Running Your First Kickball Practice

290051_10150916343474103_606311679_oThis post is directed at first time captains that have played kickball and are looking for suggestions on what to do for their first kickball practice (and perhaps their only kickball practice) before their season starts. If you are completely new to kickball, this post might be slightly high level, but it should be good enough that you can get an idea of what to do. I have been a captain for many completely new kickball teams and this general guideline should do you well to give you a basis for getting started.

I like to do the practice a week or two before the season starts. Depending on how new the team is, or the interest level, I might do a couple more practices after the season starts as well. I have been on some teams were we had a practice every week since the team seemed to enjoy the practices more than they actually enjoyed the actual game.

You are going to want to go for an hour to an hour and a half for the length of your practice. It is extremely helpful to have another team for you to scrimmage, so try and find a team that is willing to meet¬†around the same time. The captain’s meeting before the season starts is a really good opportunity to find someone else to scrimmage against. Failing to find another team, you will hopefully have enough people show up that you can split your team in half and use that for a scrimmage.

Communicate

You will need a method of getting a hold of everyone on your team. Most leagues you join should have some kind of mass message system built into it. I personally like to get everyone on a Facebook group. I find it more personal and easier to schedule practices and games using Facebook events instead of just constantly emailing everyone in the group. Much easier when everyone can message everyone instead of just the captain.

Prepare

You are going to need somewhere to practice. The easiest choice would be the same kickball fields you will be playing your games on. Make sure to scout out the fields the week before on the same day you plan on doing practice. Verify if there will be room (no other teams that already have the field spoken for during that time) and that the lights will be on if it will be dark during the practice.

Make sure you have a kickball and bases (you can snag them from Amazon to your right). If you are anal retentive you can also grab a rolling measure tape so you can set the bases to the correct distance apart. You will want to get to the fields 15-30 minutes early so you can claim your field and setup the bases. Depending on the league you will be in, bases will be 60 feet apart with the pitcher mound in the middle. If you have everything square it should be 42 feet to the pitcher mound from home base and 42 feet from the pitcher mound to second base (wrote these numbers from memory, I was pretty happy when I looked them up and they were correct).

I also like to have a bar / restaurant that is nearby as well to suggest all the players go there for food / drinks after practice. This is a social sport after all.

Introductions and Warm-up

Once the majority of your team has assembled it is time to get some names down. Go around and have everyone introduce themselves and go over their current kickball experience. Since learning people’s name is REALLY important in a social / team sport I like to reinforce everyone’s name. After introductions are made I combine a light warm-up with names. Put everyone in a circle and have them throw the kickball back and forth. The catch though is you have to call out the name of the person you are throwing the ball too. After 5 minutes or so of this, everyone will have everyone’s name sufficiently committed to memory.

From here I like to do one or two more light warm-ups. My favorite is to have everyone get into two lines that face each other and are about 10 feet apart. Have the first person in line do a chest pass to the person in the opposing line. After the chest pass they will continue forward and jog to the end of the opposing line. The person that caught the ball will then do the same thing. Each person will be constantly switching lines. After each person has made a couple of passes, switch up to kick passes instead of chest passes. They will continue to run to the end to the end of the line after each kick.

Now that everyone is lightly warmed up you can either do group stretches (never stretch cold!) or move on to the next step.

Rules and Strategy

If your team is filled with veterans and you are doing this practice just so everyone can meet and dust off the cobwebs, you can skip this step. If you have a lot of new people to kickball, this is where you give them a brief overview of what kickball actually is. Most people’s experience with kickball is what they remember from 3rd grade and you do not want them going into a game thinking they are playing against 3rd graders. I know my first game of kickball was like that and we almost had half our team quit since the team played us like we were 3rd graders and we got destroyed.

You will want to go over some of the new player tips or basic tips for kickball. Explain your leagues rules (number of outs, strikes, fouls, what is a foul, et cetra) and then go over basic strategies. Lots of teams will bunt, ball will be pitched fast and bouncy, pop ups are usually going to be caught. Don’t spend too much time on this though, this part is mainly just to go over the basic rules of kickball and an overview of what an inning will look like.

Try to keep this under 5 minutes, people get bored quickly and it is better to show rather than explain.

Practice

Infield

Practice time! With bunting being so important, I like to start with that. Pick players for pitching, short stop, first base and catching. Check here for kickball positioning.

  • Pitcher is expected to pitch the ball and get bunts near him and get the ball to first base.
  • 1st Base is going to be responsible for getting the ball to 1st base.
  • Short Stop is going to charge in and get the bunts towards third base and then throw the ball to 1st base.
  • Catcher is in charge of really short bunts and getting the ball to 1st base.

Everybody besides these 4 people will be practicing their bunts. Have each person bunt the ball down the third base line and then run to first page. With groin pulls being so common for first time kick ballers, right before we start bunting, I have everyone run as a group from home base around the bases and back to home before we start bunting.

Practice proper bunting technique with each person. They should keep the ball on the ground and kick it right down the third base line. After the kick they need to immediately run to first base. New players have a bad habit of looking at the ball before running. Use this time to try and beat that habit out of them. They need to listen for the ref calling foul or out instead of watching the ball. The only thing they should be watching is 1st base and how fast they can run to it.

