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Thread: 15 players & 1 coach - how to keep team learning and staying busy

  1. #1
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    15 players & 1 coach - how to keep team learning and staying busy

    I find myself the only coach on the field just about every practice. I have 15 players on the team (LL Juniors 13-14y.o.). My assistants help when they can but are rarely at practice (other commitments, not dedicated, etc...). I'm having trouble keeping the team motivated and engaged in the drills we do because I end up doing alot with all 15 in one group running drills.

    I have tons of drills to work the kids in small groups to keep them busy and getting lots of reps, but find it hard to come up with drills to keep all 15 engaged with little standing around, getting bored.

    Any ideas out there for team drills that can keep them all busy, working hard, with just one coach?

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    Normally, I'd say get the parents involved. But it sounds like that's not possible. How about stations and have one of the players run each station? They could rotate if it's a simple enough station. Granted, you'd like to not have a kid waste time running a station, but given your situation, it could be better than having all 15 in a line with you.

    Just an idea, hopefully better ones to come for you.

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    Lots and lots of pushups and running

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    You need help. Get some dads to run some stations for the drills. Ask friends to come help out and do the same. I would ask your assistants to make a commitment to the kids and the team or bow out of the way. Coach or don't coach. I understand sometimes not making it to practice, but you can't manage 15 by yourself. Talk to your league officials. This isn't fair to the kids.

    Until then, split the squad and coach a practice game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbolt_2000 View Post
    I find myself the only coach on the field just about every practice. I have 15 players on the team (LL Juniors 13-14y.o.). My assistants help when they can but are rarely at practice (other commitments, not dedicated, etc...). I'm having trouble keeping the team motivated and engaged in the drills we do because I end up doing alot with all 15 in one group running drills.

    I have tons of drills to work the kids in small groups to keep them busy and getting lots of reps, but find it hard to come up with drills to keep all 15 engaged with little standing around, getting bored.

    Any ideas out there for team drills that can keep them all busy, working hard, with just one coach?
    We developed a series of warm up, throwing, fielding, etc, drills that the players did on there own. If you have no parents, use your capains or older players and be prepared.
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  6. #6
    I work with a very similar size group a great deal of time. It is extremely important to keep them all engaged as much as possible. Just a couple of simple things that I do. Place an empty bucket behind 2nd in the grass with half the kids at first and another half at 3rd. The first one in each line goes to the SS and 2nd base position. You hit alternating ground balls that when caught are placed in the bucket on a jog while they head toward the other line. Your goal is to get them a bunch of reps while also keeping them moving. Any missed balls are retrieved and placed in the bucket. You will need a bunch of baseballs. You can split the team up into right and left field with 2 infielders staying in covering 2nd and 3rd while 2 additional infielders act as the cut-off. Right field will go to 2nd while left goes to 3rd. You can alternate hitting fly-balls from the mound to those outfielders. Keep things moving along. Discuss mistakes more so at the end of the round and direct it toward the whole group. Hope that these help. Most kids want to learn but they also want to have fun while doing it. Keeping them active keeps them focused on what you are teaching.

  7. #7
    http://www.boyscouttrail.com/content...rk_up-1857.asp

    I did this drill yesterday for 45 minutes at practice except I pitched behind an L-screen and one parent shagged balls that went to the backstop. You could use a kid wearing a helmet to shag.

    It motivates the kids to get the out because they really want to get to bat.

    The kids love it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbolt_2000 View Post
    I find myself the only coach on the field just about every practice. I have 15 players on the team (LL Juniors 13-14y.o.). My assistants help when they can but are rarely at practice (other commitments, not dedicated, etc...). I'm having trouble keeping the team motivated and engaged in the drills we do because I end up doing alot with all 15 in one group running drills.

    I have tons of drills to work the kids in small groups to keep them busy and getting lots of reps, but find it hard to come up with drills to keep all 15 engaged with little standing around, getting bored.

    Any ideas out there for team drills that can keep them all busy, working hard, with just one coach?
    I basically scrimmage (rotating 3 or 4 vs. 9) and play a game called press your luck where baserunners try to take an extra base and pressure the defense and get into run-downs, which forces more people to get into every play.

    I do this with coach pitch, off of a tee, or with kid pitch.

