Player Development

General Guidelines

A key component in developing reasonably safe baseball and softball is to make a concerted effort to plan team practices well. This will not only save you time in the long run but will ensure that you get the most out of your limited practice time and make your practices as safe as possible.

  • Preparation: Be thoroughly prepared to teach and supervise the activities you conduct in practice. This should ensure that skills and drills are taught in a technically correct manner.
  • Purpose: Know the purpose or objective of each activity and drill you conduct. Each drill should have an intelligent, meaningful purpose related to the sport of baseball or softball. Punishment drills are impossible to justify.
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Plan an appropriate warm-up specifically designed to prepare your players for the movements and activities to be conducted in practice, and plan an appropriate cooldown geared toward the actual movements and activities you have conducted.
  • Instructions: Specify key directions, explanations, demonstrations, or learning cues that are critical to proper execution of each drill or activity. The words and demonstrations you use to describe the model or ideal performance toward which the athletes should be striving are important. Choose these key words carefully so that the athletes will be able to focus on a few, clear terms in language and terminology they can understand. Be sure to identify the common errors and problems of execution. Pointing out these common errors could prevent athletes from being injured by performing the drills or activities incorrectly.
  • Progressions: Detail specific progressions to be learned as part of a practice or in relation to previous or future practices. Using appropriate progressions is essential to demonstrating that athletes were able to master a skill's components in sequence or simple skills prior to attempting more complex skills.
  • Grouping: Group athletes for instruction by the most appropriate means so as to enhance successful learning experiences within a safe environment. Although PONY players are grouped by age for appropriate competitive reasons, it is important to structure practice activities to avoid potential mismatch situations in terms of safety. For example, consider the importance of utilizing your knowledge of players' height, weight, experience, skill, maturity, physical condition, psychological readiness, or a combination of these.
  • Feedback: Provide relevant feedback to each athlete to correct improper or dangerous skill execution. Remember to communicate to individuals whenever possible rather than to an entire team or even several athletes.
  • Diagrams: Provide any diagrams that might help you clarify the design of a drill or activity. Remember, a picture is often "worth a thousand words," particularly if it's a good picture.
  • Conditioning: Build in the physical conditioning that is necessary to perform the sport's skills safely. Physical conditioning is an important factor related to preventing fatigue-related injuries.
  • You: Plan the best use of your role and the roles of any assistants you might have during practice and competition. Strive to interact with athletes as much as possible in a meaningful manner. Make the best use of your time and energy by selecting strategies most conducive to mastering the sport's skills. Whenever possible, try to have at least one other responsible adult with you at practices so that you are not the only adult present. In an emergency, it might be very helpful to have this other adult present. 

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