Monthly Archives: July 2014

Jul 14

Nineteen Tips for Planning Your Youth Sport Season.

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

Every coach, every sport has different seasons.

  • They have different lengths
  • Some have weekly competitions, some twice a week
  • There are sports that last six weeks and sports that last a year.
  • Some coaches have a lot of control over the athletes
  • And some coaches have almost no control.

Planning varies by sport, age, and skill. A coach planning a ten week high school soccer program is going to plan for different things than the coach planning for her 17/U championship soccer year-round program. Same sport, same age but completely different goals, objectives, strategies and tactics.

But whatever level or sport you are coaching at there are a lot of common grounds as well. Here are twenty tips to help you have a great season.

Sports Planning Tip #1. Do it and write it down. Don’t procrastinate. Write it down so that you have a record and something to always go to

Sports Planning Tip #2: What are your goals for the season? Not your goals for the team (though you should be thinking of what they are, too). But what are your goals? What do you want to do a better job at? What do you want to learn this season? How much time do you want to put in?

Sports Planning Tip #3: Circle the “Big Games” or the championship meet. These are the ones that you need to rest the kids for. They are also the ones that you might spend more time on mental/psychological/teamwork.

Sports Planning Tip #4: What are the most important skills the team needs to work on? Here are somethings to consider:

  • General Conditioning
  • Sport Specific Conditioning
  • Individual Skills
  • Team Skills
  • Mental Skills

Each one of these skills can be broken down into many different categories depending on the age, skill and sport. Your job is to figure out what needs to be covered…and when. Again, be sure to write this down on your calendar.

Sports Planning Tip #5: Start with the big picture and work down. Start with the entire year or season. Then break it up into early, middle and late. What about post season? Be sure to think about that as well.

Sports Planning Tip #6. Cycle different components of the skills. On sports that are very short (six weeks) this might not be possible. But for longer seasons skills such as speed can not taught and then always ramped up. Olympic coaches have a plan for 4, 8 and even 12 years!  Plan for different intensities; easy, medium, hard and recovery.

Sports Planning Tip #7: Have a plan, but know it might change. Things happen to athletes, teams and coaches. Your plan is not written in stone. Be prepared to adapt. But don’t throw away. Always come back to it as much as possible.

Sports Planning Tip #8: Add social, fun and team building activities. These are critical for the success of every team at every level. Be sure to schedule them in.

Sports Planning Tip #9. Engage the staff and team in the plan. Head coaches and assistants need to be on the same page…or at least the same book. Athletes will perform better and be more engaged if they have some idea of what and why they are doing something.

Sports Planning Tip #10: Seasons are broken up into macro, meso and mini cycles. For age-group swimming a macro cycle was from September to August. A meso cycle was short-course (September to April) and long course (April to August). Each one of those I broke up into mini cycles usually one or two weeks long. Thinking of breaking up your season this way will help greatly with teaching skills and monitoring conditioning.

Sports Planning Tip #11: Write down the specific goals/skills to work on for a week (mini cycle). You might try writing the specific workouts to do but this isn’t always necessary. This is usually done on the weekends. I always did in Sunday night.

Sports Planning Tip #11: Individual practice sesssions should be written down before each practice. I did this either right after the previous practice, or the night before. Occasionally, I had time in the morning to write my workouts up.

Sports Planning Tip #12: Consider using a whiteboard or some other technique to show the team what they will be learning.

Sports Planning Tip #13: Plan for holidays. In swimming Christmas vacation is a critical time. Yet many families want to leave to ski. If you expect your team to workout over the holidays, they need to know it and be prepared. One reason my last coaching job was so disappointing was because all the families took off during breaks. I had no idea how bad it would be.

Sports Planning Tip #14: For individual practices focus on one or two kids. Or focus on a particular skill.

Sports Planning Tip #15: Each practice should have at least:

  • Warm-up
  • Conditioning component
  • Skill component(s)
  • Social/Team/mental component
  • Closure

Sports Planning Tip #16: How will you assess the practice session? What will a good practice look like? How about a bad practice?

Sports Planning Tip #17: Be prepared for the unexpected. What happens if it starts raining? Do you have indoor plans? What if the field gets closed or is rented out on accident? Have a plan B and C ready.