    Last night we did kid pitch and had pitchers work on holding runners. They would then throw 90% pitches to batters. In order to keep things moving, every strike 3 was a dropped third strike and you still ran if you were called out at first.

    I will also start off with team pitching practice, where people double or triple up (the triple is a pretend batter) since pitching is good practice for throwing.
    Last edited by Chris O'Leary; 04-17-2012 at 07:52 AM.

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    jbolt,

    I'm big on stations, and that's a great way to keep 15 kids busy with one coach. If you establish stations early in the year, the kids learn to do what you want, and can then set up and do the stations with only minimal intervention from the coach. Even as a single coach, you can monitor the 4 stations, say, making sure the kids are doing them right. As usual, have the kids work at a station for about 10 minutes, and then rotate stations. Stations enable the kids to get quality repetitions and use practice time in an efficient manner.

    There are lots of ways to get the team quality practice with only one coach. I am big on throwing in practice. Most guys or gals don't know how to throw properly nor are their arms in shape. Even with multiple coaches around, I always dedicate a reasonable chunk of practice time to throwing drills and games. Most of the throwing progressions the team goes through really involves kids playing catch, so it's something a sole coach can monitor pretty reasonably. Better of course if multiple coaches are around, but it isn't necessary.

    Really the key is getting the kids to learn what you want them to do. Once they understand what you want them to do, you can just tell them to go off and do something as a group and it generally goes really well. With that many kids and only one coach, you don't want the coach setting up the drill and having the kids stand around. That's a waste of precious practice time and gives the kids time to become distracted.

    Lastly, I'm not big on running or calisthenics as a way of taking up practice time. I always felt that reflects poorly on the coach. You're not coaching a track team, and very rarely does the center fielder have to run a mile to catch a fly ball. I suppose footwork and sprint drills could possibly be incorporated into practice, but given practice time is so valuable, I really like to do these other important elements of the game outside of practice. I feel very strongly that practice must be highly organized to use every minute effectively and stations are critical to doing that, my opinion. It also makes practices more interesting to keep kids from getting bored, something that is easy to do in baseball. If practices consist of a coach pitching batting practice with 14 kids shagging, that's a very poor use of time and the coach needs to improve his/her practices.

    Just my two cents - JJA

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    jbolt,

    I'm big on stations, and that's a great way to keep 15 kids busy with one coach. If you establish stations early in the year, the kids learn to do what you want, and can then set up and do the stations with only minimal intervention from the coach. Even as a single coach, you can monitor the 4 stations, say, making sure the kids are doing them right. As usual, have the kids work at a station for about 10 minutes, and then rotate stations. Stations enable the kids to get quality repetitions and use practice time in an efficient manner.
    This is absolutely the best option if the kids will actually take them seriously. Yours might. Most of my 12Us won't.

    Then you just stand in the middle and float from station to station.


    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    There are lots of ways to get the team quality practice with only one coach. I am big on throwing in practice. Most guys or gals don't know how to throw properly nor are their arms in shape. Even with multiple coaches around, I always dedicate a reasonable chunk of practice time to throwing drills and games. Most of the throwing progressions the team goes through really involves kids playing catch, so it's something a sole coach can monitor pretty reasonably. Better of course if multiple coaches are around, but it isn't necessary.
    Me too.

    We always play catch for 15 to 20 minutes.

    We warm up for 5 minutes and then start working on distance throws and then throws to a target (ala pitching). I will then have them work on grounders or short-hops in pairs.

    We work on OF and pop-ups at a station.



    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    Lastly, I'm not big on running or calisthenics as a way of taking up practice time. I always felt that reflects poorly on the coach. You're not coaching a track team, and very rarely does the center fielder have to run a mile to catch a fly ball. I suppose footwork and sprint drills could possibly be incorporated into practice, but given practice time is so valuable, I really like to do these other important elements of the game outside of practice. I feel very strongly that practice must be highly organized to use every minute effectively and stations are critical to doing that, my opinion. It also makes practices more interesting to keep kids from getting bored, something that is easy to do in baseball. If practices consist of a coach pitching batting practice with 14 kids shagging, that's a very poor use of time and the coach needs to improve his/her practices.
    The only time I will run them -- and I never just run them, but work on baserunning -- is right before I want to talk to them for a couple of minutes about a concept or rule like the dropped third strike rule.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris O'Leary View Post
    This is absolutely the best option if the kids will actually take them seriously. Yours might. Most of my 12Us won't.
    This really isn't a significant issue, for 12Us' or even for kids going down to the 6U level. Kids can do remarkably well once they know what they are supposed to do. Heck, most of us have our kids do chores, even the young ones. Few of us would allow our kids at home not to take their chores seriously, so similarly with baseball. Set the expectations as a coach, and generally the kids will follow them. Yes, every now and then you get some attitude, but I find this is the exception rather than the rule. That's one of the burdens of being a coach, learning how to deal with kids, but as with most things in life this can be learned. And what I'm recommending in having kids set up stations isn't anything I came up with by myself, it was learned from others. Many people make this work successfully. It's a lot easier than it may appear.

