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  • Practice Ideas

    I'm interested in getting some good practice plans that would work well with a group of just 6-8 kids. Our travel ball team is still adding a few players. So we've been practicing with 6-8 kids most days. We have a tournament next weekend. Some subs will fill out the roster.

    In our last practice, I wanted to work on holding runners and leading off. These kids have never dealt with that before. So I put in a catcher, a batter, a pitcher, a runner and a first baseman. Then I put two kids out there to shag balls. It seemed like a good plan to create a game situation for learning.

    But here's what happened. The batter didn't get very many swings. Some pitches were wild. The batter missed most of the strikes. And, while I was working with the pitcher on mechanics and accuracy issues, the rest of the kids just stood around. So we moved the two ball shaggers to the outfield catch flies while we rotated the kids through the pitching thing.

    I'm kind of interested in hearing how others would have handled things. If your goal was to teach kids to hold runners and give the kids some pitching and batting practice in a game situation, what would you have done?

  • #2
    It sounds like you were trying to work on too much at one time. Trying to incorporate some hitting practice and bullpen time is too much when you're trying to focus on baserunning imo. The pitcher should be focusing on his move to the base you're working from rather than his mechanics to the plate. Save that for bullpen time. Before trying to do situational stuff, make sure you break it down so they know what they're supposed to be doing. Have you taught the runners how to get a proper lead? How they get back to the base? What to watch on the pitcher? Etc. Start slowly and add to what you did previously. Here's what I like to do after the players understand these mechanics.

    1. Everyone runs from 1B only for now - Have a coach simulate a pitch (without pitching) and mix in some feint throws to 1B. The runners practice diving back, getting to their secondaries, stepping back, taking off on the pitch, etc. They (and you) can figure out how much of a lead they can get (to a point because it depends on the pitcher too).

    2. Do similar things (coach as the pitcher and everyone running) from the other bases teaching the things they need to know about those bases.

    3. Have the pitchers get on the mound and practice moves (let them try more than one way) to each base. Do this at first without runners unless you watch to see the pitcher hit them.

    4. Put the pitchers on the mound with base runners and a first baseman. You could pitch to a catcher here if you wanted. Sometimes we did, sometimes we didn't. Either way, we didn't focus too hard on the pitching mechanics.

    5. Eventually you can work on multiple runners, 1st & 3rd stuff, etc.

    This is an idea of what we did. My point is don't try to do it all at once. Spread it out over a couple of practices. Btw, I recommend Jim Evan's video on balks for you to watch several times. And the New England Catching Camp video.

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    • #3
      In our travel practices we always have "stations" setup, unless we're working the whole team through infielding drills. Typical stations will have one in the diamond/mound with the head coach catching, and a volunteer dad at each base working with one pitcher at a time. Another station will shagging fly balls and grounders in the outfield. This is where all the kids are lined up together taking turns. Then another station working on batting tee drills. At our last practice there was also one kid at a time practicing first to third base running. Anyhow, the kid pitching will practice a few pick offs to each base. If further work is needed the coach goes over it with them. Then the kid will pitch around 25-30 pitches. After that they move back to the outfield until the next coach calls them into another station. This typically runs around an hour. The first hour has the whole group doing infield drills along with agility and speed training. The coach keeps it all fun and fresh. Rarely are any 2 practices the same. My kid LOVES LOVES LOVES going to practice and is beyond excited for our first upcoming tourny this weekend. Rec practice is almost boring to her now as they're just working on such minimal basics with each kid whereas travel practice has them doing so much more involved and 1 on 1 drills. We have the head coach, 3 asst coaches, and then a few fathers that volunteer to make the practice keep moving, so obviously it will take a lot more than just the head coach to make a practice like that run smoothly.

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      • #4
        I think Derek probably hit the nail on the head. I felt really overwhelmed. And I think I was trying to do too much. We'll take some of this advice and break things down into smaller chunks and use more stations.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by HeinekenMan View Post
          In our last practice, I wanted to work on holding runners and leading off. These kids have never dealt with that before. So I put in a catcher, a batter, a pitcher, a runner and a first baseman.
          I didn't see the age-group that you're working with, so this response may not be good for you. Here's what I think about the 9U age group.
          I think it's a good idea to have your runners work on primary/secondary leads and getting back to the base.
          But as far as your pitchers holding runners on, I would only have them work on changing their tempo and stepping off the rubber. I would forget about making actual throws to a base for now. (At least until they get more comfortable with the whole kid-pitch thing).

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          • #6
            Thanks. We're 10U. So a lot of our kids are 9s. It sounds stupid. But I've actually not even watched a 10U travel team play in a tournament. So I'm not totally sure what to expect. i think leading off at that age is ridiculous, and I was hoping to eliminate the chance that teams would run like mad against us.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by HeinekenMan View Post
              Thanks. We're 10U. So a lot of our kids are 9s. It sounds stupid. But I've actually not even watched a 10U travel team play in a tournament. So I'm not totally sure what to expect. i think leading off at that age is ridiculous, and I was hoping to eliminate the chance that teams would run like mad against us.
              Teams are going to run like mad. Its just a fact at 10. I think I posted stats on another thread..last year at 10 we stole over 4 bases per game not counting defensive indifference. Many times we advanced another base or scored on poor throws down or attempted pickoffs. I think you are better served working on a couple plays at second, your catchers' footwork in throwing to third, and your pitchers' ability to vary their timing. Catcher is by far the most important. You have to not give up third or home repeatedly on passed balls..make the opposition earn their runs with hits.

