Today I am going to talk about keeping your athletes interested in the off season. It can be difficult to keep your practices interesting and fun when you are in a confined space such as a gym. Not everyone has an outdoor facility or the weather to practice outside in the off season. This can be a challenge if you have a long pre season.
The trick is to be creative and to find ways to teach the same thing through as many types of drills as you can while incorporating other components of the game. It’s a good time for example to work on physical and mental skills that will show the largest improvements during games and tournaments that really count. I say this is a good time because there is not very much pressure to perform during the preseason, also known as the preparation phase of an annual plan.
Basic fundamental skills of softball can be done during the first or second part of the practice if you only meet once per week. If you meet twice per week you can have one session for skills where you incorporate mental training and the other practice for physical training skills. You can do all of this in a gym or you can do some of it in a classroom or even on a field if you are lucky enough to have that option.
You can easily incorporate physical training by setting up a circuit that includes push ups, sit ups and burpees in between skill drills. Mental training can be done at home and then executed during practice. For example, you can have the team complete a visualization exercise the night before a practice. and then have them visualize before a drill or while waiting in line for a ground ball to be hit to them.
You could also do a mini Olympics using using softball skills at the beginning of the season and as the season approaches to see how they have improved during the training sessions. Also teach your players how to record their progress and then they can monitor it through the season. The trick is to find ways to keep the practice different and progressive at the same time.
One of the best ways to do this is to plan your pre season. Take a regular calendar and write down what you are going to work on for each practice session. This way you can make your pre season fun while making sure that you hit all the points that you want to before the season begins. You can determine what these points are as you reflect on the previous season.
Work on basic fundamental skills at the beginning and then as you get closer to the season work more on tactics and strategies and incorporating mental training skills. A great way to give the team an opportunity to work on mental skills is to create game like situations and skill competitions that cause stress to work on skills such as emotional control. Be sure though to let them know exactly what skills they will be working on during those activities so that they can benefit fully.
So, plan, be creative and be specific during the pre season and your team will be as excited at the end of the pre season as they were when they first hit the gym for practice.