    -JJA

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    This really isn't a significant issue, for 12Us' or even for kids going down to the 6U level. Kids can do remarkably well once they know what they are supposed to do. Heck, most of us have our kids do chores, even the young ones. Few of us would allow our kids at home not to take their chores seriously, so similarly with baseball. Set the expectations as a coach, and generally the kids will follow them. Yes, every now and then you get some attitude, but I find this is the exception rather than the rule. That's one of the burdens of being a coach, learning how to deal with kids, but as with most things in life this can be learned. And what I'm recommending in having kids set up stations isn't anything I came up with by myself, it was learned from others. Many people make this work successfully. It's a lot easier than it may appear.

    -JJA
    What I try to do is put the troublemakers together in an effort to contain the damage.

    I'm currently in the middle of glorified babysitting.

  13. #13
    Jbolt, First of all you have my sympathy.

    If you have the right stuff to be a substitute teacher in 8th grade, then you've got a prayer.

    Rec-league teenagers dislike practices with stations, as compared to docile pre-teens and serious committed teens.

    The good news is you've got enough players to scrimmage. Set up an L-screen. You do the pitching. Underhand flips from 15ft. away. Batted balls that hit the L-screen are do-overs. Baserunners take standard 3-step primaries. No stealing. No crazy run-downs. When goof-ball baserunners get caught between the bases, call them out immediately, no arguing allowed. Don't let it turn into a farce. Take charge.

    Your players will get lots of hitting and fielding reps and have lots of fun doing it, assuming that you are merciless about keeping it from deteriorating into goof-ball.

    If you combine relentless, merciless bossiness with a sense of humor, then you will actually enjoy herding cats.

    Everybody prefers discipline, routine, and order. Nobody enjoys chaos. Not even 8th graders. Not even the knuckleheads. Though of course they don't know it, and can't admit it.

    I have run scrimmages like these in 13-14yo fall rec baseball and I can truthfully state they always want to keep playing even though the light is fading and their parents are waiting for them in their cars..

    I totally agree with whoever said or implied that having baseball players run at practice is the resort of lazy and/or overwhelmed and/or unimaginative baseball coaches
    Last edited by skipper5; 04-17-2012 at 10:19 AM.
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Chris O'Leary View Post

    I'm currently in the middle of glorified babysitting.
    Chris, based on the commanding tone of many of your posts, I refuse to believe that you don't have what it takes to kick it up a notch. Never give up, never lose your temper or sense of humor, but command the heck out of these kids.
    If they're 13-14, use the command NOW! a lot. As in, you're out! get off the field NOW!
    Benevolent Dictator.
    Last edited by skipper5; 04-17-2012 at 10:28 AM.
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  15. #15
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    Duplicate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skipper5 View Post
    Chris, based on the commanding tone of many of your posts, I refuse to believe that you don't have what it takes to kick it up a notch. Never give up, never lose your temper or sense of humor, but command the heck out of these kids.
    If they're 13-14, use the command NOW! a lot. As in, you're out! get off the field NOW!
    Benevolent Dictator.
    I use it, but it doesn't always work (and then people get on me for yelling at the kids).

    Some of these kids sign up for other sports and then are asked/it's suggested that they only come to games and not to practices.

    Part of the issue is that the parents don't see defiance as a problem.

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    Thanks everyone. Here are a couple of responses...

    Quote Originally Posted by BamaYankee View Post
    You need help. Get some dads to run some stations for the drills. Ask friends to come help out and do the same. I would ask your assistants to make a commitment to the kids and the team or bow out of the way. Coach or don't coach. I understand sometimes not making it to practice, but you can't manage 15 by yourself. Talk to your league officials. This isn't fair to the kids.

