If you ask any youth athlete in any sport what their favorite thing about practice is, not too many would list drills at the top of their list.
Drills, while important to teaching athletes proper form and technique and helping the movement become second nature, aren’t usually the most interesting or fun part of a practice.
It’s very easy for athletes to get complacent in their drills, especially when they feel like they’ve mastered the specific technique it is supposed to be teaching them.
If you want to get your team excited about drills, why not turn them into internal team competitions?
Everyone loves a good scrimmage because it gives them a chance to put the skills they’ve learned into use. Plus a little healthy competition gives players that added push to try that much harder while on the field/court. Competition also keeps everyone on their toes and keeps them engaged in what they are doing, so no kid is left standing on the sidelines with nothing to do. You could even sweeten the deal by rewarding the winning team/group.
Here are a few ideas for turning baseball & softball drills into friendly competition:
To practice hitting the cutoff man, break your players into teams of 3-5 and have them line up a reasonable (for their age and skill level) distance apart. The goal of this drill is to improve both accuracy and speed. Give each team a ball and have them throw it up and down the line. The goal is to get the ball down and back ten times and the first team to do so wins. Speed is good because they can move the ball up and down the line faster, but anytime a throw goes wild they lose time retrieving it and getting back in line.
To practice base running and sliding, have half of the team lineup at second base, while the other half of the team lines up at home. Each player has to run around the entire diamond and slide into the base they started at. Once they hit their starting base, the next team member gets to start their race around the field. The first team to get all their members around the field wins.
And if you’re working with an older team and want to improve bunting accuracy, why not put a little wager down? Outline a few small circles on the field where you would want the player to put the ball in a game situation. If they get the ball in the circle they win a dollar (or some other kind of treat).
It’s a good incentive to get them really thinking about what they are doing in the batter’s box and makes it a little harder — they have to get the bat on the ball AND put it somewhere.
These are just a few ways to take common baseball and softball drills and make them a little more exciting for your players. We’d love to hear what you’re doing at your own practices to keep players engaged.