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Hello All,

I am interested in the best off-season programs for a HS team. We are in Tennessee and eager to get back after the dead period. I would like to compile a best practices list of off-season full-team plans and practices. 

I am interested in the more successful teams and their processes. I appreciate any all comments. We currently have a small program but it does not get good attendance. I fear the players don't see the benefit and want to change that. Thanks All.

Original Post

Let me preface this by saying that my grand total of coaching experience amounts to 2 practices this year before everything got shut down (long story as to why and when combined with a school district that is painfully slow with hiring made for a really short season), so a lot of my thoughts are theoretical rather than anything I can say actually worked).

I was supposed to spend this spring working at a small rural Title 1 school here in SC.  The school typically has some decent talent but has lacked depth and in my opinion quality coaching at all levels going down to youth ball.  The biggest things I noticed that we lacked were physical strength and fundamentals.  We don't really have much of an opportunity to work with kids in the off season here thanks to state rules that basically limit work to the summer and 20 practices between December and January  (that I'm not even sure if our program uses).  

Given all of the extra time I have had on my hands the past few months I have been thinking a lot about how we could improve our program so I will share my thoughts since it seems like we are in sort of similar situations.

1. Emphasis the weight room, while inspired by my program's particular lack of strength I think a good strength program plays a big role in any high school athletic program .

2.  Pre-planned practices.  I would have practices and workouts planned out as close to down to the minute as possible and have the practice plan posted in the locker room or dugout for players to see before going onto the field.  I think it would help keep kids focused on the current task and in general will give the kids a sense of organization (in my experience it is really hard to excel when it seems like everything around you is being done on the fly).

3.  Emphasis efficiency.  I think one of the bigger issues facing baseball is that kids tend to get bored because the game itself and a lot of practices involve a lot of standing around.  Limiting idle time could be huge in getting buy in from the kids.  I would try and focus on drills that could be "player led," to free up the coach(es) to actually coach as opposed to running the drills.  I would also try and focus on working isolating parts of a play as opposed to the whole play at times.  What I mean is instead of the coach standing at home plate hitting grounders to the infielders who then throw it to first and then having the first basemen throwing it to the catcher who then gives it back to the coach to start the whole process over again, maybe just have the coach hit grounders and have the infielder field it and only go through the foot work of the throw but then toss the ball in a bucket.  This would allow the coach to go faster allowing more reps and lessen the chance of an errant throw or hit taking out a kid that wasn't paying attention.  If you have multiple coaches that can hit fungos doing some split field work should also help improve practice efficiency and help problems caused by lack of space or facilities.

4. Measure and track whatever you can.  You specifically mention kids not thinking that off season work is worth it if you can find a way to measure something (anything) then you will be able to specifically show them improvement which could lead to better buy in.  If you could find a way to fund raise enough money to buy some kind of technology that can give you some insight into what is actually going on with the ball it may lead to the kids having a better understanding of what is going on when they do certain things on the field.  This goes for the weight room too, assuming your kids are actually gaining strength it is really easy to keep track of growth and show kids their improvement.

5.  Try to create competitions and competitive environments.  Competitions within practices and workouts can also give kids a benchmark that they can measure their improvement and can give some kids the motivation to actually put in work as opposed to just going through the motions.  If possible think outside of the box and try and do some things that may not necessarily relate directly to baseball and possibly allow some of your "lesser" baseball players to have some success.

Sorry I don't have any specific drills or anything for you but ways to improve a program have been on my mind a lot recently (I blame it on my virtual baseball clinic overdose during the shutdown).  

I should have added this earlier USA Baseball has been doing a series of virtual clinics since everything started shutting down, replays of are available on their youtube channel.  A lot of the presenters are college coaches so while they share some really good information it would definitely have to be adapted for a small high school program, but they did have some really impressive (to me at least) high school coaches on some of them.  Stick and Ball TV also did some virtual clinics that had some really good information, replays were available as of a couple of weeks ago but I lost the link so Im not sure if they are still available for free.

