1. to occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons)
One of the most important aspects of a youth baseball practice is keeping as many players engaged into learning and development as often as possible. It can be a real challenge to reach 10, 12, or even 15 young minds with only one or two coaches. It gets even harder with all the distractions in spring – especially in the Midwest with temperatures barely over 40°.
One way to keep players engaged is to remove yourself from the drill while keeping the kids moving around. As a Coach, you serve as the overseer, ensuring that the drill and mechanics are being done correctly.
For instance, you can accomplish many fundamentals for both fielding and batting in one simple drill. We call it the “Rapid Bunt Drill” where we line up two fielders along the foul lines and have one batter bunting balls. Each fielder soft tosses to the batter (either one after the other, or one with 5 reps) and the batter bunts the ball back to the fielder from which the ball came.
This drill takes 3 players to perform, so in theory you could set up 4 or 5 stations to get each member of your team involved. Your job as a Coach is to then rotate around the stations and ensure proper mechanics are demonstrated. You don’t need to use the field for this, just line up the fielders along any “foul line” you have available to you or have marked off with cones.
We love this drill because it helps fielders prepare for bunt defense, practice their funnel technique, and also provides a high volume of reps (20-25 in 2 minutes) to the batter to fine tune their bunting skills. In essence, you combine a bunting drill with a fielding drill into one cohesive drill. All of this is accomplished without a Coach directly involved.
Another drill to consider focuses Pitchers on different responsibilities on defense than just backing up different bases. Many teams will use all or most of their players as a Pitcher, therefore going through the defensive responsibilities for Pitchers is vital to success once the games begin. To do that effectively, consider using a drill where Pitchers are actively engaged in the defense, and not just backing up home plate or other bases. See the diagram below for more details.
You can replace the Coaches in this drill with other players, effectively keeping the entire team engaged in a drill that moves quickly while covering Pitcher bunt or weak hit defense and covering first base responsibilities. Simply rotate each position to the next logical station after they have participated in the drill.
Look at the drills you have planned for this Spring, and see which ones you can modify to increase engagement while possibly even removing yourself from the drill so you can better see the whole team at once. Feel free to comment with any drills you would add to our short list we have shared in this post.