Depending on what level of baseball you coach, where you’re coaching at, and what league you’re coaching in, many complexes are going to try to start hosting baseball games as soon as the weather allows. Many tournaments will start even earlier than this. I’ve personally experienced a rainy, 40 degree Midwestern morning on the diamond.
Being out there in the cold is never fun, especially if your team isn’t prepared. This means as coaches, we have to try to find the right time and place to start preseason practices. Early season tournaments feature some teams that are unprepared, and then some that seem like they’ve been training all winter. The latter probably never stopped practicing. The former is where I believe most teams should be.
The earliest tournaments of the year should be treated as preseason tournaments. These are warm-ups to the season. Don’t stress your kids out trying to be fully prepared for these tournaments. My suggestion is to find the right amount of time, maybe 3 -6 weeks before the first tournament, and try to fit in 6-10 practices. This should be enough to get everyone loosened up and back closer to baseball form.
For first year and the earliest years, coaches might be tempted to pack in more practices because the players are so new to the game, but that might not yield the desired results. The kids will be looking forward to playing games, and getting one under their belt is going to boost their excitement for the practices. Get some basics in, then let them have some fun with some jerseys on.
The higher age divisions have to deal with kid pitchers. You want your pitchers to get some conditioning in, but if they start too early, that’s just more utilization of their arm. Keep their pitch counts limited, especially in the early season, and don’t over do it trying to get to mid-season (or even next season) form before the year starts.
If you’re trying to get started early, keep in mind other activities and sports the kids might be into. Remember, it’s their game. They don’t want to gruel through 20 practices before seeing their first game, and if they already have two basketball practices a week, adding 2 baseball practices could be overkill. Keep it fun.