed, when there's no base runner, when there's no game on the line-- an accurate throw and a sure catch should be rehearsed. Over and over.
We are bad at playing CATCH because players find it boring, unchallenging, monotonous. If it's really not that hard, why aren't we perfect at it yet?
If we really DO understand the importance of it-- we should strive to be perfect when throwing and receiving. Those things are the most controllable things in our game. October 21 at 12:10pm ·
Morgan Stuart- Get Defensive
“5 Crucial Decisions For Softball Success” Written By John Michael Kelly
As the spring softball season approaches, whether high school, travel or recreational I’d like you to pause for a moment and consider all the decisions your athlete has to make during the course of a game, and how little time she really has to make those decisions and react to ball, pitch or play. A typical batter has less than 1/2 second to determine pitch velocity, movement of the ball and ultimate spot to place the barrel of the bat each swing. No small feat! The same crazy quick time pressured decisions are true for fielding and base running.
Ultimately your athlete’s or team’s level of on the field success is dictated by the decisions she/they make. And these decisions are a product of many factors, most all of which are found within her head.
Behind every action is an emotion; behind every emotion is a thought. So how can you insure that your athlete or team thinks and feels optimally so that she/they make good decisions on the field?
1. Decide to play in the MOMENT. – Dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about future ones makes focusing on the task at hand impossible. “Be Here Now,” and watch decision making improve immediately.
2. Decide to NOT make any one mistake/at bat or play more important than it needs to be. – The athlete decides in her head how much power she gives any one “event” on the field. The more power she gives it the bigger it gets in her head; the less power she gives it the sooner the mistake fades away.
3. Decide to always practice with a clearly defined PURPOSE in mind. – Building confidence and making good decisions is the result of proper preparation, for competence breeds confidence.
4. Decide to focus on the PROCESS of getting better instead of your batting average, ERA, fielding % or wins and losses. – Learning to focus on EFFORT and refraining from self-judgment is always the best recipe for a quick bounce back after a mistake on the field.
5. Decide to take RESPONSIBILITY for your thinking and emotional state on the field. – Success happens by design, not by accident so come into a game with a plan, ready to face those adversity demons head on!
In truth so many poor decisions on the field are due to doubt and hesitation, a fear of making a mistake. If your athlete or team can implement these five decisions and you as parent or coach support them you will soon see infinitely better game decision making, better performance levels and a greater joy for playing the game!
Thanks for reading!
John Michael Kelly
John Michael Kelly, America’s Sports Confidence Coach, is known for skyrocketing the self-confidence and game performance levels for thousands of youth athletes and teams from coast to coast by reducing the stress and increasing the joy for playing the game! John also coaches travel softball with the 18u and 18 Gold teams for The Next Level (“TNL”) organization in sunny San Diego. You can follow John at SoftballSmarts.com and Facebook.com/SoftballSmarts.
Softball Drills and Coaching Tips
5 steps to a GREAT at-bat!
Here's a quick 5-step routine that will help your hitters quiet the noise and
let their muscle memory take over at the plate...
1. In the Hole
Begin getting ready early so as not to feel rushed.
Stretch and prepare by using relaxation techniques and positive visualization.
Recall any pertinent information about the pitcher.
Check-in to access your present state of mind and use a relaxation technique to calm fears.
2. on Deck
Finalize your hitting plan in your head and visualize a successful at-bat.
While using self-talk, take a few practice swings to determine the pitcher's timing.
Check your emotional level again and stay in control.
3. Before the At-Bat
Get the sign from the coach and visualize a successful swing.
Complete all preparatory actions in the hitting routine.
4. In the Box
Relax with deep controlled breathing to transition to the muscle memory stage.
Right before the pitch take a deep breath and release slowly.
Suck in a little air right as the pitcher reaches the point of release.
5. After Each Pitch
Step out of the batter's box while checking-in mentally.
Get rid of any negative talk or feelings.
Make visual adjustments and use the hitting routine again to prepare for the next pitch.
Check it out here: