DREAM Team Baseball values Team Practice very highly; Practices are built upon core concepts and learning building blocks so that every player can not only work within the team structure but also develop players skills that will help them grow in the game. The game of baseball (and the level of versatile skills it requires to play it at a high level) is a tough sport, it's called the toughest sport to play by many. As Baseball Scouter puts it, "Some people think baseball looks easy, because the players spend much of the game standing in place or sitting in the dugout. However, baseball requires just as much athletic prowess as any other sport, as well as many other skills and abilities. Baseball is undeniably hard to play, and there is a reason that those who do possess the skills to succeed at baseball can have long and lucrative careers."
When you think about it, baseball requires the development of skills from the player's body and from the ground up. Your footwork in the game of baseball either gets you in position on defense to make the play (and saves your team runs) or not. Your hips are used to drive the baseball (your back hip load creates a rubber band effect) when you're hitting at the plate. Your hands are so crucial in every aspect of hitting a baseball (using your hand-eye coordination) and in fielding your hands are a great separator (the great glovemen in the game go on to have long careers) to get your glove in the right spot to work through the ball on grounders, stretch and adjust on pop flies, and extend on balls hit in the hole. Let's also not forget the great importance of the mind and Baseball IQ; it's the engine that drives the player!
All of that said, Team Practices for DREAM Team Baseball aim high to invest time in the drills needed to develop these baseball skills. Every practice starts with a designed and customized practice plan that is fast paced and highly focused in these areas which represent an acronym of T.E.A.M..
1. Team Warmup: Players should start every practice with stretching and then dynamic movement to warm up before throwing, it's critical for arm care and overall safety to warm up a player's baseball muscle groups. As Dr. Tom House says, "Warm up to throw. Don’t throw to warm up. And don’t stretch your shoulder. Shoulders and arms should be burning and you should be sweating before you pick up a baseball to throw." DREAM Team believes in the entire team doing their warmup routine together as that also serves as their time together to bond and prepare for competition.
2. Educate on a Core Concept Player Skill: Coaches are first and foremost teachers. Yes, coaches are intended to be motivators, but without teaching substantive concepts (that builds player skills) their coaching will very quickly lose its overall effectiveness. On defense, DREAM Team aims to develop skills around the 3 B's of Baseball: 1) Playing the Baseball hit to you, 2) Covering a Base, or 3) Backing Up a Play. Core concepts within teaching defensive skills can be (for example) teaching players how to get ready on defense in a pre-pitch 1-2 hop routine, teaching players how to receive throws while using their footwork to get into the right position to receive those throws and make tags, or teaching players how to back up a pop fly in the outfield to ensure that the ball is catch is made and/or that the throw is quickly made back into the Infield Cutoff Man. All of these types of skills are designed to help the player and baseball learning so that they can learn those fundamental skills and then progress into more advanced skills that they continue to develop.
3. Application of that Core Concept Player Skill: Knowledge without application is just empty knowledge in the game of baseball. Players must apply what they have learned in a hands-on practice setting that promotes mastery of that skill. To take that even further, as New York Times Best Selling Author Tim Sanders says, "Education without application is just entertainment." Developing players must apply the techniques that they have learned and in many baseball circles this is summarized in the term "reps." DREAM Team Coaches aim to educate players on the technique and then have the players apply what they've learned by taking reps (ie, repetitions)! This video overviews how DREAM Team Coaches use this training approach in teaching the techniques for each position on defense.
4. Mental Muscle Team Exercise: Before the team practice concludes, our DREAM Team coaches want to make the players use their Mental Muscle for the cool down phase of the practice. It's very important that players be challenged physically but also mentally as mental toughness is more important in the game of baseball than ever. An example of a Mental Muscle Team Exercise is the coach challenging the players by quizzing them about baseball situations or by challenging them to illustrate what they've learned about playing a certain position or even by telling them to share how they can specifically build better habits to improve their self-discipline and focus in the game of baseball. Youth baseball players must learn to exercise their mental muscle as baseball requires complete focus and mental awareness!