Learn To Play Best Practices

    As the Tim Hortons Learn to Play Program continues to grow and evolve, coaches, coordinators and parents have come up with unique ways of making the initiative more fun and accessible for all. These resourceful and imaginative ideas are called Best Practices. Minor softball associations from across the country are encouraged to share their Best Practices with rest of the softball community through the Softball Canada website. Emailed submissions will be posted under the Learn to Play section of the website and shared with the public.

    It is our hope, that visitors will read and become inspired by these creative Best Practices and in turn modify their own LTP program for the better. If you would like your Best Practices to be featured on our website, please email a brief written submission (maximum one page in length) to knoonan@softball.ca. Here are our favourite Best Practices.


    Best Practice: Hacky Sack Catching Practice
    Submitted by: Julie & Paula Feddema
    MSA: Kitchener

    When we start a new season, and we are teaching the girls to catch, we have incorporated hacky sacks instead of the mush balls. As you know, getting hit in the head or face area is the scariest thing about throwing to the girls. However, if they miss the hacky sack with their glove, there is no injury factor. This is also good for practicing "pop" flies.

    After the girls feel comfortable about catching, we switch back to the mush balls for catching drills. It is very cheap (you can get them at most dollar stores), but an effective way to give the girls the confidence it takes to catch a harder ball.

    Best Practice: Monthly Newsletter
    Submitted by: Mike MacKinnon
    MSA: Trenton Minor Softball Association

    We do a monthly newsletter with reminders, important dates, and use this resource as a venue for publicly thanking our sponsors.

    Best Practice: Sticker Giveaways
    Submitted by: Sharon Falk
    MSA: Camrose Minor Softball Association

    Incentives programs can be created easily and affordably. Camrose Minor Softball in Alberta created inexpensive stickers and gave them out to children for learning a new skill. The stickers included;

    1. I’m in Learn to Play
    2. I can Bat
    3. I can Field
    4. I can Throw
    5. I can Run Bases
    6. I can Catch

    These stickers were a great hit with the kids and their families.

    Best Practice: LTP Fun Day at Elementary Schools
    Submitted by: Tom Park
    MSA: Alyinston Minor Softball Association

    We contacted Brooke Central Public school and arranged to hold a Learn to Play Session for the Grade 1 and Grade 2 classes.

    Session Length: The sessions ran from 35-40 minutes. Sessions can be altered to match the group’s allotted Physical Education time.

    Volunteers: Parents of the participating children were invited to volunteer along with the regular LTP Coaches. 
    Equipment Used: gymnasium, bats, balls, batting tees, bases, blastbases, Buckets, Pylons, Hoola Hoops (as a throwing target).
    Session included: Warm up, throwing, hitting, fielding, and a wrap up. All activities were from the LTP manuals.
    Promotion: Following the event information packages were distributed to all students, teachers and parent helpers. Promotional packages included; description of the LTP program, promotional material (poster, brochure, magnet, stickers, tattoos), registration information
    Advertising: Following the event, photos and a prepared article was submitted to local newspapers and the free press.

    Best Practice: Youth and Senior Mentoring Program
    Submitted by: Mike MacKinnon
    MSA: Trenton Minor Softball Association

    Youth Mentoring Program
    We approached the Trenton Middle School (grades 5-9) students and asked for any student volunteers that may be interested in helping out the Learn to Play program over the summer. We received 5 or 6 students who came out to the field and helped out with various activities and have found that the young players respond well to students who they look up to…The volunteer students, in return, are able to not only add this experience to their resumes but they can add this volunteer work to their school portfolio which requires so many hours of community work. It’s a win-win for all involved.

    Seniors in the Program
    Grandparents make wonderful volunteers! We found seniors often enjoy coming to spend some time at the field and can add a lot of experience to the program. We have several seniors who have participated in the program by sharing their talents with the young players. If you have a seniors club in your community that you can approach there is often a few who enjoy this type of program where they get to share some time with children that they may not necessarily have an opportunity if they do not have grandchildren.

    Best Practice: Water Balloon Target Practice
    Submitted by: Mike MacKinnon
    MSA: Trenton Minor Softball Association

    On those hot summer nights where everyone would rather be in a pool, make some water balloons and attach them to a piece of plywood. The players line up and practice their throwing skills by trying to pop a balloon. You can have a volunteer stand next to the balloons and when one is popped they can make a big deal out of getting soaked, which the kids really enjoy and provides them incentive to aim at the balloons. At the end of the day, the kids can stand next to the balloons and get soaked by the volunteers.

    Best Practice: Cool-Down LTP Bingo
    Submitted by: Donna Ross
    MSA: Manitoba

    I made up a  Learn to Play Bingo card. At the end of a practice, around the middle of the season, we had a little cool down and sat in a circle going over the bingo card. The kids put a sticker on an activity they had completed at some time during the season. It also provided them the opportunity to evaluate their skills and determine where they need more work. Parents really liked it as well.

    Best Practice: Stuffed Animal Target Practice
    Submitted by: Paul Tobin, Anthony Skanes, Stacy Novack
    MSA: Whitby Girls Minor Softball Association

    Equipment - 2 or 3 balls for each 2 children

    • Remind children of the proper way to throw, taking a step, holding out other hand as a guide, looking at the target glove.
    • 5 stuffed animals will be placed on pails. Place 2 girls at each stuffed animal, at a distance which would make them successful at hitting the animal with a ball
    • Each child gets 2 or 3 tries (depending upon how many balls we have). After she has thrown her balls, she retrieves them for her partner and then goes to the back of the line.
    • When a child knocks the animal off the pail twice at a given distance (not necessarily twice in a row), she takes one giant step back. Notice that it is possible for the partners to be throwing from different distances.
    • The person who can hit the stuffed animal twice from the greatest distance is the winner for the group.
    • Adults emphasize and watch for proper mechanics.
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