In the practice-organization and defensive-position chapters of Youth Baseball Coaching, I showed practice schedules with segments as short as two minutes. Some readers may think you could not get anything done in such a short period.
Based on my own experience and observation, kids get bored quickly with drills or chalk talks. When they get bored, they misbehave. Accordingly, drills and chalk talks should last no more than two to ten minutes. Competitive drills can last longer, but competitive drills are not always the best way to teach something.
If you show a training video, you must show it only in two- to five-minute segments, then go practice what they just saw. If you try to show a whole half hour or hour training film at once, the players will start misbehaving after about five or ten minutes.
You don't have to take my word for it. I am now reading the book, Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. One chapter is about how the Sesame Street TV program became such a big success. That program would produce segments, then test them on a child audience. The children were watched closely and a distracting slide show was on a screen next to the TV showing the Sesame Street segment being tested. One of the things they found was that "...no single segment of the Sesame Street format should go beyond four minutes and that three minutes was probably optimal."
Sesame Street's target audience is pre-schoolers. That's similar to tee ball players, but coaches at higher levels than tee ball might protest that their players can handle longer drill periods. OK. Let's go to the other end of the spectrum from Sesame Street---Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, a man who had to keep the attention of full-grown adults. In his book Run to Daylight, he said, "Everything we do, in these meetings or on the practice field, we do only for short periods. We never stay on one phase of this game for any great length of time, because if I get bored coaching the same thing over and over they are going to get bored learning it..."
In another book, Play Football the NFL Way, author Tom Bass says, "Short, crisp, well-defined drills that concentrate only on one skill keep the players' attention and help eliminate long, tedious practice sessions."
I also write books on football coaching. In that realm, it is typical for preprinted practice schedules to break the practice into five-minute segments. Clock-horn combinations are sold to football coaching staffs. They honk loudly every five minutes to signal the various coaches to move to the next segment in the practice schedule. Sometimes they combine two five-minute segments into one ten-minute segment, but rarely longer. I wear a kitchen countdown timer around my neck to accomplish the same thing in my practices.
If you still doubt that you should keep drills and chalk talks to two to ten minutes, try a longer drill and see what happens. Almost invariably, your players will become bored and start to misbehave, e.g., pull grass, poke teammate, talk, chase flying insects, etc. It took me a soson or two to figure this out. I am trying to save you from wasting that much time.
John T. Reed