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Cathi Aradi

NFCA Coaching Tip Of The Week: Adding Variety To Your Practices

They say that variety is the spice of life. VAriety is also the spice of softball. Imagine going to work every day and doing exactly the same thing over and over, and nothing ever changes. It would get very boring and even though you may be doing your job, you may do it better if it were a little more interesting and challenging.

Softball practice works the same way. If the players come in day after day and always do the same thing, they will get bored and their skills will not get better. It is possible that a player's skills could deteriorate because the player has stopped giving her best effort. It is our job as coaches to give our kids variety to keep them motivated and excited, and to keep practice fun.

We as coaches are guilty, at times, of falling into ruts or doing the same things over and over just like anyone else. Does this practice plan sound familiar? Stretch, throw a little, take batting practice with one hitter while everyone else stands around on the field waiting for their at-bat, take a few ground balls and maybe a few fly balls and then you go home. Don't laugh. I have seen programs that do this every day for practice. To me, this type of practice is boring, it is not efficient, and it does not challenge any player's skill level.

What I suggest for all coaches is variety. Do different things in practice. Instead of the whole team standing around waiting on one hitter during batting practice, you might try to divide the team into three groups. Have Group 1 work on bunts, Group 2 can do soft toss while focusing on correct mechanics and Group 3 could be hitting live. Using this example for an offensive practice, your team will work on three important tasks and get more work done in the same amount of time as it took for your whole team to stand around and get one round of batting practice done.

We also play some games that incorporate offense and defense. Divide the team into two groups, one offense and one defense. The hitter gets five pitches to hit (live or off a machine) and the offensive team gets one point for a ground ball, two points for a line drive and no points for a fly ball. The defense can also score points. Award one point for each ball that is fielded cleanly and deduct two points for each error. The team with the most points after one round (or however many rounds you wish to play) wins. We have prizes for our winners, such as no push-ups, going home while the losing team rakes the field, or anything that will force the players to compete harder. You will be shocked at how hard kids will play a game in order not to rake a field after practice.

Defensively, we try to challenge the players the same way. For example, with our outfielders in their positions and a runner on third base, we will hit fly balls to the outfielders and make them try to throw the runner out at home plate. This drill is challenging, very game-like and we are combining many different skills into one drill. We also may start eh runner at second base, hit ground balls to the outfielders and have them try to throw the runner out at home plate.

These are just a very few of the different ways we spice up our practices to keep them interesting, challenging, and most of all, to keep them fun. There are many places to find new drills, such as here onHome Plate and in Fastpitch Delivery. There is also a growing number of instructional videos and books on the market. Your local library should have, or be able to acquire, many instructional books.

My personal favorite place to get new drills is from other coaches. I have not met a coach yet who did not like to share ideas or coching tips with other coaches. All you have to do is ask.

So if you want to add a little spice to your practice this season, try some new drills. I am sure it will make practice more fun and exciting.