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Youth Baseball Practices Don't Have To Be Long To Be Good
by Marty Schupak

Back in the late 70's an old college professor of mine was fond of saying, "Don't confuse activity with accomplishment." Jump forward about eight years and imagine me observing a coach running practice for his little League team. At the start of practice most of the 10, 11, and 12 year olds are very enthusiastic. As the practice progresses I notice only two forms of activity taking place. One has the head coach throwing batting practice, with each hitter getting 10 to 15 swings while each pitcher takes a turn throwing to the assistant coach as the others stand and watch. I, too, stand and watch and I don't know who is more bored- the players or me. When I saw a member of the board of directors, I commented on how poorly I thought the practice had been run. The board member responded, " If you think you can do a better job, then volunteer to coach." (Me and my big mouth.)

But I did just that. And my first practice, though planned differently, ended up being two tedious hours of batting practice and pitchers throwing on the sidelines. Exactly what I had been so critical of myself! After that first practice I told my wife that there must be a better way. Even though I had a master's degree in Phys. Ed from Arizona State University, baseball was the major sport I was least knowledgeable about.

So, I decided to research alternative practice methods. I observed a variety of teams during practice ranging from 7 year olds to college level players. I noticed that the best practices were not necessarily the longest and that the most organized coaches wasted little time. On most of the drills every player was involved. It was amazing the way some coaches integrated fun and learning and how creative some of the drills and games were.

I began to use some of these techniques with my team. After a little trial and error I was actually able to run a more effective practice in half the time.

To run a practice like this does take preparation - mostly at the beginning of the season. But coaches need not look at this as a chore. It can be as much fun for you as it is for the players.

The youth baseball coach, whether it's Babe Ruth League, Little League, or local Park and Rec Dept., should make a list of drills at the beginning of the year that they are interested in trying. The idea is to be creative. When my oldest son was 8, I began a practice with a simple relay race, consisting of two lines of six players each. To put a baseball theme into the race, I had each player wear their glove and hold two baseballs in it. The learning benefit of this relay race was to teach kids the importance of squeezing the glove. Another year I was teaching players how to bunt. When the team took batting practice, I put one cone 10 feet directly in front of home plate and another cone 10 feet to the left of the plate. Each player gets two bunts before his regular swings. For each bunt that goes between the cones , the player earns two extra swings. This motivated the players to focus when they bunted. And, it worked!

If a coach plans five to seven drills of ten to twelve minutes in length for each practice, the players will be more attentive and less bored. Don't worry about players not liking certain drills. About a third through the season they will let you know which ones to weed out.

The youth baseball season is unlike any other season. Fathers sneak out of work early, families rarely eat dinner before 8:30 at night and the laundry room is active day and night. As parents and coaches, we should make practices more interesting and fun because during a typical little league season, players spend as much or more time practicing than in actual games. So, be creative and have a great baseball season.

Marty Schupak has coached youth baseball for 12 years. He is the creator of "The 59 Minute Baseball Practice" video. If you would like information on purchasing the video, visit

Baseball tips

Lead Arm - From the Cocked Position to the Follow-Through

When the throwing arm arrives in the cocked position, the lead arm is bridged the lead elbow is up at shoulder height and pointing toward home plate. Simultaneous with the turning of the hips and shoulders, the lead elbow is pulled down to the side of the body. This is called the tuck and it helps to generate the speed with which the hips and shoulders turn. The glove remains in front of the elbow during the tuck and is held close to the body. After the follow-through, the lead arm should be brought back in front of the body with the glove up to protect the pitcher from hit balls. A good defensive position after the pitch is often lacking at all levels.
A major problem for young pitchers is the habit of throwing the glove behind the body during the follow-through. This is easy to spot when looking for it and can easily be corrected with practice.

Throwing Arm - From the Cocked Position to the Follow-Through

When the arm arrives at the cocked position, the stride foot is planted and the front hip and front shoulder are at pointed at the target. As the hips and shoulders turn or open up, the throwing elbow points to the target and the palm turns from facing sideways to facing up. The acceleration of the hand (including the snapping of the wrist) determines the ball's velocity. The throwing hand proceeds past the head and the ball is released at a point where the ball and the rear foot form a line that is approximately 45 degrees. The hand then crosses the chest to a point below and outside of the knee of the stride leg. This follow-through allows the arm to decelerate. Deceleration protects the arm. Pitchers should concentrate on throwing the ball downhill. This will occur if they have their elbow up at the beginning of this .

Throwing Arm - From the Break to the Cocked Position

After the hands break, the throwing arm should take a down, back and up path until arriving at the cocked position. Young pitchers should focus on the throwing hand. The ball should be pulled out of the bottom of the glove when the hands are breaking. The hand should stay on top of the ball (palm down) when taking the ball down and back. The action here is circular. As the arm comes up, the ball and palm of the hand turn outward (toward the short stop for a right-hander). When the elbow of the throwing arm reaches the height of the shoulder and the hand is over the biceps, the pitcher is in the "cocked" position. The palm should still be facing outward. At this point, the front leg should be planted and the non-throwing shoulder should still be pointed toward the target.
When taking the ball back, some pitchers extend too far and are not able to get the ball in the cocked position soon enough. Their front leg is planted, their body is ready to turn for the throw, but the ball is too far behind them. Throwing the ball from this position greatly reduces velocity and, more importantly, puts a great deal of stress on the shoulder. Another problem occurs when the palm turns toward the target while bringing the ball up to the cocked position. This also puts too much stress on the arm during the early acceleration of the hand

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