Effective Practices Part 2 – Stretching Your Time Too Thin

Let’s take a look at my practice plan from part 1:

5:00 – Stretching and Calisthenics

5:10 – Throwing progression

5:20 – Long Toss

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

Today I will focus on the first item, “Stretching and Calisthenics”. I have 10 minutes for this in my plan. How do I make good use of this time? To answer that maybe I should first figure out what I am trying to accomplish. Three benefits come to mind: getting warmed up to practice without injury, conditioning, and discipline. While I won’t discount the benefits of conditioning and discipline, over time I largely focus on getting warmed up quickly.

You may have creative ways to get more out of your warmups than I, but I’ve found that my warmups can generally be put into two categories. Category 1 is indeed stretching and calisthenics. I have found if I let the girls or new assistants run this portion of practice, it will generally end up looking like the beginning of a PE period at school. There will be a lot of “1-2-3-4-SIXTEEN, 1-2-3-4-SEVENTEEN” type of stuff going on, and static stretches. Category 2 is when my girls run through a quick set of dynamic stretches (movements). I don’t forget to include stretches for the shoulder, which is very important in softball.

Over the years I’ve formed some opinions about these two types of warmups, while trying not to be an absolutist. Having girls run this portion of practice encourages leadership, and routines with a PE or boot camp flavor encourage discipline. Conditioning is important too. But there are numerous potential problems. It seems like dynamic stretches are recommended over static stretches for warming up (but apparently elementary schools didn’t get the memo). These types of routines have invariably lasted much longer than planned, and I almost always have to cut girls off as they are shouting out to teammates to commence repetition number 25.

Keeping in mind that you have a very limited amount of practice time, you may want to consider a quicker more dynamic warmup routine. You can still devote more time in the occasional practice where you do longer routines, but stretching can stretch into a monstrosity, leaving you behind schedule for what you really wanted to get to, softball. Consider building some conditioning benefits into your drills, maybe doing little competitions that involve running. Don’t forget the importance of a light run and a few minutes of stretching at the end of a tough practice, either.