    Until then, split the squad and coach a practice game.
    I can't get anyone to commit. I have two dads who agreed to help, but one is out of town on work 4-5 days a week and the other bailed on me for his younger son's team. I have a few other dads that have helped in the past, but aren't helping now because they are committing to their other children's team or work, or had a long day at work and need a beer instead of helping, etc... I get some help now and then, but I am by myself about 85-90% of the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Patterson View Post
    We developed a series of warm up, throwing, fielding, etc, drills that the players did on there own. If you have no parents, use your capains or older players and be prepared.
    I do have the kids warm-up and throw, long toss, etc... on their own, but often times I see the less experienced players not doing it properly and "just going through the motion." Part of me says I need to be there and help them and another part of me says, well if they don't care then why should I - but I hate feeling like that.
    This is only good for about 15-20 minutes though, then its on to situation drills and fundamental work.
    - Are you able to stretch these out longer and keep it interesting? If so, what do you do?


    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    I'm big on stations, and that's a great way to keep 15 kids busy with one coach. If you establish stations early in the year, the kids learn to do what you want, and can then set up and do the stations with only minimal intervention from the coach. Even as a single coach, you can monitor the 4 stations, say, making sure the kids are doing them right. As usual, have the kids work at a station for about 10 minutes, and then rotate stations. Stations enable the kids to get quality repetitions and use practice time in an efficient manner.
    I try station work every time I get more help. I haven't had the kids run the stations because in the past I find they end up goofing off and not doing the drills or fundamentals properly. But that was a couple years ago when they were younger, so maybe I need to give them another chance to try.

    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    Really the key is getting the kids to learn what you want them to do. Once they understand what you want them to do, you can just tell them to go off and do something as a group and it generally goes really well. With that many kids and only one coach, you don't want the coach setting up the drill and having the kids stand around. That's a waste of precious practice time and gives the kids time to become distracted.
    I think this is what I need to stop doing. I tend to break things down alot and really get technical. Maybe I just need to let the kids go for it and learn the mechanics of the drill (i.e the "feeling" of the drill) on their own.

    Quote Originally Posted by JJA View Post
    Lastly, I'm not big on running or calisthenics as a way of taking up practice time. I always felt that reflects poorly on the coach. You're not coaching a track team, and very rarely does the center fielder have to run a mile to catch a fly ball. I suppose footwork and sprint drills could possibly be incorporated into practice, but given practice time is so valuable, I really like to do these other important elements of the game outside of practice. I feel very strongly that practice must be highly organized to use every minute effectively and stations are critical to doing that, my opinion. It also makes practices more interesting to keep kids from getting bored, something that is easy to do in baseball. If practices consist of a coach pitching batting practice with 14 kids shagging, that's a very poor use of time and the coach needs to improve his/her practices.
    I agree. When we run we run with a purpose. In the beginning of the season we do some conditioning but its structured around base running and sprinting. During the season we work on base running probably every other practice and occasionally we will do conditioning drills (to keep things changing from day to day).

    Quote Originally Posted by skipper5 View Post
    Rec-league teenagers dislike practices with stations, as compared to docile pre-teens and serious committed teens.
    I've got a mix of rec-league kids who would rather play their XBox and some that are trying to get better for to make the high school team next year or supplement their travel ball time.

    Quote Originally Posted by skipper5 View Post
    The good news is you've got enough players to scrimmage. Set up an L-screen. You do the pitching. Underhand flips from 15ft. away. Batted balls that hit the L-screen are do-overs. Baserunners take standard 3-step primaries. No stealing. No crazy run-downs. When goof-ball baserunners get caught between the bases, call them out immediately, no arguing allowed. Don't let it turn into a farce. Take charge.

    Your players will get lots of hitting and fielding reps and have lots of fun doing it, assuming that you are merciless about keeping it from deteriorating into goof-ball.
    We do have a practice like this. We call it 3-Team Scrimmage. We split up into 3 teams - one team in OF, IF and Batting. Coach Pitch, players take position. Batters try to get as many runs as they can (while keeping it game speed and realistic). Once three outs are made, they have 30 seconds to rotate. If the batter is not in the box and ready to hit at 30 seconds I throw strikes until they appear. If the fielders are not ready at 30 seconds I throw and if the batter hits the ball in play it is live.

