I wrote about the first part of our off season in Block 1. Now is the time of year where we are transitioning from a mechanics only approach, to a blended model. It’s still the off season, and 6 weeks is a decent amount of time to make some changes, so during Block 2 we will be seeing if our changes will stick by testing them under some stressful velocity and time constraints.
Whenever practice design is discussed in many baseball circles today, you will hear the terms “game-like”, representative design, and variable practice thrown around a lot. Essentially, these are practice designs that model closest to the game. These are essential to build better baseball players. They not only provide great feedback for testing players, they help players prepare for the game by having them think and react closer to the speed of the game. I gave my thoughts on why I thought this was important in Block 1, but I want to reiterate here. We went with more of a blocked and mechanics approach with the first 6 weeks, so now we are going to more of serial design. Meaning, there will be days we do fundamentals, progress to more difficult practice, and then come back to the fundamentals. For our players to make consistent progress, we have to realize that most will not make linear gains. There will be times when we need to scale back, move forward, and keep doing more of the same. This is completely depended on us having a system and noticing what the player is doing well, and what they are struggling with. I absolutely believe in self-organization, but that doesn’t mean it’s always optimized. This is where the art of coaching kicks in. What if they self-organize in an insufficient way? We get the most out of them so therefore we to meet them where they are.
So, how is Block 2 different from Block 1?
Blending, rather than strictly blocked. Here’s what a week looks like for us.
Mon- Technique/Teaching Day (EDDs + front toss with their favorite constraint)
Everyday Drills- Narrowed them down to 4 a day. (Dependent on the player and what they need)
Some of the constraints offered
- 1- Connection ball (top hand)
- 2- Ride Drill
- 3- Kickthrough’s or Scissor (depending on how the player moves)
- 4- Toes Up (back foot)
- 5- Bellinger Drill (feet together)
- 6- Angle Toss
- 7- Chaos Vision (Great feel for 2 strike)
They also have to option to blend in one of their feels and work to master it or the option to bring a drill they love, but they have to give reasoning why they like it and what it helps with.
This is also the day that I am pulling players to test for mastery. Do you know the drill? The why behind it? The outcome? Can you perform it?
Wednesday- blend (EDDs + a timing component or machine)
Timing components include
- Verbal flips (“go” with mixing speeds, fast and slow)
- Overhand firm and mixed speeds.
- Decision training- Decision BP based on counts (advantage count- looking for a ball we can drive. Disadvantage count- bigger zone).
- Two seam, four seam.
- Mixed BP- FB/CB or SL
Flow Friday(s) or Scrimmage Day
Loud music- Test/Competition with helmets on (go time)
- Video with iPads
- Velo with machines
- Exit Velo Competitions vs machine (points for above average)
- Blast Motion Sensors (test/retest)
- Slider Machine
- Variable Practice (mixed speeds or pitches)
- Dirty 30- Competitive At Bats vs a coach. (or live ABs later on)
Within this block, the goal is to continue to refine the swing patterns we have been working on while integrating some adjustability training and timing. I have also been pulling kids to try to show mastery of the drill. This is a little time consuming but rather than providing glancing blows, this allows them to explain it to me in depth and I can get an understanding of how well they know what we’re doing, why, and if they have mastered the movement or not. It also allows me to understand the language they use to explain concepts, and we can start to work on a routine for their in season development.
An example of Monday would be Block 1 plus the player’s choice of what front toss constraint they need to do to get their body moving right. This is a conversation that we have had with the players up to this point, and letting them control an aspect of practice and own it has been awesome.
Fridays are our test day. However, I want them to think of less as a “ I got you” moment and more of a learning one. We want to see what their video/data/timing and adjustability looks like under a little pressure. If it does not hold up, we haven’t made it stick yet. In addition, when this happens, have a conversation with the player about what they are feeling different; if they are comfortable, what they are seeing, etc. Right after would be ideal, because we tend to forget the more times goes by. Some of my favorite things to hear
I’m seeing the ball better
I’m on time
It feels easy
Hitting is hard. There are players who made some great strides right away, and some that it will take a little longer. The closer we get to the season, the more that timing, adjustability, seeing the ball well and making the right decisions come into play. With this model, we are blending Blocks 1 and 2 into Block 3. In Block 3, the focus will be individualized player routines and a much bigger focus on getting game ready.
Have a great week