In the past we have talked about how important a routine is for athletes and baseball players in particular. The nature of the game of baseball does not lend itself to the extremes of emotion. A more steadfast approach is justified. Approach baseball the same way, every day and every game. An established routine helps players stand up to the rigors of the summer grind of 50 plus games.

In fact Coach Grant always felt that a part of his job was to instill in his players how long a baseball season is and prepare them for it as if they were to advance.

Get Up For the Big Game?

We had an interesting question some time ago on our discussion board. A member asked, “How do I get my players “up” for a big game? I took it to mean, “How do I prepare my players to get emotionally ready to play in a big game? What can I do to assure that they will play well?” I thought about that a while and my answer was that you shouldn’t get baseball players all fired up. It‘s not like a pre-game football locker room where a coach has his players jumping up and down, ready to “kill.”

Side Note: We are fortunate to have a great football coach in Vero Beach, Billy Livings. Billy has a consistently excellent program and Friday nights in Vero Beach are an event. They seat over 5,000 fans every week. I have had 2 season tickets for 10 years. Battles are waged in divorce courts over Vero Beach High School season tickets.

Billy always has some outstanding pre-game speech to motivate his players. He has a knack for defining a moment. Once before a playoff game the players were in the locker room, totally on edge, waiting for Billy. You could almost smell the anticipation and apprehension. Billy waited quite a while. Then at the last moment he walked into the room with his assistant coaches and slowly looked around at his team, nodding his head. The room became very still and quiet. Then, in his Alabama country drawl he simply said, “Well boys, I think we have enough to lick that team.” He turned around and walked out. The players went crazy. I think they would have run through a wall for their coach.

That is football. The same approach doesn’t work in baseball. A more even keel is called for. In football, you play against another team. In baseball, you play against the “Game.” The ball is hit to you; you field it and throw it. The ball is pitched to you; you swing at it. The pitcher attempts to hit his target. It doesn’t matter if you are playing a great team or a poor one. It doesn’t matter if it is a big game or one with little consequence. The approach is always the same. Play against the game. No trick plays- no ruses to surprise the other team. No flea flickers. No clock killing drives. You have to throw the ball over the plate and someone tries to hit it. You can’t delay the inevitable. Sound, fundamental baseball is the way to prepare kids to play the game.

It is usually the team that does the best job of making the routine plays that wins. I say usually. The vagaries of competition, the length of a season and the nature of the game make it almost impossible for a team to go undefeated. In football winning nine or ten games defines a great season. In baseball you can lose nine or ten games and still be a great team. Football is a sprint. Baseball is a marathon.

If football is high emotion and intensity, baseball is skill and cerebration; the art of pitching, the art of hitting, the art of base stealing. Throughout baseball, failure defines the nature of the game. It is really hard to play. The skills are demanding and they require relaxation and explosive movements almost simultaneously.

Motivational speeches have little effect over the course of a long season. So what do the players have to rely on? A solid, consistent routine. A coach should design his own procedures, one that will fit his team. Have a separate routine for practice days and for game days. Have a separate routine for home games and away games.

What does a coach want to accomplish with this routine? What can he do to ensure the health and safety of his players? Does his routine enforce baseball skills and get his kids ready to play? A daily preset schedule allows practices and pre-games to run more smoothly. Everyone knows what they are to do. After a period of adjustment, (you have to get your players to accept your way) an established procedure of doing things provides a better teaching environment. The kids and coaches know what they are supposed to be doing. Everyone is on the same page. This is a time saver and allows for more instruction and repetitions. There is something comforting about arriving at the ballpark, knowing what you are going to do that day and knowing what is expected of you. I believe it has a way of instilling confidence in the players.

A sound, organized structure prepares players to play.

Tips for an Effective Routine

  • Stretch, form run and throw before every practice and every game. Do not neglect this step. (You are probably tired of hearing us talk about this. But it is that important.) This is the first thing we do at practice. Early arrivals play pepper. They do not throw before the designated long toss time period. Everything is done as a team. If practice is to start at 4:30, start it on time. Don’t wait for late arrivals. Make the kids adapt to your schedule. Don’t fit yours around their impulses and whims. Late arrivers have a way of being chronic. My approach is to simply ignore these players. I focus on the ones who are punctual. I have found that the most dedicated players are almost always at the field early. They get most of my attention. Sometime this approach brings the habitual slowpokes into the fold. Anyway, you know what the old scout said, “SW, SW, SW.” Some will, some won’t, so what.”
  1. Everyone left together, parents and players alike. If a player drove, he was placed in the middle of the caravan with a coach in the lead car and a parent or coach in the last vehicle. If you were late, you were left behind.

There should be a routine for after practices and games. It should involve talking with the team, cleaning up the dugout and preparing the field. All your routines and procedures are dependent on effective time management. This requires quite a bit of planning. Adults’ daily lives involve all kinds of routines. Someone once said that daily routines are the signposts of a civilized society.
Give your players structure and time they can look forward to, and they will reap the rewards.

“Baseball is life. The rest is just details.”

This article is from our book, “A Coach’s Guide To Baseball Excellence.”

Coach Tim Kafer



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Tim Kafer has coached over 25 years of youth baseball. He has worked with players at college, High School and youth