No matter the sport. No matter the skill. Everyone has their favorite or go-to drills. The problem with a lot of drills is that most teach the desired skill but lack a progression to refine learning.
While introducing the skill the drills and practice reps should be slow and deliberate so that the fielder can ingrain form, movement patterns, and technique. As the fielder becomes more comfortable, practice reps need to progress from slow and deliberate to fast and more complex. As the reps become faster and more complex they should become more competitive for the fielder and have a more game-like feel.
The hard part about progressing your drills to be more competitive or game-like is the creativity it sometimes takes. Creating competitive and game-like drills can take many shapes and forms. There isn’t necessarily a right way or wrong way but there tend to be 4 common components that can be altered. Those components include time, decision making, ball speed/distance, and restraints.
By changing the time fielders have to make plays forces them to speed up their play. With the appropriate time demand on the fielders the speed of their play will resemble game-like actions.
- Simulate base runners by forcing infielders to field and make plays under a given time (4.3 secs for example)
- Change the distance the baserunner must go. Shortening the baselines cause the speed of the fielders to increase to make plays.
Instead of having one single response the fielder will perform have multiple. Having multiple responses the fielder must choose the correct response to the rep in real time. This forces the fielders to “read and react” thus improving real time decision making.
- Have multiple colored baseballs and assign a specific fielding posture (forehand, routine, backhand, single hand, etc.) to a color. Have the fielders read the color and react to field using the correct posture.
- With multiple colored baseballs assign a different throwing response.
- Using multiple pitching machines set up side by side adjusted to different speeds can cause the fielder to read the speed and adjust accordingly.
Adjusting the distance and speed of an approaching ball changes the reaction time demand of the fielder. This can force the fielder to speed up their recognition and movements or slow them down depending on the ball and the subsequent play after fielding/receiving.
Adjusting the speed can also mean the rate at which the fielder takes reps. We can do rapid fire reps or the standard single rep with a break in between. The rapid fire reps can do one of two things. It can force the fielder to eliminate unnecessary movements or it can be used to exaggerate unnecessary movements for recognition purposes.
- Rapid fire fungos by hitting 3-5 groundballs at the fielder
- Change the distance the feeder is away from the fielder without changing the ball speed (fungos, rolls, or machine)
- Change the ball speed without changing the distance from the fielder (fungos, rolls, or machine)
Set limitations to body movements or using different fielding implements. Limiting body movements or the use of different body parts can force the fielder to exaggerate others. It’s similar to taking away one of your 5 senses, others will be heightened to make up for what’s missing.
By using different fielding implements the fielder is forced to refine their focus or exaggerate other areas of the fielding process to compensate.
- Using a trainer glove (small glove)
- Using a pancake glove
- Using small baseballs
- One handed fielding
- Bare hand fielding
By adjusting the time, decision making, ball speed/distance, and restraints are just some of the ways you can make reps more competitive in your drill work. You can adjust one category or you can adjust multiple in one drill. The limitation is your imagination. Mix up the drill work and progress from the slow and deliberate to the fast and competitive.