Sports Planning Tip #18:  At the end of the season, take a break. And then reevaluate the plan. What worked and what didn’t? Always try new things. Experiment.

Sports Planning Tip #19: Look for different sources for information and inspiration. Go to coaches of other sports or ages. Watch their practices and talk to their coaches. Look to other sources; historical leaders, religious and spiritual leaders, and business leaders have similar problems that youth sport coaches have. Learn from them.


Jul 13

World Cup, Brazil Collapse and Youth Sports. How to Prevent Your Team from Doing the Same

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of sad soccer player

Teach your team to be resiliant

This years World Cup has brought a soccer fever to the US. More people are watching it and talking about it than ever before. I’m wondering if it will have a boost on US youth soccer programs (probably) or professional soccer attendance (probably not).

What has fascinated me this year is Brazil’s collapse. Losing 7-1 to Germany and then 3-1 to the Netherlands. It just goes to show how important mental training and preparation are at every level.

I am sure that the Brazilian side is as skilled as any other team. They have the speed and talent to beat anybody. But when they got down quick against Germany they fell apart.

You could see it in their faces and body language.

You could see it in their interactions with each other.

They were never able to get back together as a team.

And the slump continued to the third place game.

I have no idea what kind of physical training and preparation Brazil does. I’m betting that it is cutting edge and creative. They are incredible athletes.

But somewhere along the line they reverted to a typical group of middle school kids.

The mistake they made was they didn’t work on resiliancy. Or if they did, the players, coach and team didn’t master the lesson.

Everybody has to learn how to get back on track. Individuals and teams will make mistakes. They will get behind. In sport and and life it happens. Like the famous quote says, “Six times down, seven times up.”

Here are five ways to help your youth sport team be resiliant and to bounce back.

Youth Sport Resiliancy Tip #1: Talk about it in practice

Bring it up in practice. Don’t wait for a game; by then it’s too late.

Youth Sport Resiliancy Tip #2: Be a good role model

If you lose control and start yelling and get emotional it sets a bad example for your team and it will make getting back on track more difficult. When things are falling apart you must remain calm and collected.

Youth Sport Resiliancy Tip #3: Teach breathing and relaxing skills

Teach your players how to breathe deeply and relax. Five deep abdominal breaths and shaking of the limbs will relax the body and get your team physically and mentally ready to come back.

Youth Sport Resiliancy Tip #4: Teach Teamwork

Teams that are close emotionally tend to support each other. This togetherness is critical in difficult times.

Youth Sport Resiliancy Tip #5: Rehearse being behind in practice.

Set-up scrimmages and mini games where one side is behind and has to score quick. Get your athletes prepared by rehearsing what they need to do by actually practicing it. Similiar to a two minute drill in football, it works with every sport.

It’s funny how the issues that kids have in youth sports can carry over to the most elite and professional levels (though I’m sure the Brazilians aren’t laughing). A large part of youth sports is preparing kids for life beyond and outside of sports. Taking time to teach mental skills goes a long way to improving your team, your individual players and creating successful adults.

Jul 12

Moving Warm-ups for Youth Sports

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of basketball player jumping for a dunk

This is definitely not me.

I play basketball on most Saturdays. Today was pretty brutal with lots of running and jumping with a bunch of guys who are younger, faster and more skilled. It’s frustrating but always fun and a great workout.

I like to observe myself during the game. My skills are probably a little better than the average non-athlete kid in middle school. This gives me a unique perspective on what I need to work on, what kids need to work on and ways to incorporate those skills in PE or at practice.

One area, that I get beat on is jumping. My vertical jump isn’t very good but I’m ok with that. What gets me is that I can’t jump quickly, I can’t do repeated jumps and jumping from different positions makes things much worse.

I’ve been working on my jumping and it has improved. Typically, I jump in the mornings when I’m doing a strength or metabolic conditioning workout. It’s working but it isn’t carrying over enough to the game.

So here are some warm-up ideas I’m going to use to improve my basketball game. I think they will work for kids and youth sports as well. These warm-ups are designed to be done on a court or field ten to twenty yards wide. All the movements should be done with the knees bent, head up and body in an athletic stance.

Youth Sport Motion Warm-ups

1.Five steps and jump: Five easy steps then plant and jump. Odd numbers work best for the steps because you end up jumping off of opposite legs.

