If you are new to softball coaching, you might be asking yourself “where do I even start?” One of the things you will need to run an effective practice is the right practice equipment. Following are the first five pieces of equipment that I would purchase if I were beginning from scratch.
If you find yourself in a situation with a very tight budget, keep in mind that while it’s great to have top of the line items to practice with, you can find more affordable options. Look at places such as Amazon to find cheaper items. Play it Again Sports may also be a great resource for your program. I have been on both ends (healthy budgets and no budget). With some creativity, patience, and frugality you can make it work!
Essential Item #1: Practice Balls
Right now you might be thinking “duh.” Yes, while you can do “dry” drills for a while, you will eventually need to incorporate the use of softballs (like ASAP) or your players will hate softball. So practice balls are your first essential item.
Essential Item #2: Buckets
While the first thing I would get is softballs, the second thing I would purchase are buckets. If you have a healthy budget to work with, you can purchase buckets that are designed specifically for softball practice, such as those pictured in this post. However, if you want to save money, use old paint buckets, grain buckets, etc.
The awesome thing about buckets is that you can use them for multiple purposes in your program (just make sure you have some lids):
- Easy transporting of balls from one area of the field to the next
- Sitting on for certain drills (or in the dugout during games) while coaching
- Practice efficiency: When you want to isolate a skill without players making a throw, simply put the bucket at the end of the line and have them drop the ball in the bucket after they execute the skill
- Hitting Stations organization (1 bucket of balls at every station)
- Dividing And Conquering with Coaching Staff: Want 1 coach to work with Infield while the other does Outfield? Having buckets makes this MUCH easier!
I would recommend at least 4 buckets full of balls for practice starting off. If you can afford to get more, then do it. But if you cannot afford that much at the outset don’t worry. Begin with what you can and go from there. The beauty about buckets and balls is that you can accumulate them over the years and you will eventually have plenty. We started with “0” and have built them up over time.
Essential Item #3: Pop-up nets/Sock Nets
If you have a good batting cage, you can use it for multiple groups doing hitting drills at the same time. However, if you have a good sock net or pop-up net, it makes setting up stations so much easier. We typically use 4+ sock nets and one batting cage. This allows us, at a minimum, to have 5 hitting stations going simultaneously. Sock nets are essential for accomplishing more swings in a shorter amount of time (and avoiding having girls standing around and getting bored).
Essential Item #4: Schutt Sliding Mat
If you do have some extra money, I highly recommend getting a sliding mat. It is probably not essential, but it is extremely helpful. If you cannot afford it, I have used large cardboard boxes in the past (just make sure you check for staples, etc.). When practicing sliding, safety needs to be the first concern. If you can afford a sliding mat, I highly recommend it as the easiest and safest way to practice sliding (especially for beginners). Schutt makes a great sliding mat that we use for our program in grades K-12.
Essential Item #5: Hitting Tees
Teams at every level (youth, high school, college, pro) need batting tees to work on hitting mechanics. I am a huge fan of the ATEC tees for their durability. Can’t afford a bunch of tees? Then try to find some used cones! Every school has them!
Eventually, you might use a lot of other pieces of equipment in your program, but you may need to accumulate these items over the course of a few years.
As a starting point, I highly recommend using your budget money on these five pieces of practice equipment. Make a list of priorities and start planning your purchases for your program!