Baseball practices should involve more than hitting, standing around


Youth sports

April 22, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- My kids' baseball coach spends every practice doing little more than batting practice. The entire emphasis is on hitting, with pitching (just fastballs) getting a little attention when the kids are throwing to the hitters. The problem I see is that there's no time spent really teaching fielding or situational baseball. I've talked to the coach, and he says at this age (13-14) the game is all about hitting. He says they get fielding practice when the balls are hit. I disagree. I think there are techniques to catching balls, positioning hands to make quick throws and even with fielding footwork that the kids could be learning. Am I expecting too much from the coaches and kids at this level, or am I on to something here?

Brian Anderson,

York, Pa.

DEAR BRIAN -- The frustration you describe about the organization of practices is felt throughout youth baseball. That's a big reason we have made a conscious effort to educate coaches through coaching clinics, instructional products and a new online certification program that can be found at

The most efficient and enjoyable practices involve dividing the players into small groups and rotating them through various stations every 10 to 15 minutes. This type of practice design allows the kids to keep moving, which helps them maintain their interest and attention and increases their level of enjoyment.

There is no reason that most aspects of the game can't be covered in a 90-minute practice. If you have a team of 12 players, you can break them into three groups of four, with one group working on hitting drills, one group practicing infield fundamentals and another group working on outfield fundamentals. Groups can be rotated every 10 minutes. After three rotations, start over with one group taking live batting practice, another fielding batted balls and taking ground balls between pitches and the third group fielding batted balls and catching fly balls between pitches.

The final 30 minutes can be dedicated to situations. Place a full defense behind a coach who is pitching to kids who are hitting in live game situations. After six or nine outs, bring some fielders in to hit and rotate the hitters out into the field. Do this until everyone has hit and played defense.

Specific game situations can be practiced by having a pitcher deliver a "mock" pitch with a coach hitting a fungo to the defense to create the desired scenario. Players not in the field should be used as base runners in this type of drill to better simulate actual game speed.

Your questions are right on the money, but it may not be fair to be overly critical of the coaches. They are not always provided with the resources and training necessary to run effective practices. Practice planning is covered in detail in our certification program and in our new book, Coaching Youth Baseball the Ripken Way.

DEAR CAL -- My daughter plays in a girls 9-10 rec basketball league. A coach of an opposing team was at one of our games "scouting" our team for the end-of-season tournament. Am I crazy, or is it ridiculous that the coach of the top-seeded team is scouting a bunch of 9-year-old girls to gain advantage to win a game? Should winning be that important to the coach of these kids?

John Sommerkamp,


DEAR JOHN -- I think that many of us can only imagine what it would be like to have the free time to go and scout a 9-year-old basketball game.

Coaches at that level should be focusing on developing basketball players, with the ultimate goal being to help the kids improve both from a team and an individual standpoint every time out.

If I'm coaching in that age group, I want to put all of my available time and energy into making my team better so that they can play at the highest level possible - win or lose.

At the end of the game, if my team was unselfish and shared the basketball, played solid team defense, hustled and took high-percentage shots, I'm going to be extremely pleased with them regardless of the outcome.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to

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