2. Five steps and hop: Take five steps and then hop off the single leg you landed on.

3. Four shuffles and jump: Moving to your left, take four shuffle steps and then jump. Switch direction on the way back.

4. 180 shuffle with a jump: Shuffle then rotate 180 degrees. Then jump. Repeat.

5. 180 Reverse shuffle with jump: Same as the previous drill, but turn back side instead of forward.

6. Five steps, jump and turn. Run 5 steps then jump for distance and turn 180 degrees.

7. Ground clappers wtih jump. On any of the previous drills, bend at the knees and clap both hands to the ground. Then jump.

Youth Sport Jumping Variations

There are lots of ways to develop jumping skills. Basketball and any sport that requires quickness, speed and jumping (most of them) use different types of jumps. Be sure to add these variations to the above drills.

1. Jump for height.

2. Jump for distance.

3. Jump for quickness. React and jump as quick as possible. Emphasize a quick drop and explosion off the ground.

4. Repeated jumps. Instead of doing one jump, add two or three more jumps.

5. Jump with a body action. Instead of just jumping up, add an arm, leg or body action. For instance: Arm claps, throwing/shooting motion, back scratch, split legs or knee tucks.

I’m going to be doing these jumping drills two to three times a week along with my regular workouts. I’m hoping that my rebounding, positioning and movement skills improve.

Having your team or class do them will help them as well.

Coach Ron Usher

Jul 06

Youth Sports: Partner Running Drills to Develop Agility and Individual Skills

By RonUsher | Uncategorized

image of two puppies running

Running with a partner is fun!

When I watch youth sport teams such as football, basketball, and baseball workout, most teams do a lot of running.

They run a warm-up lap, then they typically do sprints at the end of practice.

The kids are encouraged to go fast and compete. But I don’t see a lot of teaching going on. I’ve written a lot about teaching running technique but most of those posts have been about teaching individual running technique.

But for youth sports there’s a lot more to being able to run than just running by yourself. You have to be able to run in relation to the ball, your teammates and most importantly, an opponent.

It’s a fundamental skill that isn’t typically taught in PE or coaches.

Here are seven partner running drills to help kids learn how to run with an against an opponent. They are fun and will also help your team and kids get used to some physical contact.

Youth Sport Partner Running Drill #1: Holding on to a shoulder.

With your partner, you run twenty yards at a moderate pace. The goal is to run together. Partner holds on to your shoulder. Be sure to vary the shoulders and you can do this running drill with both hands on the shoulders as well.

Youth Sport Parnter Running Drill #2: Bumping drill

Partners run next to each other at slow to moderate pace. On a whistle, they bump shoulders and then separate. Can also be done with a count; “One, two, three, bump. One, two three, bump.”

Youth sport Partner Running Drill #3: Forward/Backward

One partner runs forward, the other stays in front and runs backwards. Player running forwards runs straight and at 45 degree angles for a few steps.

Youth Sport Partner Running Drill #4: Side to Side/Sprint

Partners face each other about five feet apart. Partner A shuffles two to five steps to the side. Partner B faces A and stays with him. After two or three shuffles, A runs twenty yards to a finish line. Partner B turns and tries to beat him to the line.

Youth Sport Partner Running Drill #5: Up/Down Drill

Two partners run for 40 yards. At first five yards, partner A drops to the ground and does three push-ups. Partner B will touch the shoulders of partner A for each repetition. Player A gets up and runs to the next five yard marker, where Partner B does the push-ups.

Youth Sport Partner Running Drill #6: Battle Royale

Two players of approximately equal size/strength face each other. Players place hands on each other’s shoulders and push with moderate intensity. Coach can increase the intensity by increments with a whistle. At a command, both players race to a finish line.

Youth Sport Partner Running Drill #7: Band Runs

One partner in front, one behind. Partner in front (A) has a band, rope or long towel, wrapped around his chest. Partner behind holds on to the band as A tries to run forward.

Many of these drills are tackle football related but they really should be practiced by all teams. Kids used to get a lot of rough housing just playing around. But not so much anymore. One of the biggest problems schools have is with kids not knowing how to be physical or deal with physical contact.

Spending a few minutes during a practice performing these partner running drills will help toughen up your team, teach them how to move against an opponent and work on agility. They are also a blast!

Coach Ron Usher
Every Child An Athlete
Be An Athlete for Life