Practice and Training are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Every baseball team and player practices, but not all of them train. Let me explain what I mean.
Practice is what we universally call anything that involves throwing, hitting, throwing a bullpen, taking ground balls and fly balls, etc. Practice is defined as, “Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it”. Most practices are just designed to engrain or imprint a player’s current level of skill, so they can just perform that skill more routinely. The issue is that this is often the only development a player receives. There is little or no portion of their time dedicated to training.
Training is defined as, “The act, process, or method of one that seeks to improve skill, knowledge, or experience in a certain area”. Training would be things like working to increase bat speed, throwing velocity, running speed, fielding range, etc.
Practice is applying what you learned. Training is learning how to improve something or do something new. Practice is about getting enough reps in so you can perform your skill instinctively. Training is about being able to perform that skill better than you could before. Practice is about successfully performing a skill over and over.
Training is about pushing until you fail. Practice is often about looking good. Training often looks ugly. Practice is often about being efficient. Training is about improvement. Practice is often the same old routine. Training is about change and adaptation.
Understand that top-level players train, they don’t practice. So please don’t mistake practice for training, but make sure every rep of every drill or exercise is working towards improving.
Flint Wallace is the Director of Player Development at the Texas Baseball Ranch in Montgomery, TX. He is also the former Director of Baseball Operations at TCU and pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. For more information about the Texas Baseball Ranch visit http://www.texasbaseballranch.com/