Effective Practices: Defensive Preparation

Defensive Play

It's very easy to get comfortable running the same type of practices day in and day out. Let's be honest, routine is comforting and comfort is important. Unfortunately baseball and softball present countless moments of uncertainty and uncontrollable elements. The only way to truly prepare our teams for game day is by hitting on all aspects we we expect our athletes to be capable of. After all, if we don't give them an opportunity to be in tough situations at practice, we cannot expect them to feel and be prepared on game day.

There are 3 main elements to defensive training:

  • Skill Work

  • Speed of the Game

  • Positioning/Team Defense

Skill work includes glove work, angles to the ball, throwing arm slots, and of course receiving.

Speed of the game includes realistic drills that emulate actual game speed.

Positioning/Team Defense includes situations and drills that involve different moving parts of the defense working as one unit to complete a play.

In a 2-3 hour practice session, it can be difficult to cover each of these areas; we haven't even talked about the offensive part of practice! A team who spends time on teaching and implementing each of these on a weekly basis will prove to be difficult to beat. So how can you work all these aspects in?

It's simple, organization and follow through.

First, think about the drills you most commonly run with your team and try to fit each of them into the categories as defined. You may discover that you're heavy on the skill work side, but lacking in speed of the game drills. Once you're able to define which drills address each piece, you can then start to balance your defensive practice. Do your best to actually write out a practice plan for the benefit of the coaches and the players. It's an enormous help with timeline, expectations, and preparation. Skill work is a great way to ease into practice and there are many drills that players can run with each other rather than relying on coach. Speed of the game drills can be really fun for athletes and an easy way to work in competition by adding time limits or goals into each of the drills.

When it comes to positioning and team defense, think of a softball defense like a zone defense in basketball. When a player moves the others need to know and adjust as well in order to cover the biggest area on the field. This is a crucial part of defense that is often pushed aside because team drills take more time, but when game day comes we'll expect our athletes to work as a unit.

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