    We go through a couple rounds of this and it is fun for the kids, but we did it for the third time in three practices last night and I could tell the kids were tired of it a little - which prompted this thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris O'Leary View Post
    What I try to do is put the troublemakers together in an effort to contain the damage.
    I've thought about this too. I have 3 kids that could care less if they are at practice and another 2 or so that I am still on the fence about whether they want to be there or not.

    I can probably separate them into commitment level and get away with it. But at the same time, I need those 5 "lesser" players to do well in games so I need them learning the game and not just going through the motions in their own little group.

  19. #19
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    I feel for you, Jbolt. It has to wear on you day in and day out. I hope this doesn't dampen your enthusiasm on coaching. Hopefully next year you can find a partner -- a dad or coach who cares as much as you do about coaching to team up with.

  20. #20
    Thus one of the reasons for the popularity of travel ball.

    Personally I coach twelve 14U players (all are 13 age) but all are good kids wanting to learn.

    I think if I had issues like you have I would give the troublemakers minimal playing time and have them shag balls during

    practice until they showed the willingness to learn. After a while they will change or quit.

  21. #21
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    JBolt,

    I went through this at the end of last year. It is the most frustrating aspect of volunteering.

    Ideas...

    Can you split your team in two and hold separate practice times? For example, 6-7 pm with one group and 7-8 with another?

    Do you have any other teams in your association that will scrimmage with you?

    Do you have any other adults in your association that might help?

    A few things my 11-12 year olds were able to do on their own last year.

    I set up a wood target 30 to 40 feet away. 3 points for hitting the main target, 1 point for hitting outside the main target. I had 2 to 4 boys alternate with 10-20 throws each. Best score wins some candy. Self-administered with a goal.
    Set up a tee and hav the boys see who could hit the farthest. 10 balls each, measure the longest hit. Once again, they can do this without supervision. Competition and multiple boys helps provide a built judging system.
    4 or 5 boys can play pepper.
    4 boys can play pickle / monkey in the middle.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCincy View Post
    Can you split your team in two and hold separate practice times? For example, 6-7 pm with one group and 7-8 with another?
    I have thought about this as a way of dealing with my own situation; basically have a real practice for the into it kids and a practice where the not into it kids play indian ball or whatever.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by jbolt_2000 View Post
    I find myself the only coach on the field just about every practice. I have 15 players on the team (LL Juniors 13-14y.o.). My assistants help when they can but are rarely at practice (other commitments, not dedicated, etc...). I'm having trouble keeping the team motivated and engaged in the drills we do because I end up doing alot with all 15 in one group running drills.

    I have tons of drills to work the kids in small groups to keep them busy and getting lots of reps, but find it hard to come up with drills to keep all 15 engaged with little standing around, getting bored.

    Any ideas out there for team drills that can keep them all busy, working hard, with just one coach?
    I'm in the exact same boat as you are. One thing is to always be out there when they are warming up and playing catch. They have a partner so they are always doing something worthy. Here, you can work on numerous things. For pitchers, you can work on pickoff moves (1st,2nd, inside move), changeup grips, pitchouts, just their basic stretch. Probably at that age everyone is considered a potential pitcher. You can work on relay throwing and divide them in to 2 or 3 groups and have contests. Rundown drills are excellent also: good eye hand and good exercise. don't need a runner. All of this is generally short distance throwing and doesn't have to be done with a lot of velocity.

    There's stuff like in this every category. Figure out what you definitely want to accomplish before practice. i don't advise stations for safety reasons plus unsupervised they may actually get worse at something. You can do a lot of fungo hitting and use buckets so kids can drop balls in buckets rather than throw them back to the fungo hitter. Then you can hit fungos to 2 or 3 areas efficiently.

    Hitting presents a problem but thats true even if you have more coaches. I believe in pepper; make groups only with 3 kids. Teach them how to play the right way. You can do a lot of bunting efficiently as well as long as you keep rotating them. Throw under hand and have kids rotate from bunter (run it out some of the way) to fielder to fielder to bunter.

    You can also work on one or two specific aspects of the game. Don't worry too much about kids standing around if you accomplish your goal.

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