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Suggestions for 10U Practices?

obbay

Banned
Aug 21, 2008
2,201
0
Boston, MA
This spring I'm probably going to be coaching a 10U Little League softball team. I'd like your advice on how best to structure practices for these kids. My experience shows that their interest usually fades after an hour.

Last two years I've coached both under this level and over this level but not at this level. I'm thinking I want to stress fundamentals with these girls but most importantly I want to have effective practices that are fun.

I'm thinking maybe (4) 10 - 15 minute stations and then a (light) scrimmage game at each practice. However with just myself and 1 other coach (maybe two as 14yo DD may help) it gets a little tricky with 13 or more girls. I'm thinking one would work with them on fielding and the other with batting. I'm trying to figure out how to keep half the team busy with BP when there's only one coach to supervise. Maybe the others could field while the one batter is up, but I'd like to find a way to get each one of them as much time with a bat as possible.

Last year with the younger kids we'd take one at a time to hit into a jugs screen while the rest of the team practiced fielding. that was ok but I'm wondering if any of you could make recommendations for how best to approach this. I'm just starting to figure out my plan of attack.

thanks!
 

Jun 2, 2008
62
0
1. Teach your parents ... and use them. They will appreciate what you do more if they are involved.
2. Split the girls into 2 groups, half on hitting stations, half fielding, then switch ... again, use your parents.
3. Teach your kids how to help themselves. They can very easily do hitting stations on their own, with minimal adult supervision, after you teach them the right way of doing it. You would be amazed what they can do on their own as long as they know what you expect from them.
4. Use multiple hitting stations and set them up the same way every practice. The kids proceed through the hitting stations the same way every time. Soon it becomes a standard routine and they will carry out the routine with little supervision.
5. Be consistent ... start and end your practice the same way every time. Establish a routine and make sure they understand what the routine is. Do not deviate. Don't let your parents deviate. Have a plan for the middle part of practice. Make sure your kids know what the plan is for practice. Start and end practices on time ... ending practice late is just as bad as starting late.
6. Set aside special times for your pitchers and catchers. They need specific instruction and during practice is not the time. I recommend they come early so that you can work with them. Don't use valuable practice time to have your pitchers and catchers go off and pitch - especially with no supervision.
7. Always include some sort of team bonding/fun routine into your practice. Hit water ballons, play cabbage ball against the parents, relay drills, etc.
8. Teach and use your parents!!! Most of them want to help and will appreciate you spending time with them so that they can effectively help. They will also get the added benefit of seeing what they helped work on be executed on the field.
9. Lastly, make sure parents and kids know what your expectations are and that they are responsible for meeting those expectations (i.e. be on time, properly equipped and ready to practice, that they have water/drink, etc.). Do not except anything less. If you do, practices will quickly go down hill.


For what it's worth.
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
I would skip a scrimmage at the end. It is hard to do with less than 18 girls.

A really fun game for scrimmages is "shotgun". In shotgun, you divide the girls into 3 groups. One group plays the infield, one plays the outfield and one bats. A girl bats. She gets 1 or 2 strikes for an out. You count foul balls as strikes. You pitch. When she hits the ball, the team gets 1 point for every base the batter reaches before being put out. *BUT* an official "out" is recorded only if she is put out before getting to 1B. So, if a kid is tagged out at 3B, then her team scores 2 runs, but it doesn't count as an "out". If the kid is forced out at 1B, tagged out before reaching 1B, pops or flys out, or strikes out, then that is a recorded "out".

When three outs or made, the infield goes in to bat, the outfield goes to the infield, the batters go to the outfield.

Don't assign positions. Let them figure it out. One fun thing to do is to let the team going to the outfield get about 1/2 way into position and then pitch. Everyone starts whining about how unfair you were and you can say say, "Hey, I told you to hustle."

You can also put in a "5 batter" limit per inning if you need to. The game is very fast paced if you are putting the ball over the plate for them to hit.
 
May 22, 2008
351
0
NW Pennsylvania
Great advise from madskilz, Thats exactly how I try to run my practices,I cant emphasize enough to utilize stations, as well as parents. Also, at least 15 minutes of fun time each practice. My girls really liked to play dodgeball. Team is split into 2 groups & each group faces the other in parrallell lines & throws 1 hoppers at the other line.The object is, whoever misses the grounder is out & if the ball doesnt bounce in front of the line, the thrower is out. -last 1 standing wins. PS- use softee balls for this drill.
 
Dec 3, 2008
161
0
Here is a fun end-of-practice competition. Will take probably 15 minutes. We let our Division I softball players do this once in a while and it's an all-out battle. We also have our young campers play it during the summer and they beg to do it again.

1. Split into 3 equal teams.

2. Team A hits first. Team B lines up at 1B with gloves on and Team C lines up at 3B with gloves on. Team B and C will be working together.

