Weeknight practice can be a challenge for everyone involved. You and the other coaches are tired from a long day of work, as are the parents. And we sometimes forget that the kids have had a long day too – hours spent at school, followed by homework, chores around the house, a quickly gulped dinner and a run to the car for a ride to practice.
That’s why it’s sometimes hard to keep them interested in the drills you’ve planned so hard to teach them. You feel like you’ve put together a productive practice, working on the areas that were weak in the previous game or ones that you’re trying to teach them, but the kids are yawning or staring up at birds in the sky or goofing around with each other.
How do you keep them interested when everybody’s a little worn out from the day?
A good one to consider is breaking the players into small groups. This approach requires help from other coaches and maybe even a couple of parents so that every group is supervised closely.
Some groups can work on hitting while others do an infield drill or shag flies or work on running the bases. Then rotate the groups so the kids aren’t doing the same drill long enough to get bored with it.
The key is that each player gets more reps and doesn’t wait long between reps. Drills that involve the entire team or even half the team require players to wait their turn, which leads to wandering minds and bored kids.
Another way to keep them interested is to turn the drills into games by awarding points for successful executions and keeping score. Yes, this strategy does add an element of competition, which some parents might not like, but as long as you keep the competition light, with every player feeling able to participate in and enjoy the game, the kids will be fine. You’re not deciding winners and losers so much as keeping the kids interested and active.
Finally, monitor the length of practices. As the writer of the article suggests, “It is always better to err on short practices rather than those long boring sessions.” He offers time limits by age group that are worth considering. If the kids are focused and attentive and you keep the practice moving, you can accomplish a lot in a short time. Then everybody can go home and get a little bit of rest!