At different stages of my coaching career I would have said different things for how practices should be.
All of those practice goals are appropriate for any age and sport of kids. I was coaching swimming but it could just have well been basketball, soccer or football.
But I think I missed the big picture.
The one thing that all sport practices should be is…interesting.
What do I mean by that?
Well, anyone of the previous goals could be performed in a manner to make them boring…or interesting.
Tough workouts can be interesting. I think swim coaches are masters of making hard work fun, interesting and challenging. That’s one reason there are so many kids who can swim day after day, looking at the bottom of a pool.
Workouts can be instructional. But you know how boring instructional and learning can get. Look at the faces of your typical middle school class. If that’s what your baseball team looks like, you are in trouble.
At 45, I was on top of my game. My workouts were specific for individuals and the time of season. I had it planned and it was very precise on what and how much we were doing. I tried to engage the kids into the season plan. I’m not sure if I succeeded.
Later, though probably throughout most of my coaching, I made sure it was fun. I came up with games, drills and wacky stuff so the kids had fun. Even when it was a difficult and challenging workout I would break it up so something was fun.
By having your workouts and practices be interesting, you keep the team engaged. They will be looking forward to coming back. They will want to keep participating.
Interesting means different things depending on the age, ability level, season and sport. You’re going to have to use your experience to decide what’s important to the team.
But whatever it is, make sure it’s interesting.
Here are five quick tips for keeping workouts interesting. It doesn’t matter what sport or age, either.
Always keep them guessing. Don’t get into a rut where the kids know what’s coming next.
Find different ways to work on an individual skill. For instance, if you’re working leg strength try different exercises.
Be prepare to try new things. Look and search for different sports or experts. If something worked one year, experiment and try to tweak it the next. It’s ok to make mistakes. Push your comfort boundaries. The team and kids will pick up on it. It will help them stay interested and invested.
Anything can be interesting if presented in the right way. Make sure it’s appropriate for your team. Older athletes will need more explanation. Younger athletes will need more fun and games. Be appropriate for the level your coaching at but always think, “what can I do to keep the team engaged?”
Every practice be sure to have the team interact with each other. Humans are social. We learn socially and we love interacting with each other. Just talking to each other can be interesting. Encourage communication and interaction among your team, whatever the sport is.
Summary for Youth Sport Coaches
I believe that one of the reasons we lose so many kids at the age of 14 is because they get bored. There isn’t enough variety, instruction, fun and interaction so the kids go somewhere else for it.
What tips do you have for coaches that they can use?
Coach Ron Usher
Every Child an Athlete
Be an Athlete for Life