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Ways to not drill to death but instill love of game play?

Nov 26, 2019
35
8
Hey, as I get ready to coach pretty rec level high school ball, with many beginning level players, I'm wondering about ways to get them excited about the game and into game-like situations early and SAFELY (while still doing plenty of fundamentals/reps).

We have a couple returners on "varsity," but how have you all successfully had scrimmage-like situations early to set them up for success? We have 7 practices before our first game once the season starts...
 
Oct 14, 2016
33
18
Hey Coach,
I have a similar situation here. I coach at a small SWLA school. 3A level.

The first thing I do is time everything. I have a manager(student) with a stop watch, and we time fundamental work with making plays. This adds competition and will show you what they will do when the game speeds them up. You can really hone in on fundamental processes when they compete against the clock.

We set a standard that routine outs need to be completed in 3 seconds. By timing everything, we can help the athletes understand and deal with the speed of a game better.

For bunt coverages, I reduce the infield to 40'. We fail a lot at 40' but when we go back to 60' their success rate skyrockets.

For hitting, I put targets or markers for them to strive to hit with the ball. Let's say we are working on outside pitches. I will set up a sock net in right field. We award points for them hitting the net and getting close. We will group them and have competitions with groups.

I try really hard to never punish(added conditioning) to the losing groups. But we celebrate the winning group always.

Hope this helps some.
 
Jun 6, 2016
984
43
Chicago
For bunt coverages, I reduce the infield to 40'. We fail a lot at 40' but when we go back to 60' their success rate skyrockets.
I don't know exactly how "rec level" the OP's HS team is, or what their opponents are like, but in three years of coaching HS ball I've never once dedicated tea, practice time to bunt coverages. I have worked a little with my 3B/C off to the side on what to do, but if it's even 1% of all the practice time I'd be surprised.

I have two reasons for that: 1) Like the OP, I'm often working with beginning level players playing at what amounts to rec league HS ball. I learned early that I can teach all these different things, but if they can't throw or catch or hit the ball, none of the rest matters. 2) We don't play very many teams that bunt because most of the schools we face are around our level (the ones that are much better don't need to bunt against us).

So to answer the OP's question: If you have limited experience and limited time, focus primarily on what they will be doing the most. Make sure they understand basic force/tag plays. Make sure your outfielders know who throw the ball to when it comes to them. Make sure they understand the strike zone, so even if they're not good hitters yet, they at least know what not to swing at.

I would not do scrimmages at this stage. There is too much downtime for too many of the players, especially if you don't have good pitching. Put them in specific situations and run through those situations. Don't just do drills, but set up skill-building competitive practices. I think that's the best way to really get them having fun.

I try really hard to never punish(added conditioning) to the losing groups. But we celebrate the winning group always.
I do agree with this, with one small exception: Many of our competitions are conditioning in disguise. If we have multiple groups competing, the groups that get knocked out first will often have to do some kind of conditioning (wall sits or planks or whatever) while the other groups are still competing. It's not done to punish, exactly, but the winning groups are still doing work, so we want the losing groups to be working, too. But yes, definitely celebrate the winners. Last year we started passing out stickers with our logo on them. We track how many each girl gets, and reaching certain thresholds earns them rewards (e.g. a special team t-shirt). Our girls lose their minds trying to earn these stickers.
 
Jul 14, 2018
449
63
Hey taylormeyer77, just want to give you props for coming on here and trying to put together a program that will benefit your girls. We had a big softball shakeup in our school district this year, and none of the previous coaches are returning at any level. I can only hope that some of the new coaches are lurking here and maybe learning something, but it's great that you're taking charge and soliciting advice.

Best of luck in your inaugural season!!
 
Jun 6, 2016
984
43
Chicago
Just thought of this:

If you want to simulate ball-in-play situations with some randomness and you have a lot of girls who are new/not very skilled, consider a tee scrimmage.

Split them into two teams (or depending on your roster size, three and do two on defense/one on offense). Have a full defense. Offense gets one swing off the tee, everything is played live. This obviously doesn't do anything to help pitchers or hitters facing pitching, but it does help your defense. It does help base running. It's competition, and with one swing, it moves fast so you can get through a few innings quickly.
 
Jul 17, 2012
149
28
Kenmore, WA
Just thought of this:

If you want to simulate ball-in-play situations with some randomness and you have a lot of girls who are new/not very skilled, consider a tee scrimmage.

Split them into two teams (or depending on your roster size, three and do two on defense/one on offense). Have a full defense. Offense gets one swing off the tee, everything is played live. This obviously doesn't do anything to help pitchers or hitters facing pitching, but it does help your defense. It does help base running. It's competition, and with one swing, it moves fast so you can get through a few innings quickly.
I like player hit tee work for lower level players, but if you have good hitters it can get straight-up dangerous for the defense. The hitters get to take huge rips at the ball and square up almost everything. Make sure you don't have good hitters hitting at weak defenders.
 
Jun 6, 2016
984
43
Chicago
I like player hit tee work for lower level players, but if you have good hitters it can get straight-up dangerous for the defense. The hitters get to take huge rips at the ball and square up almost everything. Make sure you don't have good hitters hitting at weak defenders.
Agreed 100%. The OP did say the level is pretty low, but obviously I don't know how low. My assumption is the hitting is not very good yet, so it's one way to get balls in play to help teach different situations for the defense/base runners.

It's something that's worked for me in the past, but I wouldn't do it with my current crop of varsity players. I'd rather just pitch front toss with a net if I'm running a similar scrimmage-type situation.
 
Jan 8, 2019
226
43
Agreed 100%. The OP did say the level is pretty low, but obviously I don't know how low. My assumption is the hitting is not very good yet, so it's one way to get balls in play to help teach different situations for the defense/base runners.

It's something that's worked for me in the past, but I wouldn't do it with my current crop of varsity players. I'd rather just pitch front toss with a net if I'm running a similar scrimmage-type situation.
Have the girls do a self-toss hit instead of the tee (like coaches hitting grounders). Must have two hands on the bat during the swing. I find it amazing the number of kids that cannot do this. It will improve hand/eye coordination, but cuts back on the velocity of straight tee hits. Also, the balls will not all go to the same three fielders.
 
Dec 5, 2017
294
28
Agreed 100%. The OP did say the level is pretty low, but obviously I don't know how low. My assumption is the hitting is not very good yet, so it's one way to get balls in play to help teach different situations for the defense/base runners.

It's something that's worked for me in the past, but I wouldn't do it with my current crop of varsity players. I'd rather just pitch front toss with a net if I'm running a similar scrimmage-type situation.
[/QUOTED]
DD and I stayed after practice to watch the 16u team in our org practice one day. A big part of their practice involved the one team on defense, the pitcher actually pitched to the catcher but a coach was hitting fungo to different areas of the field and they had girls taking turns running as if they had hit the ball. They got a ton of work in and everyone was involved.
 
Jul 29, 2013
2,716
113
It's really simple, get yourself a mid-sixties throwing stud pitcher, they're everywhere!! This is where I insert one of these...... :rolleyes:

As @Rick M said, hats off to you for stepping up to the challenge, cause coaching HS parents can definitely be a challenge!!
 

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