The way to ensure that our teams benefit the most from our practice is to have a purpose. Something that we want to accomplish besides better fielding, hitting and throwing. These softball practice variations are important aspects of training that are a part of every practice plan, however the intent of those drills and activities will vary. If you know exactly why you are getting the players together you can relay that information to them and they can then come ready and prepared to maximize their time with you. Following are some specific types of practices and when you might use them.
Specific Softball Practice Variations
This type of practice is for learning or acquiring new skills. If there is a new tactic for example that you want to introduce this season, you would build a practice in which the main part of the plan would be the introduction and acquisition of new skills. This type of practice plan would be scheduled during the preparation phase or pre season of your year where there is no game stress to inhibit learning.
If you are coaching a rep team it is likely that most technical skills would not be new for your athletes. You may however be introducing an advanced skill such as the pop up slide or the running slap. You may also be introducing tactics such as the one and three steal situation, or the cut off might be something that you might be introducing to your team this season. You may also be including mental training skills and strategies to your team this season. These practices must be planned carefully to ensure that you are building on the new skills with progressive drills.
During these training sessions the acquisition would be followed by repetition as the team works to become proficient at the skill. This can be done by a variety of activities that focus on the mechanics of the skill first using simple drills then progressing to various conditions. It is important that the team is not physically or psychologically fatigued during these practices in order to maximize retention.
In these practice sessions, the activities are designed to refine the skills that have already been acquired either through previous sessions or by building on previous experience. The activities during these practices should be as game like as possible and include a level of fatigue that is experienced when the importance of the performance outcome is significant. You might include a drill at the end of practice after numerous high intensity activities that included a medium to high physical and psychological demand.
Technical Skills Refinement
These skills should be done through the preparation phase and closer to the competition phase so that as your team approaches competition, they are not spending psychological effort on the execution of basic fundamental skills.
Tactical Skills Refinement
These are game skills that can be refined during drills that simulate game conditions prior to the start of the competitive season. They are then further refined during actual competitions. This can be exhibition games, league games or tournaments. What coaches do not sometimes realize is that this is the actual purpose of competitions prior to the main competition.
Evaluation Training Sessions
Without periodic evaluation of your team, you are missing one of the most useful tools in coaching softball. These practice plans should be set up to include the types of stresses that your team will encounter during competition. Keeping in mind that depending on the level of your team, the stress may differ. It is not to say that your players do not feel that competition is stressful but it is more of a mind set that is most times related to expectations.
Depending on the type of assessment, you might include activities that are evaluated with and without game stress. For example, if you are assessing speed, you do not need game stress for that information, however if you are evaluating throwing velocity and accuracy, it is advantageous to have a level of stress associated with the activity.
Many teams begin their season with a try out or selection camp to either add players to an existing team or to select an entirely new team for a specific purpose. Prior to creating this practice plan, you need to prioritize skills for your team and establish the markers that you are looking for in the new players. A softball rubric is a great tool for this purpose.
Performance Outcome Goals
Beginning with an end in mind needs, to have a starting point and this is where you get it. By establishing a base point, which could actually be done during your team selection process, you have a guide for progress. Using the information to build future practice plans will better ensure that your team develops in the direction you are planning.
As you move through your competitive season, you want to know how your team is progressing and how prepared they are for competition. You might include an assessment practice for this purpose prior to the start of the season and then mid way through the season so that you can prioritize your practices leading up to the taper.