By making use of the softball training session structure you can maximize performance results by laser focusing on the game in sections along with your regular practice sessions.
Softball Training Session Structure
Following are some formats that can be used :
Group Training Sessions:
Group practice sessions are basically a smaller practice session that is created to work on specific components of the game with a specific group. These sessions might not include the whole team, and can be done at a number of facilities and not necessarily just at the field. It is not easy to focus on a few players during a team practise when you want to get so much done in 2 hours without taking away from the team objectives. You may also use group practice sessions to assess and build team cohesion. They are also a good place for players to get comfortable with players in smaller groups.
The best method to plan these types of practices is to use a yearly training plan which will allow you to focus more precisely on what the team needs to work on. You might also find that a particular group is having difficulty with a part of the game. This is a perfect time to plan a group session practice with the players having the most trouble.
Here are some groups you might have a practice for:
- battery (catchers and pitchers)
- middle infield
- athletes having difficulty with a skill
Individual Practice Session:
We have all had softball players that have difficulty with some skills of the game. Hitting and pitching are skills for example that many athletes spend additional time on with either you or an instructor. There are other skills however that sometimes we only consider in a team context. It is important for you as a coach to evaluate all skills and to consider spending addition time with individuals on your team who are having trouble with basic skills of the game. Sometimes we have high expectations and if someone is not getting it, we just have them on the field less when it counts. Using a group practice session will be much more useful and strengthen your team in the end.
If you are using this session for evaluation, it is recommended during the preparation phase or beginning of the season, where refining skills can be accomplished before the competition phase. It is a good idea for you during these practice sessions to have additional coaches or even the parent or parents of the athletes that are with you so that you can maximize actual practice time.
During these sessions, there is often not a regular structure to the the practice. You might arrive at the facility or field and discuss the goals of the time together and get to work after warming up the body in preparation for the skills you will be working on. In skills that include throwing for example, you would make sure the athlete has warmed up her arm, or for base running you would want to ensure her legs are warmed up through dynamic stretching.
Mixed Practice Session:
We commonly refer to mixed practices within our practice plans as stations. These are small groups of players working on something specific during a regular practice plan. The team might start the practice together and then perhaps breaks off into groups, or your entire practice might be a number of small mixed practices within it. There would be the regular introduction, warm up and then cool down once the session is over. The team would cool down together if it was a full team practice.
You might plan these types of practices during the pre season and beginning of the competitive season to solidify skills and then work more in team activities leading up to your taper. You might break your team up less as you approach the main competition to reinforce team cohesion. The number of stations that you use during a practice session will depend on the space available and the number of athletes present.
Free Practice Sessions:
Having an occasional free practice doesn’t only allow your players to work on their game without stress but it can also enhance relations between you and the team. A free practise will help to develop your players self direction and allow them to have some control over their development as a player and as an athlete. By giving them the ability to problem solve on their own and to collaborate with each other, and you as they work to improve their skills.
This type of practice session is beneficial for experienced athletes who are able to self evaluate and monitor their own effort level in a free environment. A non experienced or young team may need more direction which can take away from other athletes if you have more than one player at the field. You can treat an individual session as a free session in that the athlete can specify what she wants to work on as well.
This is where you would spend time with individuals on their specific skills as the session refers to. We don’t always utilize this type of session because of scheduling and the fact that we also have day jobs and lives outside of the game. An easy way to incorporate these types of practices is to have someone come early to a game or a practice. I say to come early because at the end of the game or practice, players and parents generally want to get home. At the beginning, the player will also have more energy because they have not just spent 2 hours on the field.
You can use video analysis with the player during this time as well. simply download Coaches Eye to your smart phone and you have it right there. No need to get all the equipment set up to spend an extra 30 minutes with a player.
This is an awesome free tool that you can use when working individually with athletes.
Planning To Plan Is Planning To Fail
Make sure though that there is at least some planning done for your training sessions. Never show up at the field and say OK, what do you want to work on. If you have a group you will be working with or an individual, be sure that you and the participants show up with a purpose. A free practice might be more flexible in that players can request to work on something, but make sure that they give it some thought before they arrive because you want to make very good use of the time. Have them send you an email on what they want to work on and if it is a group practice, you can send them an email so that they can arrive mentally and physically prepared.