29 March, 2011
Ideas for a T-Ball Practice
T-ball practices typically last an hour and must be well-organized to maintain the focus of your young players. The goal of each practice should be for each player to have fun, gain confidence in his ability and improve his skill level. Each drill you teach the players should focus on one or all of these goals. Most important, do as little talking as possible. A T-ball player listening to an adult for five minutes learns far less than a player who practices a skill for five minutes.
Spending an hour doing anything can be boring to many of your players. Choose either hitting or fielding to be your focus for the day. Teach baserunning in the first five minutes of every practice. This time will also be used as a warmup because of the running involved. Spend the next 15 minutes doing drills to work on your focus for the day. Whichever skill you are not emphasizing during that practice, spend 20 minutes working on it in the middle of practice, before returning to your focus for the day for the final 20 minutes of practice. This model includes several changes in activity, which will captivate your players' attention for longer.
Use your assistant coaches. You, as the head coach, cannot show up to the practice without a plan, and your assistants cannot show up without knowing the plan. Talk to them ahead of time about what you want to accomplish for each practice and what their roles will be to reach those goals. Most T-ball teams have two assistant coaches. Select assistants who can be at most practices and games. Your team will consist of 12 to 15 players. Divide the team into three groups, using whatever criteria you choose, most likely skill level, and use three stations during each segment of practice. Your assistants have ownership of their own drills that they can teach your players, and players will get more repetitions in practice because of the small group setting.
Depending upon the equipment you have, three basic hitting stations for T-ball are swinging on air, hitting off of a tee and hitting a tire. Swinging on air emphasizes a proper stance and swing mechanics. Because the players are not trying to hit a ball, you can observe nothing but their swings. Many coaches naturally follow the flight of the ball instead of watching the player's swing. Hitting off of a tee is an ideal station for you as the head coach to observe, because it is a game situation for the player. Teaching mechanics is still important at this station, but you also can learn how to set up the tee for each player to achieve success. Hitting a tire emphasizes swing power. Using a drill, punch two holes vertically aligned in the tire and drive the tire down onto a metal pole so that it is suspended in the strike zone. Paint a white spot on the tire to simulate the ball. Often in this drill, swing mechanics are less important than swinging the bat as hard as possible and hitting the painted portion of the tire.
Most players in T-ball put the ball in play. Therefore, fielding the ball is vital to success. Three fielding drills that are ideal for young players are playing catch, rolling grounders and team fielding. Playing catch is not easy for T-ball players. The more times they can throw to a target from a relatively short distance and have success, the more likely they are to improve. Catching the ball in the air can be a struggle at first, but players develop the skill after consistent practices. Rolling ground balls to your players makes it easier for them to field the ball. This is a good time to teach technique to the players because they both field the ball and throw it back to you at a short distance. Team drills are ideal for days that you emphasize your fielding. Assign positions to your players and hit ground balls to them using a bat. Batted balls move differently than rolled balls, so this will be more difficult. In addition, it teaches your players what to do with the ball in a game.
- "The Little League Guide to Tee Ball : Helping Beginning Players Develop Coordination and Confidence"; Ned McIntosh and Rich Cropper; 2003.
- "Coaching Tee Ball: The Baffled Parent's Guide"; Bing Broido; 2003.
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