3. Place a ball on a tee at home plate.

4. One player from Team A is at bat. One player from Team B starts on 1B. One player from Team C starts on 3B.

5. Team A player hits the ball and runs the bases. On contact, both Team B and Team C player go after the hit ball. Both players have to touch the ball before the turn is dead. One player can touch it and throw it to the other player, or they can both run after it and touch it.

6. Team A player gets 1 point for getting to 1B before dead ball, 2 points for 2B, 3 points for 3B, 4 points for home.

7. All players on Team A hit, then add up the scores.

8. Rotate, so each team hits and each team is at each base.

It wears them out, it makes them compete. I don't profess it's the most skill-based 15 minutes in the world, but they'll run fast and work hard AND find it fun. It's very simple, sorry if the explanation seems confusing.
 

sluggers

Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
5,752
48
Dallas, Texas
I'm shocked that anyone would suggest a bunch of 9 and 10 YOA girls should have fun...

Actually, it is a pretty good skill game. One of the important things to teach kids is that the thrower AND the player receiving the ball have to work together. I could see that you could encourage the catcher to get into a good position so that the throw is easy. Really, a good introduction to "beginning relay".

You could increase the difficulty by requiring the players to stay on opposite sides of the field, or require the catcher to be on a base when the throw is received, or something like that. Perhaps add a third player who also has to catch the ball.

Base running is always important...put someone out there to teach them how to turn the corners at the bases.

Nice game...you can mold it to fit the situation, you can play without a full team.
 

Coach-n-Dad

Crazy Daddy
Oct 31, 2008
1,011
0
10U are easily distracted, it is difficult to keep them interested for more than 10 minutes or so at a time. Multiple stations are a must!

All of the games mentioned here are good ones. I personally learned to NOT have batting practice with a live pitcher and the defense in the field, talk about a bored bunch of kids!!!

Break them up into groups of 3 to 4 and move them through different stations about every 5 minutes or so. Unless you have 4 or 5 coaches, it is imperative that you get parents involved. Not only will the parents appreciate being asked to help, they will learn that your job as coach isn't as easy as they think it is.

At the end of every practice, I set up an infield scrimmage. I used a pitching machine and if a ball is hit past the dirt it is an automatic double. If you do this, make sure the catchers are paying attention so there isn't a lot of delay.

Lastly, make sure the kids have fun.
 
Aug 2, 2008
553
0
"I personally learned to NOT have batting practice with a live pitcher and the defense in the field, talk about a bored bunch of kids!!! "
Coach-N-Dad

Do you have your pitchers live pitch in practice any other time? I agree with them being bored, but a little of live pitch is good to put the team in game type situation's. One other thing we do is have one station in the cages as live kid pitch, and rotate pitchers every so often so they can hit also. It is a big adjustment for alot of kids when they first pitch to, or hit against other kids and it is somthing they need to see alot of before there first game. But finding a balance can be difficult.

I try to keep it pretty basic at this age, they need to be able to throw the ball, receive the ball, hit the ball and bunt, and sprint bases, fundamentals are key. What ever drills you use should build on those fundamentals. The way I see it we should be building good habits at an early age, even at the cost of a win here and there. I know that is not rocket science advise there, but there is nothing worse than going way overboard to soon, then trying to bring them back down to earth. Good luck.

Mike
 
Dec 28, 2008
393
0
Live pitching: Definitely don't want to have 10 girls in field and 1 girl batting. I like Mike's idea of rotating 1 girl at a time through to face live pitching because girls need to see the live pitching, and pitchers need to practice with batters. Not sure I like the idea of it being inside a cage. I feel nervous as a grown man inside a cage soft tossing even with a net so I know that would probably intimidate new pitchers.

Do: Get lots and lots of softballs to utilize so that if you are practicing a station with ground balls you don't have to waste time with girls running to pick up balls they miss or overthrow. Let past balls go if you are just working on fundamentals so that 1/2 the practice isn't spent on things that you didn't intend to practice like tracking down past/overthrown balls. There is a need for real game like setup, but not at every station.

Isolate drills: If you are working on fielding then just roll/hit the first person a ball and have them field it, and toss to the side, set it in spare bucket or whatever. No sense wasting time or destroying confidence by making throws when they are learning to field ground balls.

Come up with fun drills that teach a point at the same time: Let's say you want to teach them how to catch popups. The fundamentals of catching a popup involve getting under the ball. But you don't have to start with a ball. Start with marshmallows. If they get right under the marshmallow and catch it in their mouth they get to eat it. Fun drill for them but they learn to run and get under the ball instead of using their hands. Then move on to getting under the marshmallow with hands down and then catching it at the last second. If they really kept their hands down and caught it, then they get to eat it. But if they ran with hands up, they have to throw it away. Then replace the marshmallows with wiffle balls or Jugs Lite Flight balls that they can catch with their bare hands. Then move on to Club K or other Softee type ball that they can start using their glove with. If you can build the mechanics doing fun things like that, you've given them the foundation to work from and they give you 100% believe me.

