Always have a Written Plan prepared in advance, with time periods stated for each activity and defined assignments for each adult participating.

Early on this will take some time, however as the season progresses a coach’s skills in preparing a plan will improve a great deal.  Using the Practice Plan Template in the Coaching Guide will help cut down on prep time.  Most practices vary little from on to the next.  Often preparing a new practice plan is as simple as pulling out a couple activities and replacing them with new ones.  There are not a lot of different ‘core’ activities.  Over time the plans will start to look very much the same with just a few alterations for any given day.

Do not allow players to chase missed throws (only in scrimmages).  ;One of the biggest time wasters, if not the number one culprit, is kids chasing missed played balls during drills and while playing catch during practices. When a kid is chasing a misplayed ball, that player is not working on their skills.  In many cases, when on player is chasing a ball, the result is many other players’ skill building activity also comes to a halt.

Position adults where missed balls will end up. A key part of any effective 12U practice plan has adults assigned to spots on the field in relation to a given activity where balls are likely to be missed by a player.  Those adults carry a handful of balls with them.  When a ball gets past a player, an adult immediately flips them a new ball.

MAINTAIN A SUPPLY OF FIVE GALLON BUCKETS

Ideally each coach/adult has their own bucket for balls.  A well-structured practice has multiple activities and involves quick transitions by the coaches from one spot on the field to another.  When each adult had their own supply of balls, they just need to get their body to the right spot on the field; they have their most important tool with them – their personal supply of balls.

Buckets can be used at the end point of a drill where players need somewhere to place the ball they were handling.  Having a bucket of balls at the point in a drill or activity where balls are likely to be missed and players will need a ready supply of replacement balls.

Important rule to establish on Day 1: “Dunks Only; No Jump Shots”.  Immediately squash the players desire to see if they can ‘shoot’ balls into a bucket.  This is major time waster and turns into chaos very quickly.

Set down your bat and pick up balls using both hands — no further explanation needed. Either you understand this statement or will figure it out after the first practice or two.

Give a specific number when asking kids to pick up balls or equipment.  When we say, “Ok, pick it all up” each individual sees ALL the balls or ALL the equipment and doesn’t recognize that the volume of items to pick-up is divided by 12.  Instead say, “Everybody pick up five balls”, or “Everybody pick up two pieces of equipment”.  Not only does clearly illustrate that their portion of the overall task is quite small, but because their portion is so small, their competitive juices often kick in and they will try to get five balls faster than their buddy; or try to get six or seven balls, so they can claim they got more than their buddy.

KEEP A SUPPLY OF CONES – THE 6” DISC STYLE USED BY SOCCER COACHES.

These clearly indicate where kids are supposed to stand for drills and in other activities.  Plan ahead where cones will be located on the field for each activity.  This might take 10 minutes when planning your first practices, but this will make everything run so much smoother and eliminates many behavioral issues before they can begin.   This is another habit that will take a little extra time early in the season, but as you get more practices under your belt the time to plan and to position cones will drop down to almost nothing.  Cones can be used to indicate a base as well.  Have cones in at least two colors, so to differentiate between a base and where you want a player to stand for the start of the drill

The Mini-Diamond, which is used often throughout the season, is something that can be set up in seconds using cones.

The younger the kids the more valuable the use of cones.  Tee-Ball age kids should have a cone representing every spot on the field they need to stand.  I would not hesitate setting them out on the field during Tee Ball games if the other coach would agree; and they would be crazy not to.

Train/Discipline players to always RUN from spot to spot (establish concrete expectations and enforce them). Getting kids to transition quickly during between activities can add 10-15 minutes of skill building work each practice.  Early in the season, invest the time to make individuals and the team (when appropriate) to ‘go back’ and transition again at FULL SPEED.  Early on some practice time is lost to these disciplinary activities. This time investment up front will gain a team hours of effective work as the season progresses.

WIFFLE BALLS

Indispensable tool for batting; they make it possible to practice hitting live pitches almost anywhere and anytime. These can be pitched to a batter straight on from a very close distance resulting in a higher percentage of good pitches to hit. They are safe, don’t fly far and can quickly be collected, so to get in more pitches and swings. They allow us to hold a batting practice in most any environment. …No Field Assignment Required.

NOTE: Pickle Balls are much sturdier, last longer, are easier to throw accurately and have a better feel coming off the bat

SYNTHETIC BALLS

Used in wet conditions. Using leather baseballs in a damp climate is costly and a safety risk to kids. When leather balls get wet they become heavier and harder resulting in a ball that no longer plays like a good baseball. Effectively they are then no good for further use and have to be replaced. More importantly, the added weight (even after they have ‘dried’) puts a child’s arm at a much greater risk for injury. Synthetic Balls do not have a cloth component and resist water. They are also less expensive to purchase than leather balls. They play just as well as leather, given the age group we are dealing with.  Save the leather balls for clear, sunny and dry days.

THROW DOWN BASES

Same use as cones, but give a real feel when being used as a ‘base’ in a drill. Ideal to help build a MINI Diamond anywhere, anytime.

TEES

(for all age groups…including Major League Baseball) – These can be used every day during batting practice.  Incorporate them into the offensive rotation with the next batter(s) in line to hit live hitting balls of Tees.