Coaches are frequently handcuffed by the lack of available practice space. In baseball, especially in areas with seasonal changes like the northeast, the supply of practice fields cannot keep up with coaches' demands.
So how are coaches supposed to rectify situations like this and run effective practices with limited space?
No Place to Play
When I first began coaching youth baseball, I remember showing up at a field to practice and another team had just stepped on the field before us. My coaching staff and I just stood there looking at each other. I got the team together and told them sheepishly that practice was canceled.
Luckily most of the parents hadn't left, so the kids' rides were still there. Had I been more prepared and creative I could have moved the practice from the intended field to any safe alternative, including a much smaller grass field or even a parking lot.
What Coaches Can Do
Let's explore how coaches can be creative and run efficient practices in even the smallest or oddest of places:
Baseball may be the most challenging sport to practice in a small space, though it can be done. Of course you can't swat long fly balls but you can practice running drills, like bouncing off a base after the pitch crosses home plate.
Instead of a single line you can use three lines and only need 20-25 feet of space. You can use drop-down rubber bases, chalk or even gloves as bases.
The assistant coach can simulate the opposing pitcher and the manager instructs the baserunners to do one of three things: bounce off the base, steal, or execute a delayed steal on the throw back to the pitcher.
Hitting Drills on the Fly
Teams can still practice hitting drills but they need to use the right type of ball. Some options include a wiffleball, plastic pickle ball or even a rag ball, which is simply a rag with a two-inch masking tape wrapped around it until the rag is almost entirely covered.
A game of "One Pitch" can often be both fun and effective. This drill has two simple rules and involves dividing the team in half. First, players have to swing at whatever pitch they get. Second, the outcomes are either the player hits a homerun or, if he doesn't hit a homerun, he is out. Each team sends all players up to bat and whoever has more homeruns at the end is the winner.
These are examples of optimizing limited space when challenged with less than optimal surroundings. Coaches need to make up two lists of drills at the beginning of the season. One list will have drills that are used on the regular field and the other list will have alternate drills for either a parking lot or a smaller practice area. Coaches need to map out the props they will need and keep these in their trunk.
Youth sports practice time is valuable because coaches can actually teach the sport and have the kids learn from their mistakes. Don't let limited space change your practice plans. Be creative and create some space!
Marty Schupak, President of the Youth Sports Club, has coached youth sports for 21 years and has run more than 1,500 youth sports practices. He is the creator of 22 sports instructional videos including the best selling "Championship Soccer Drills" , "48 Championship Basketball Drills" and "The 59 Minute Baseball Practice." He is also author of the popular book, "Youth Baseball Drills." For samples of his videos, go to www.VideosForCoaches.com Contact him at YouthSportsClub@aol.com