Changing Millions of Lives Through Repetition, Repetition, Repetition Written By Scott Knight
My last couple of articles was intended to challenge our local leagues to promote player development at the league level by implementing a quality and affordable “skills and drills” program. WOW, the responses I received were overwhelming and I am very proud to say that several leagues are in the process of starting a “skills and drills” program that will give league players in those communities an opportunity to receive quality and affordable training.
Now that we have established the “skills and drills” program we must execute the player development plan. We can sum up this “skills and drills” program in three words, “Repetition, Repetition, Repetition”. Many coaches spend way too much time talking and stopping practice to show one player what they did wrong while the other nine players are standing around waiting. We have found a way to teach the players correct fundamentals while keeping the practice moving at all times.
Our goal is to give every player a thousand catches and a thousand throws per practice. While this may not be possible that is always our goal. We believe that if we hit our players one thousand balls a practice they will improve at a much faster pace than a team that is hitting one hundred balls per practice. Some of you may be saying “if you do not correct their mistakes they will be developing bad habits” and to some extent this may be true but we believe the repetition is our first priority and our second priority is to coach them while the drill keeps moving.
Remember the key to success is “repetition, repetition, repetition”. The drills are very fast paced and again our goals for each practice is to hit each kid at least one thousand balls so we do not have time to stop and teach one player their mistakes. Listed below are some common mistakes that we see league coaches make in their practices and some advice on how we think they could be more effective and productive:
Problem 1 – Players are put in their position
Many league coaches typically place their players in their position and hit one ball at a time until the ball eventually makes its way back to home plate. On average this takes approximately 1-2 minutes per ball hit with most league teams. In our practices we will hit at least 30 balls per minute to players standing in a line at shortstop and throwing to a coach at 1st base. With that said our 10 players are receiving at least 3 ground balls per minute while league players are receiving one ball per minute per team.
Solution: If the kids cannot catch and throw very well you are wasting your time by putting them in their positions. Focus on teaching them to catch and throw before you worry about position responsibilities. You can be much more productive with one line at shortstop rather than ten players spread all around the field. The coach hitting the ball should hit balls as quickly as an assistant coach can feed them to him.
Problem 2 – Correcting Mistakes
How many times have you seen a coach stop a practice and spend several minutes coaching one player while all of the other players stand around waiting? After correcting that one player the coach will hit another ball to a different player and and likely have to stop practice again and correct their mistake as well. Again, while the league coach is hitting 2-3 balls per minute to his players we are hitting 30 per minute.
Solution: Place a good assistant coach at the end of the line and he can correct players after they make the play on the ball that was hit to them. The drill never stops or slows down for corrections. We can also correct mistakes with the “team” once we have completed the drill or have to pick up balls but keep it brief and get back to your next drill.
Problem 3 – Chasing Balls
When a player misses a ball or makes a bad throw most coaches “chase” the ball down and makes the throw before the next ball is hit. If you wait for a player to chase down their missed ball and make their throw you have just wasted at least 30 seconds of valuable practice time.
Solution: Start each drill with a full bucket of balls and do not “chase” any missed balls or bad throws. Keep hitting balls as quickly as possible and once the bucket is empty we will have the players “pick em up” and return them to the bucket. This is a great time for the coach to briefly correct any consistent mistakes they are making.
Problem 4 – Babysitting
Many league players are not accustomed to fast paced, hard hit balls but do not cater to these players. They are accustomed to taking lots of water breaks and picking lots of flowers.
Solution: Do not let them slow you down. Do not let them keep the more serious players from getting better. Do not hit the balls harder to some than you do others. Do not give any player a break unless the entire group gets a break. Take every second of every practice very serious and do not let weak kids slow you down but rather work hard to make those weak players strong by pushing them to their full potential.
Problem 5 – Young Players vs Old Players
Many coaches treat an 8 year old much different than they would a 12 year old. We see league coaches that are scared to hit a ball hard to an eight year old. Rarely will you see a league coach hit a line drive at an 8 year old or throw the ball hard to her. Normally 8 year olds are not expected to catch fly balls in the outfield. Therefore, when they play in a game they cannot catch hard grounders, pop fly’s, or throws being thrown to them. One league coach brought me in to help his team and he asked me to roll the balls to the fielders and the fielders would roll the ball to the 1st baseman because she could not catch balls coming to her in the air. Needless to say I told him I could not help them with bowling but I would be more than happy to help them with softball.
Solution: Treat an 8 year old just the same as you would a 12 year old. If you want them to make plays in games they must be able to make plays in practice. An 8 year old can do anything a 12 year old can do and that has been proven in my 8u program for the past seven years. They can catch line drives, pop fly’s, and balls being thrown to them. They can turn double plays. They can execute rundowns. They are like sponges and if you challenge them they will expand more than most coaches and parents think they can. One other piece of advice is to ask all players to wear defensive protective masks at the younger ages so the coaches will have more comfort in hitting them line drives, etc… and the players will have more confidence making the catch without the fear of getting hit in the face which can do long term damage.
If these 5 key problems are solved you are on your way to helping change the lives of your players and families. I personally believe that any child can become an elite softball player if they receive the proper training. We have seen thousands of kids come into our program not being able to catch and throw that are now elite softball players winning state championships and world series championships and this was done primarily through repetition, repetition, repetition.
If you are interested in starting a skills and drills program or you would like any advice of coaching youth softball please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be more than happy to help.