There is also a lot of coaches that share various things that they do in their program on Twitter.  Chuck Box is one in particular that I've seen share some examples of his practice plans/off season plans ( I wanna say it was in April or May) that may give you some ideas about how to structure things.  He has also taken part in a couple of the clinics that I mentioned above (sorry don't remember when those were so I can't narrow it down as to which ones to look at).

Make sure to do some lifting. Doesn't have to be a super smart program, just free weight  compound lifts gradually increasing the weight, maybe doing some kind of periodisation (lowering reps over time)

Also make sure they are gaining weight if they are too light. Most drafted hs hitters are 175-200 in these days so if they are sub 170 eat enough and gain some weight. 

With the hitters I work with I usually do a 3 phase program. First 6-8 weeks is usually mostly movement and mechanics, then I do a batspeed phase with ol ul stuff and also med balls and then do a more challenging phase working on handling velo, spin, plate coverage and so on doing stuff like short box, higher velo machine and ideally some live ABs.

Also make sure do do some med ball and stability stuff.

Also some throwing program of course but I dont know that much about this stuff.

When you plan on implementing strength programs, and this is especially true if they haven't been as active, please please please don't do too much too soon. That is going to be based on the individual, and there's more factors involved than just that, but as a general rule, if you do too much too soon after doing too little for too long, you have a higher chance of getting hurt. Doesn't guarantee it, but, start it off slow if possible, and gradually build up volume and intensity.

@XFactor posted:

When you plan on implementing strength programs, and this is especially true if they haven't been as active, please please please don't do too much too soon. That is going to be based on the individual, and there's more factors involved than just that, but as a general rule, if you do too much too soon after doing too little for too long, you have a higher chance of getting hurt. Doesn't guarantee it, but, start it off slow if possible, and gradually build up volume and intensity.

I agree. And take time to learn the lifts. If kids have never lifted before I would do about 3 months with light weights and no progression and just focus on technique. 

Ideally of course HS age hitters already have started lifting at 13-14 so they are already competent by the time they are in varsity.

Ideally, but if they've been out of the weight room since roughly, say, March or April, how many kids know to not push it immediately to try and get back what they've regressed to? Important part of a program would be room for autoregulation. Maybe have them work at 10-15 rep range at a 6-6.5 RPE for a month before building back into it. That is, if they haven't done much for a few months.

@XFactor posted:

When you plan on implementing strength programs, and this is especially true if they haven't been as active, please please please don't do too much too soon. That is going to be based on the individual, and there's more factors involved than just that, but as a general rule, if you do too much too soon after doing too little for too long, you have a higher chance of getting hurt. Doesn't guarantee it, but, start it off slow if possible, and gradually build up volume and intensity.

This is great advice. My sons HS coach hit them hard on core stuff on the first workout in the fall and basically wrecked them for more than a week. My son was already working out regularly and he couldn’t hit for 3 or 4 days. The school trainer got wind of it and laid into the coach. 

You may be able to find a local gym/athlete training that would give you a good group rate? The one my sons HS uses charges them $15/workout. They get speed and strength training from guys who are training pro athletes. 

Cressey Sports is a great example of one of these gyms. Even if you can’t get your team to the gym, maybe you can pay the trainer to come to the team a few times to get things going. 

 

Just be careful with some of the training that people do. In my late teens I worked for a baseball instructional facility that I use to also train at, and they'd run kids through speed ladders and do box jumps in a fatigued state to try and increase speed-strength and do all sorts of dumb shit that just wasn't going to transfer over to the field at all. And of course they have the testimonials like every place does of D1 recruits and that guy that made it.

Point being, they may be great, but just because they train pros, or have, or have trained some, does not mean they actually know what they're doing. They may know just enough to be dangerous, so to speak. Or, like I said on the flipside they could be great and know what they're doing.

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