Scott Shea coaches for the Palo Alto Stanford Aquatic Team. Besides being an awesome coach, he’s also a friend of mine.
Scott has had a lot of success coaching. The age-group program is one of the best in the country and they consistently send kids to Junior and Senior Nationals. And they place. Most of his group goes on to swim in college.
One thing Scott does is have a “Tour de SCRA” event once a year. He comes up with wacky and crazy things for his group to do. He then keeps score for each event. After 21 stages there is a winner with all the usual accolades. You can read about it all here.
Many of the events are swimming related; putting on all the equipment (fins, paddles, snorkel, buoy, kick board). Some of them are not.
One event is to see how far you can spit a goldfish. It’s pretty gross but very funny.
The team really gets into it. He keeps everything posted on his blog and the competition gets quite heated.
But realize that these are senior swimmers; fourteen to eighteen years old. They are talented and fast. And they work very hard.
By giving them an obscure way to compete it:
- Helps them bond as a team,
- Have a great time being silly,
- Breaks up the monotony of swim practice,
- Allows Scott to be creative,
- By making it fun, it encourages them to like swimming and to keep swimming,
- Establishes new team traditions.
Scott’s Tour de SCRA could easily be adapted for any sport and any age. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Make a big deal of it. Talk about it and publicize it. Take pictures and videos. Put it in the newsletter and web site..
- Have silly prizes for each stage.
- Come up with events that give everyone an equal chance or find a way to make it even and fair.
- Celebrate with a party afterwards.
- Some of the events should be related to the sport. Others should have absolutely nothing to do with the sport.
- Don’t be afraid of losing too much practice time. Make the event a priority.
- You don’t need 21 stages. Do it as a decathlon or heptathlon. You can always add or change events.
There’s two very important concepts that coaches should learn here.
One, find ways to keep practices fun, motivating, interesting and different. Kids will keep competing and playing the sport.
Two, there’s a lot of great coaching out there. Be looking for new ideas and tips from other youth sports teams. Borrow as much as you can.
Have a great Thanksgiving!