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              • #8
                Here is how we work our pickoffs. For base running, we get in 3 groups of 3. Three kids go at a time, one in the baseline, one in front and one behind, stagger them a step so they can all three see. Coach is on the rubber and they read his feet, on whether to go or get back. Then we move the group to 2nd and then to 3rd. When we work on pitchers handling pickoffs, we go in groups of 4. One pitcher is on the rubber and he is practicing pitchouts. One pitcher is on 1st base side and he is working his move to 1st. One pitcher is 2nd base side and he is working on inside and outside moves. The last pitcher is on 3rd base side working on his move to 3rd. After 10 or so reps we rotate.

                For pitching, we throw bullpens, and we try to let every kid throw a bullpen on throwing days. It will help you develop more pitchers and every kid likes to pitch. Even if it is just in practice, the kids (and their parents) enjoy it. For some parents that think their kid is Johnny Rockstar, this is also a time where they can see that their kid isn't a very good pitcher.

                We hit in the cages, most of the time. There is a point where the batters have to see live pitching. It makes for a boring practice, but it has to be done. It isn't the same when the coaches throw to the kids. The batters and pitchers have to face each other.

                I agree with Raptor, catching is critical. At 9u, our goal was to keep the runner at 2nd. Once we started doing that, our runs allowed dropped dramatically. At 10u, we didn't give anyone a base. Our pitchers worked hard to keep runners at 1st and they were quick to the plate. We had nice arms at catcher, so it was tough to steal on us. Having a good catcher at 10u is worth 2-4 runs per game.

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                • #9
                  1. You can work on pickoffs to first when the kids are warming up. Partners. One person is the pitcher, one is the first baseman. When the first baseman catches the ball he becomes the pitcher. This way you are killing 2 stones with 1 bird. Have them work on the stretch throwing home, too. They can do this a few minutes each practice and you will be giving plenty of instruction, making them come to a stop, etc. They will be making purposeful throws, not just tossing. Short throws, too.

                  2. You can also incorporate the leads into the warmup. They don't have to run hard. Primary lead, secondary lead, steals, getting back. Have them all line up on the foul line in the outfield.

                  3. You can begin batting practice as soon as the first guy gets to the field. Need a pitching screen and I recommend using the cage or doing straight on short toss on the field or regular bp if you can throw strikes. First kid gets there he gets some cuts. Next kid gets there gets to hit. That way you get a few hitters extra hitting plus it might encourage them to get to the field on time.
                  Major Figure

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                  • #10
                    I'm managing a 10U team right now too. I've had luck with this age group doing the following activity to reinforce pick-off moves, first and third plays, catchers throwing, and runners reading the pitcher and getting a good jump. I had a pitcher, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B and Catcher. The rest of the boys (4 at my last practice) were runners. I start with a runner on 1st who will steal 2nd on the pitch. The pitcher can either go to 1st or go home, and the catcher throws down on the pitch. Now there's a runner on 2nd. Again the pitcher can either go to 2nd or go home. The SS and 2B work together keeping the runner close and being ready for a pick off throw. After the pitch, the catcher throws to third. Once the lead runner gets to third we add a second runner at first. Here we can work on 1st and 3rd situations. We have three plays, catcher fakes the throw, pitcher cuts it off, or the throw goes down to 2nd. This is a good opportunity for the base runners to be ready for other teams trying similar plays. Last week we rotated through 8 pitchers and 4 catchers, and everyone ran and worked at a couple infield spots. The boys thought it was fun trying to get their teammates out and I was shocked at how fast the players new to playing with lead-offs and balks picked it up.

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                    • #11
                      I found an interesting drill here:

                      http://www.qcbaseball.com/drills/pit...fbpickoff.aspx

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HeinekenMan View Post
                        I like azmats drill better because it is more realistic. I think the QC drill allows for a lot of reps but it looks like the pickoff angles would be more severe since they are in front of the mound.
                        Last edited by raptor; 09-02-2012, 08:07 AM. Reason: spelling

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                        • #13
                          Here is something I wish I had thought of at 8's and 9's to eliminate a lot of the running. With only a runner on first, most TB teams at this age take off on the first pitch. Simply teach your pitcher a lift-over, inside move to second base, remembering that he doesn't have to make the throw. If the runner goes, you've got him dead. If he doesn't go, it's a balk, but so what! He most likely was going to get second anyway. Pick off a couple like this and they'll at least stop going on the first pitch every time. That might at least buy you the occasional ground ball dp opportunity. Not as effective as you get to 11's or 12's because, unless you have an exceptionally weak-armed catcher, it's not so automatic anymore.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Roothog66 View Post
                            Here is something I wish I had thought of at 8's and 9's to eliminate a lot of the running. With only a runner on first, most TB teams at this age take off on the first pitch. Simply teach your pitcher a lift-over, inside move to second base, remembering that he doesn't have to make the throw. If the runner goes, you've got him dead. If he doesn't go, it's a balk, but so what! He most likely was going to get second anyway. Pick off a couple like this and they'll at least stop going on the first pitch every time. That might at least buy you the occasional ground ball dp opportunity. Not as effective as you get to 11's or 12's because, unless you have an exceptionally weak-armed catcher, it's not so automatic anymore.
                            Isn't it a balk either way?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Standballdad View Post
                              Isn't it a balk either way?
                              My take, as confirmed by JBooth, is that if they break, second is not an unoccupied base. Now, whether umps in youth ball are going to get confused and call it a balk is another matter.

                              Comment

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