Q&A with Division I Head Baseball Coach, Greg Moore. What are some examples of communication exercises on-field during practice?
Communication in sports is fundamental to team congruency and competitive success. Here are three on-field communication exercises that you can use today during practice.
When a pitcher arrives for a bullpen I ask them two questions before they get a “challenge for the day.”
1. What is your skill? This means, “what did you come to this bullpen to work on?
The answer to this question shows where their focus resides.
Mechanical: “Get my arm to this position.”
Athletic: “Create momentum, get my hand out and get though the target.
Approach: “Throw my fastball in and slider in combo with my curveball.”
There are times for each of these areas of emphasis. The approach answer is closest to competition. As a general rule the further answers are from the rubber itself, the more game-like the player is thinking. The first answer is closest to a pitching lesson.
2. What is your volume? This means, how much do you want to throw today?
The answer to this comes in pitches or hitters. After the pitcher is “hot” they will either choose, for example, “5 hitters” or 35 pitches. Based on their common response this indicates body and arm health. A pitcher who usually throws 6 hitters (2 innings), but asks for 2 hitter is dialing down normal volume for some reason. This is usually because of the arm health, body feel or perceived upcoming schedule.
3. The challenge of the day is……?
This comes from the coach. It’s a mix between the plan I had for their pen, and what I’m hearing standing on the mound at practice. Sometimes we gut their plan. Sometimes I gut mine. Most often it’s a blend of their approach to today with my plan for the bullpen.
Making a player describe the task that they’re in charge of keeps the plan simple. We can also redirect thinking and action.
During BP ask a hitter to “call his shot.” A video or picture of Babe Ruth won’t hurt. This can break a hitter’s mechanical thoughts, one too tied to achieving the perfect swing. Eliminate overthinking by having the hitter announce the position player he will hit the ball through. To maintain aggressive swings, make sure the player drives the ball “through” the areas on the field.
The communication is closer to self-talk since the hitter. Failure is high in this exercise. Intent and fun is too. Get them yelling. If the hitters drives a ball within five feet (either side) of where the position player stands, the hitter gets a point. It’s great for bat control and may be the first time some players have ever yelled on a field.