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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.

For example:

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.


Courtesy of Amateur Softball Association of America (ASAthe National Governing Body of Softball in the United States.
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