Make some drills competitive: Most girls don't like to just keep running for popups in practice. But lets say you set up a pitching machine that will shoot the balls into the air to a known location. You can then setup cones at 10 feet from the target, 20 feet, 30 feet etc. If they start from the first cone and make the catch they get 1 point. Second target 2 points and so on. Player with the highest number of points after 10 turns is "Queen of the World" or something. Now instead of "just practicing" the girls will actually want to go farther and farther and push themselves further than you could ever push them. After you've done the drill 1 or 2 times individually add more excitement to it by splitting the whole team into 2 groups and the group with the highest total gets to skip the "rabbit chase" at the end of practice or whatever. Now they push themselves, and push each other and you end up with girls running 50 feet to try and catch the ball because they love it, instead of girls who won't move 5 feet normally.

Purpose: I like the way Mike phrased the idea of building good habits at an early age. Your park should ask themselves "If a girl plays in this park until she is 18 what should she look like?" Then you develop a roadmap to ensure that that happens. Not that they will, but you want to avoid a girl playing in the park for 7 years, but not understanding the importance of stretching before and after practice, or not understanding the importance of conditioning. The coach who says "I want to win every game so I'm not wasting time on those things" does so at the expense of the girls and the league long term.

Goals: I'm very big on setting goals for myself, the team and teaching girls even at that age to set goals. Before each practice I explain to the team what it is we are trying to accomplish, then we evaluate if we did those things. During each game there is a clipboard hanging in the dugout that says "Here are the things we want to do this game" and after the game we evaluate whether or not we met the goals as a team. That way the emphasis is on improving and achieving what we want to work on, and has nothing to do with winning or losing. As the season progresses I stop making up the goals and I start letting Sally Sue tell me what it is she wants to work on that game. If her goal is to learn how to bunt, then by golly I'm going to let her work on bunting. Even if we lose the game, she has taken a step closer to bunting, and we continue to work on that, the next team she is on has their game winning bunter.

Expectations: While you do have to take into account their age and time span, don't assume that they are just 8/9 year old girls and that they can't really learn the game. If you have a great shortstop, spend extra time before or after practice and teach her how to angle to the ball. Challenge her to go to her knees for a ball. Etc. Let her know that your expectations for her are the same you would have a for an 18 year old playing that position. She doesn't have the same physical strengths yet, couldn't cover the same ground, can't make the same throws, but her heart won't be getting any bigger, and fears only grow stronger with age so challenge her to step up her game. That doesn't mean that you do the same for the girl who can't yet field two balls cleanly in a row. So part of the beauty of stations is that all 3 groups of 4 players will rotate to infielding, but each group may do completely different levels of things.

Make expectations clear: All girls do have to play in the games in rec leagues. But not all girls have to be pitchers, catchers, or play infield. I create a checklist that says "in order to play this position you must be able to demonstrate the following things" and I make those things clear to every parent and every girl in the first team meeting. If a parent/girl says "I really want to play second base" I can then say "Sally Sue you have the list of things you need to do, can you do them all yet or show me that you can do each one this practice." If Sally Sue can't bend over and cleanly field 3 ground balls in a row, she can't play 2nd base. She doesn't have to cover and back a hand a ball that rolls over 2nd base, just be able to cleanly field 3 balls in a row. She has to have a strong enough throw that she can throw in the air from her position at 2nd base all the way home. If her heart is really behind wanting to play 2nd base she will work on the aspects of her game that she needs to harder than I could ever make her work on by myself. When she finally "earns" the right to play 2nd base, she will have an accomplishment and not a gift, and the team will celebrate with her because they'll know she earned it, and not just because I rotate anyone who asks to that position. If parents complain, I say "I hate it for Sally Sue that she hasn't gotten to play 2nd base yet. All of us know what she needs to work on so I'm hoping that you are really spending the time with her in between practices because I can't wait until she earns that spot. If you aren't I'm available to put some extra time in with her before Thursday nights game. Warmups for the game start at 6:30, but I can meet you up here at 6:00 if you'd like so she can get the extra pratice throwing." I'm all about having fun with a purpose, and letting girls play new positions that they earn, but I do respect the game itself and the other players on the team. I dont just let anyone play any position just because they want to. They could get hurt, and they would hurt the team. I make the reasonable expectations clear way up front so that everyone has a plan ... just like goal setting.
 
Mar 24, 2009
12
0
Position Checklist Available?

I love that idea of a position checklist! I'm coaching a 10U rec team this season.

Can you post your position checklist for each position? I'd really like to use it to help motivate my girls (We are a team of 10 girls...a couple have played travel down to a couple who have never played.)

I am going to use your idea of team goals in our game tonight!

Great ideas!

Thanks:)
 

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