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:
- Conditioning component
- Skill component(s)
- Social/Team/mental component
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.