Rotate different players through pitcher, short stop, catcher and 1st base a lot. You want to give people a chance to try out positions and find out which positions they might like as well as be good at. Work with each player in each position as well so they get an idea of how to play that position.

Catchers need to be extremely fast and good at picking up a ball and throwing it hard to bases. They need to make sure they stay behind the runner and are quick enough to change direction so that they can catch short pop ups. One tip for this would be having them start a couple of steps behind the runner and get a running start so they are already running quickly by the team the kicker makes contact with the ball. Sprinters are ideal for this position.

Pitcher should be accurate and have a hard throw. You don’t want someone that can get the ball lightly over the plate, it should be bouncy, fast, spinning and just barely within the strike zone. Due to their central location, the pitcher is also a good candidate for a playing captain since they can make sure everyone is in position before the start of every play. Pitcher is in general going to be in charge of popups in their direction as well as any bunts that are heading towards 1st base. A tip for the pitcher is to throw the ball as if it was a bowling ball with your hand underneath it and putting spin on the ball right as you release it. This will take practice to get right but will make the ball unpredictable and harder for the kickers to place their kick.

For your first game, 1st base really only needs to practice making sure his foot is on the bag and that he catches the balls thrown at him. A kickball is much harder to be thrown accurate, so the longer the arm reach of this player, the better.

Short stop, similar to catcher will need to be a quick sprinter with a good arm, since most of the game they will be throwing the ball from third base to 1st. They need to have a bit stronger of an arm than the catcher since they will need to throw the ball further. They should be able to throw pretty hard as well since they will need to beat the runner to 1st base with the ball. Short stop will be in charge of getting all the bunts to third base. One tip, similar to catching, is to start a bit back from the 1st-3rd base line and time their run up so they are already at a sprint when the kicker kicks the ball. More advanced teams use the third base for this job instead of short stop, but it will be easier to explain for your first practice to have your short stop doing this.

Do this until your kickers have bunted 2-3 times.

Outfield

Now that everyone has had a chance to practice in-fielding, time to practice out-fielding. Add in the rest of your outfield and get rid of your catcher. Everyone should practice line drives and deep kicks now. After kicking the player should run to first base and the fielders should try and get them out. If they make it to base, they should stay on base and try to continue to the next base when the next kickers goes.

During this part of the practice you should be practicing your catching of deep kicks, relaying the ball back from outfield to the pitcher and backing up bases. You can go over some basic kicking strategies as well during this time.

For catching a deep kick, have the outfield stay back a bit further back than they think they will need to be. It is easier to run up on a ball than run back for a ball. Have them make a cradle out of their hands to catch the ball (think catching the ball on a punt return in football), it is way too easy to have the ball slip through your hands if you have them over your head. Make sure if they will not have time to catch the ball that they do not let it bounce over their heads.

This is not how you want to catch a kickball. If this slips through your fingers you will now be running after a ball. Pretend you are catching a baby, you want to cradle that ball.

This is not how you want to catch a kickball. If this slips through your fingers you will now be running after a ball. Pretend you are catching a baby, you want to cradle that ball.

Practice having the player that is going to catch the ball call out “MINE” and other players that are nearby should either run behind the player in case of a miss or run in front to help relay the ball back in to either a base or the pitcher.

Practice backing up bases as well. It is very easy to over throw the ball in kickball. To help with this, nearby players should make sure they are in the line of a throw to a base. This is easier to see than to explain, so make sure you position your players and just throw the ball to the base to show this technique. For example, have someone on 2nd base and your thrower somewhere halfway between 1st and 2nd base. Place another player about 10 feet behind second base and in a straight line from the thrower to 2nd base. If you were looking at the field from above, you should be able to draw a straight line between these three players. At this point, make a terrible throw to 2nd base so that it misses 2nd base and the backup player will grab the ball and get it back to 2nd base.

Players should be practicing getting the ball to the base that the lead runner is going to, or, failing that, back to the pitcher. Make sure whenever you have players just holding on to the ball, looking around, that you work with that person. If they are ever unsure, tell them to just get the ball back to the pitcher.

After everyone has gotten some outfield action in, time to put everything together and get a real game going.

Scrimmage

Let's play some kickball!

Let’s play some kickball!

Hopefully you have another team around to play with you, if not, simply put everyone in a circle and have them call out 1 or 2 for the team they will be on. If you do not have enough players for two full teams, you will need to designate a couple of players as full time in certain positions. Have people pick whatever position they want and then assign positions to anybody that has not picked one.

From here, just have people play some kickball. Make sure you are pointing out any things that can be improved or explaining rules people are unsure of (force outs, I swear some people will never understand this concept). Try to not slow the game play down too much or harp on players too hard. This is the part of the practice that you want people to have fun and really make sure they are going to enjoy their season.

Go ahead and play the game until the end of your practice.

Wrapping it Up

Whew! First practice is over with. Gather everyone up and go over with them when your first game is, what time to be there. Pass out shirts, do whatever other administrative duties you might have. Try and keep in mind who wanted to play what positions or who was good in what positions so you can have them in that position for the first game. I try to keep people in the same position for a whole season so that they can really learn what they need to do. If possible I also try to have the same player next to them in each inning as well so they really work as a unit as the season progresses.

See who wants to go have food / drinks and enjoy the rest of your day / night!

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