Have fun. Do work!
| 4 min read
A good practice provides structure and comfort to athletes, allowing for ALL kids to engage comfortably, focus, and work hard toward improvement. A great practice accomplishes all this while athletes, at the same time, have fun.
The Dugout Captain (DC) practice-planning philosophy has evolved, improved, and morphed over two decades of research and development. After much ego bruising and many tough lessons learned, DC recommends involving the following practice segments whenever possible to maximize athlete focus and development.
Here’s what the DC curriculum typically looks like on the MOJO app.
Early activity. Kids looooove to hit. An early activity is offered 15 minutes before, and up until, practice starts. The primary goal of this activity is punctuality—kids show up early so practice can start on time. An early activity also keeps athletes busy, gets extra swings, prevents playing catch before warmup, nurtures camaraderie… oh! It’s also FUN.
Warmup. The first “official” practice activity, warmup gets the blood flowing, especially important before playing catch. This prevents injury, locks in athlete focus, and can provide time for assistant coaches to set up drills.
Early baserunning. Sometimes we add a very short practice component conducted at the end of warm up. Early baserunning takes advantage of the final 4-6 sprints of the warm up to learn or practice a baserunning fundamental, such as Home to 1st.
Throwing. Very often, a game of two-person catch leads right into team catch, which leads into practice. DC philosophy: “Warm up to throw, rather than throwing to warm up.”
Quick defense. Generally lasting only 5-10 minutes, these activities are categorized as “baseball athleticism” drills. An opportunity to improve hand eye coordination, footwork, and technique, quick defense leads right into station instruction.
Stations. The meat and potatoes of practice. This section is where coaches run drills, and the athletes work, play, and learn. A balance of instruction and repetition, DC recommends a minimum of two coaches, each running a different drill, and switching after 10-15 minutes. After a short water break, coaches each offer an additional drill (again switching after 10-15 minutes). Two station blocks of two drills each.
Baserunning, conditioning or something just for fun. Close practice on a high note! Sometimes you’ll give them a good sweat, masking the workload with baserunning instruction. Run the bases, use the foul line, add a relay race. Other times, you’ll mix it up and find the fun!
Pitcher and catchers. At older ages, optional pitching or catching stations appear at the end of a DC practice. If your players are ready to pitch, run these drills during batting practice or another hitting station.
Nearly all the DC practice plans follow these steps — but not always.
DC practice plans build from one to the next over the course of 10 to 12 weeks, depending on the age of your players.
For tee ball, weekly developmental practice plans are available for practices that are 60 minutes in length.
For all other ages, from 6 through 14+, weekly developmental practice plans are available for practices that are at least 90 minutes in length. There’s also an optional “Olympics” workout for players 8 and older. (NOTE: If you have a shorter practice on the schedule in the MOJO app, DC practice plans will not show up.)
You can add a DC practice plan directly to any scheduled baseball practice. From the Home or Schedule tabs, simply tap on a scheduled practice. Under Plan your practice, tap Select a Focus Area > Dugout Captain and select the appropriate week.
If you already have a practice for that week, and want to update to a DC practice plan, tap Browse > Practice Plans > Dugout Captain and select the appropriate week
Through years of experience working with thousands of kids, we feel this is THE BEST way to maximize a baseball practice and ensure that each athlete works hard, receives quality instruction, and plenty of repetition. Over many practices, they will learn the game and understand what it means to be a team player… all the while having FUN!
Dan Keller is part of MOJO’s Partnerships & Strategy team.