Effective Practices Part 1 – Getting Off to a Good Start

This is the first in a multi-part series on running effective practices that are more efficient in terms of time usage and getting results. I could have included a part 0 that strongly recommends you have a plan for your practices. That is a good prerequisite, having a plan. So let me start with a plan that seems pretty innocuous:

5:00 – Stretching and Calisthenics

5:10 – Throwing progression

5:20 – Long Toss

5:30 – etc., continuing on until 6 or 6:30

What could possibly be wrong with this plan? Plenty, actually. I will delve a bit more into this plan in future posts. For now I want to focus on one simple fact: My plan requires that everyone be at practice on time. In the frenetic culture of Silicon Valley, that’s a pretty big requirement. What if everyone doesn’t show up on time? What if players trickle in?

Well, if I think that my warmup and throwing is important, then I will most likely attempt to have assistants or parents take the late players and do shortened warmups in small groups. Sound familiar? This is frustrating and not optimal. Often this leads to starting late, as it builds in the desire to wait for just a few more kids to show up. Frustration and even anger can start to set in, which can have negative effects on your practice and reduce the enjoyment for the team as well as yourself. Players are now scattered into groups, and you’ve often lost the help of your assistants when you start other drills with the main group. And again, often your entire timeline has been thrown off and you have less time to get through what you wanted to cover.

So what is the remedy? A draconian crackdown on tardiness? You may try that, but it may be a losing battle. In fact it may not even be possible if a player or two have ongoing conflicts and get there as best they can, but have to be late some times.

As an alternative my suggestion is start your practices with drills or games that don’t depend on everyone being there or that require players’ arms to be fully warmed up. Maybe at the end of your practice plan you were thinking of playing bubble-ball or whiffle ball. Consider moving a fun activity like that to the beginning.

Showing up on time then becomes it’s own reward. Also consider how easy late arrivals can be added to your first planned activity. Now players can get reps in immediately and the frustration of waiting for players to arrive is gone. Once everyone is there you can do the sorts of things where everyone should be present.