Block 1- First 6 weeks. August 26- September 30
We are the furthest away from competition we will be, so block 1 will be dedicated solely to mechanics and swing changes. This will allow a few months for them to get comfortable with their new patterns before the stress of competition. After we feel like they are getting an understanding of the movements we want them to learn, we will add some time constraints. This can be a great time to test/retest to see if they have acquired the desired patterns or not. Block 2 will start on Oct 1- Nov 4. In block 2 we will start blending in stressful velocity either off the machine or mixed BP. I truly believe in the findings in the Blocked vs Random debate, but I also believe there’s a time for progressing difficulty, especially when trying to learn, rework or refine a new skill. I also believe there’s a ton of validity to serial practice, which Nick Winkelman talks about here. Finally, when we get to Block 3 (November 4- Season) our time will be all dedicated to getting players game ready. This includes a majority of work with timing, adjustability, mentality and competition.
Motor learning, particularly early learning, involves attempts by learners to acquire an idea of the movement (Gentile, 1972) or understand the basic pattern of coordination (Newell, 1985). To achieve these goals, learners must use cognitive (Fitts & Posner, 1967) and verbal processes (Adams, 1971) to solve problems.
Time - 40 minutes, every other day
How many days? - 2 or 3 days a week
How many players? 48 total hitters in the program.
In Oklahoma, we are limited to an hour a day until December 1 and in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a ton of time. For some reading this, I know you would love to be able to have these restrictions. One big priority for us is getting the most out of the time that we have. If we all have the same amount of time, how can we make ours more efficient? We also have coach to player ratio of 20 to 1 for hitters, so being able to relay the importance of each drill is signifiant because there will rarely be any 1 on 1 work during practice.
Dynamic Warm up- After they go through a team dynamic warm up together, they will be bucketed into small groups to work on their limitations found during the OnBaseU screen.
Then they will be broken up into 2 groups every day. They’ll either be on offense or defense, with a small group of pitchers being pulled to work on individual pitching mechanics. It looks like this.
Week 1- M-W-F
Infielders- Hitting. Outfielders on Defense.
Infielders on Defense. Outfielders- Hitting.
The reason we do every other day is because last year, we would do 30/30 every day and switch. It ended up being closer to 25 minutes each and we would lose 3–5 minutes switching groups. For the sake of math, we lose 5 minutes a day, 5 days a week. That’s 25 minutes per week, and we have 15 weeks of practice. That’s 375 minutes or over 6 days of practice! Essentially, we lost a week of practice due to switching groups. 25 minutes is also fairly tight when trying to get a decent amount of swings in, so we went to every other day model this year.
Every Day Drills (EDDs)
Notice, everything set up in 1 cage per group instead of rotating. With 6 groups, 1 minute per rotation (at least). 6 minutes is 1/5 of our total time. We aren’t using machines yet which makes it easier, so there’s really no reason to rotate.
The first part of our Every Day Drills is med ball work.
Being able to challenge the core and lower half movements without having to worry about hitting a ball. When using a heavier implement we will hopefully self-organize the lower half into moving more efficiently. I went into some detail into this here.
Med ball Work (as outlined in Training the motor- a template for bat speed development and proprioception)
- Tension free, balanced. Eyes relaxed and on the pitcher, level shoulders. Every move affects another move, so we need them to start in the best/most athletic posture we can.
Using the ground, the rear leg/backside takes us forward to a balanced position. I love the stair-step model (Stolen from Doug Latta) as a simple way to see if they are using the ground, gaining some ground and getting into an athletic position to hit.
Drills will include
- Bands around the waist (attached front or back to assist or feed the mistake.)
- Slinky Drill- Move out to 50/50 and then squat or jump to see where weight is distributed. EX- Forward move, squat down, back up, forward move again.
- Back foot toes up, stay connected with the ground on your forward move.
- I like the core velo belt but takes too long to setup for the time we have this fall.
- Hand path A to B (using a line can be a helpful visual)
- Soft front shoulder.
- Both arms working together, not from arm/shoulder pulling
- Hands inside shoulder and rotation, not stuck behind.
Drills will include
- Bottom hand taps
- Top hand through
These will be all be a part of our Every Day Drills (EDDs) series.
After they get done with the EDD Series we will be blending that with front toss and eventually machine work.
A few favorites include
- Connection ball (top hand, between forearm and bicep)
- Feet together (or appropriately called the Cody Bellinger)
- Ride drill
- All with overload, underload and regular (switch each round)
Again, I mentioned earlier that this is our block 1, and we will start to use stressful velo after 6 weeks. We have 2 hack attacks, 2 mini hacks and we just got a Rawlings Spinball machine.
Another time saver we are using is that we have them in the smallest groups possible with the space that we have. So, most days we will be broken up into 6 groups of 4 guys each. Instead of rotating and using time to pick everything up, they will have everything they need in their cage. This includes baseballs, a med ball, Tee, L-Screen and the 3 bats.
This is also the time that we will be going over our individual player meetings over video and statistical analysis. I will be sure to go more in depth with what the conversation looks like over the following weeks. When we are in a constant state of evaluation this fall, let’s keep this awesome quote from Fergus Connolly’s “game changer” in mind. (It’s a great read, by the way.)
Coaches 4 main jobs when evaluating players
- Identify the player’s differentiating qualities. What are the athlete’s strengths, and what do the coaches need to do to ensure that those strengths remain his or her key feature?
- Enhance the athlete’s ability to develop and apply these dominant qualities. Continue to maximize and develop them.
- Identify the player’s primary limiting factor. What is holding him or her back from developing/ improving further?
- Make sure the primary limiting factor doesn’t get any worse and, if possible, improve it.
Let’s all agree to not get caught up in only what a player can’t do, but let’s give them plenty of opportunities to showcase what they do well.