I am a big fan of sticking to a familiar routine before every game. It settles the players down and helps them get focused and get their game face on. The routine on which we have settled allows all players to warm up, get in at least 100 good swings, field grounders and fly balls, get the pitcher and catcher warmed up and sharp, and have the players give a team cheer, all in about 50 minutes. It has worked well enough that just about every team in our rec league has copied us, so we must be on to something…
We ask our players to show up an hour before the game – earlier if possible. Inevitably, some players show up a little late, which is fine and we just throw them in wherever we happen to be in our pre-game routine. After about 5 minutes of throwing, the players conduct team calisthenics and take a short, slow lap around the field. I then huddle them up and we go over some last minute instructions, things to focus on, review signs, and the like. About 15 minutes after we have started, we move into batting stations.
Instead of doing batting stations serially like we do at practice (each girl follows the next through the stations), we break our girls into two 6 person groups. Group 1 is pitchers, catchers and team captains for the game and they go through all 6 batting stations while the Group 2 shags or helps out as needed. I try to have a coach or a parent running each batting station so the girls can focus on hitting. When Group 1 is done, the pitchers and catchers go with me and start warming up while Group 2 rotates through the batting stations.
When Group 2 is done (about 40 minutes after the start of our pre-game routine), everybody except the starting pitcher and catcher grabs their gloves (and takes a swallow or two of water). We run them through a quick infield/outfield/short hop drill. We start with half the girls in a line in the outfield, and half the girls in a line near the closest base (1st base if we are on the first base side, 3rd base if we are on the third base side), and one girl behind me (toward home plate) with a ball waiting for a partner for a short hop drill.
I will hit a grounder to the first girl in the infield line, and she will throw it back. Then I hit a ball to the first girl in the outfield line, who throws it to the infielder who has moved to the base, who then throws it to me. The outfielder then runs to the back of the infield line and the infielder runs over to the short hop station, where her partner throws her a ball high in the air for her to catch as a short hop. The girl who threw the ball for the short hop drill then runs to the end of the outfield line. When the pitcher and catcher are done warming up, they join either the outfield or infield line.
When the girl who started the infield line is back to the front of that station, she takes her grounder and her throw from the outfield and then heads to the dugout (the girl at the short hop station also heads to the dugout). As we finish up this part of our pre-game routine, the outfield line will empty before the infield line, and when that happens I just hit a grounder to the infielder and then she heads into the dugout after her throw.
By this time, there are still 5 or 10 minutes before the start of the game, so I have the girls hydrate and remind them again of one or two things to focus on during the game. The umpire then calls for team captains and coaches, and we head out while the rest of the team forms at the on-deck circle for the team cheer. When the umpire’s conference is over, the team captains join their teammates and shout their team cheer loud and proud.
Now we are ready to play the game! We have hit, fielded, thrown and hydrated. Our pitcher is warm and ready to start. We have put the fear of God in the other team with our awesome team cheer. Most importantly, we have kept the players focused for the hour before the game and have enabled our players to go onto the field confident that they are ready to play.