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Setting Up a Winning Practice Plan: Tips and Techniques for Coaches

As a coach, setting up a practice plan is crucial in ensuring your athletes are developing the necessary skills to perform at their best. However, before diving into creating a practice plan, it is essential to understand a few key factors that can greatly impact the effectiveness of your plan. In this blog, we will discuss the athlete/table metaphor, what to teach at different age levels, learning styles, and the different types of practices.

The Athlete/Table Metaphor:

Imagine an athlete as a table with four legs. Each leg represents a crucial pillar in their development - technical, tactical, mental, and physical. In order to ensure your athletes are well-rounded, it is important to focus on each of these pillars in your practice plan.

What to Teach at Different Age Levels:

When planning your practice, it is important to take into account the age of your athletes. For example, at 11U, you want to focus on developing fundamental skills such as catching, throwing, and hitting. As your athletes get older, you can introduce more complex skills such as base running and situational awareness.

Learning Styles:

Recognizing the learner's preferred learning style is also important in creating an effective practice plan. Athletes can be visual learners, auditory learners, or kinesthetic learners. To ensure that each athlete is learning in their preferred way, consider incorporating teaching in three different styles - videos, articles/handouts, and homework. Additionally, using the athletes themselves in the practice can be a great way to cater to their preferred learning style.

Types of Practices:

Finally, it is important to understand the different types of practices and when to use them. Blocked practice is useful when first introducing a skill. For example, when teaching hitting, starting with a tee can be a great way to develop the necessary muscle memory. Serial/random practice involves repeating a sequence of skills in a predictable pattern, such as throwing a fastball followed by a changeup. Finally, random practice involves forcing the athlete to actively engage in the learning process by introducing skills in an unpredictable pattern.

In conclusion, creating an effective practice plan involves understanding the athlete as a whole, recognizing their preferred learning styles, and incorporating different types of practices. By taking the time to consider these factors, you can ensure that your athletes are developing the necessary skills to perform at their best.


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