The Game Plan

Editor’s Note: Dr. Stockton has dedicated his life to teaching kids the fundamentals of baseball, and over the years he has identified the key components of successful teaching.

In sports, the teacher is called the coach, which is a very appropriate word for what Dr. Stockton and others like him do. Whether it’s a soccer day camp, a weeklong basketball camp, or even a multi-sport traditional camp, the following coaching fundamentals are mostly universal.

The following coaching fundamentals are approached from a baseball perspective. That’s what Dr. Stockton knows best and he has spent his life doing it as a player, coach and director of the Skills & Drills School of Baseball.

Though not every point will pertain to the sports you and your counselors teach (coach) the hope is that you will glean some meaty information that your can effectively implement to strengthen not only a child’s athletic endeavors, but their life endeavors.

The Fundamentals

Developing quality ball players takes more than just conducting practice or even teaching necessary skills. Molding great ball players also requires some psychology of learning.

Managers and coaches of youth league programs should play a major role in developing proper habits in players by…

1. Using practice time wisely.

2. Establishing consistent practice routines at team workouts and at home.

3. Teaching players how to learn the correct kinetic methods of skill performance, as well as how to analyze mistakes and correct them.

With this as a basis for effective management and coaching, the following key points are submitted as a coaching framework that can help direct progress. Follow this plan and watch success unfold…

• Establish a systematic plan for each practice, complete with individual and team drills. These drills should be competitive, with multiple repetitions to facilitate learning.

• Recruit as many parents into the practice as possible. This will help increase your station system and help the parents become more aware of the importance of home training. The drills must be monitored in order to be effective.

• Have parents video their child in all preferred skills from four angles (front, back and both sides). These tapes should be critiqued, analyzed and evaluated by players, parents, managers and coaches for the purpose of making correct adjustments at team practice and during home training.

• If possible, establish a coaching staff with an offensive coordinator in charge of all hitting, bunting and base-running skills; a defensive coordinator in charge of all generic defensive skills, position skills and team defense, with a pitching coach in charge of all pitching skills. These coaches should monitor their particular skill stations at every practice. Do not allow players to cycle through their drills in a sloppy manner. Unless a player practices with the intent to improve, he is wasting his time and the time and training efforts of the coaching staff.

• There are numerous effective practice plans a coach can implement when there is only one adult to handle the workout. Use a shadow system with everyone going through the same drills simultaneously, each one simulating the action or movement. Also use skill contests for each drill to increase the players’ interest and productivity.

• Practice should be fun, creative and developmental in nature, with game skills being the central focus.

• Keep a calendar or record of each practice, like drills, stations, contests used, areas of special concern, improvements made, etc. Cover all game skills as often as possible.

• Always strive to teach skills correctly. Develop a clear understanding of the kinetic cause-and-effect dynamics of each skill being taught.

• Use pictures of professionals in the skill patterns you are teaching. These photos will help reinforce your coaching efforts and highlight the common denominators of all successful players.

• If players are not motivated, let them play a game mixed with various drills. You can play an inning and then administer a drill. Repeat the process over and over until practice time is finished. Always keep practice varied and challenging.

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  4. Playing the Game
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