When you read the two subjects in the title, what pops into your head? Now hold those images for a few minutes.
One of the things I despised as a player was the standing around at practice. I can still feel the twinges of boredom when I think about standing in the outfield for what seemed like hour after hour waiting and waiting and waiting for a ball to be hit during batting practice. My mind would wander. I’d end up watching the cars drive by or the kids playing in the adjacent park or simply drift off into a daydream. This boredom phenomenon almost drove this borderline ADHD kid away from sports and haunted me all the way through the end of my active playing days in college.
When I fell into the opportunity to coach later in life, I never forgot that feeling. One of the first conversations I had with Coach Rex Carlson back in 1999 at my Clay Center Community High School Rule 10 coaching interview was just about this topic. Practice planning and organization to minimize standing around time needed to be an essential part of our program philosophy.
This philosophy went to an even higher degree of importance when I had the honor to coach football and be the strength & conditioning coach under Coach Paul Lane at CCCHS. We needed to keep kids engaged and working to get better in everything we did. It took great planning and preparation each and every day. That’s where the magic of coaching lies.
Talk it. Walk it. Rep it.
Sports are an active thing, not a passive thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever met an athlete who played because they like to listen to the adults talk about playing. Athletes like to move and perform. That’s where the joy resides in sport.
As the adults in the mix, we often forget this. Coaches become so obsessed with the schematic and philosophical side of the game, they often forget the performance side of the equations. And as already mentioned, athletes are 95% performance and maybe 5% on the schematic/philosophy side. Coaches get so caught up in what they do, they don’t realize their practice field has turned into a lecture hall.
Recall those mental images I asked to think of in the opening? Which is more appealing to you? Which sounds like more fun to a young athlete? Where would you rather be on a beautiful spring or fall afternoon?
Time is the biggest enemy for a coach and his program. A coach can’t afford to waste time by spending it as a 2-hour lecture session on a sports field. Yet, many of us do. Day after day after day.
Here’s a challenge to coaches. At a future practice, give an assistant or a trusted student manager two stopwatches. Tag one “Red” and the other “Green”. Track non-active practice time with the Red watch and active practice time with the Green watch. At the end of practice, record the total time in each mode. For a better representative sample, do this for several practices. Once you have the data, you can make an honest assessment of your practice and adjust accordingly.
Coaches, never forget that it’s about building an environment conducive to giving kids the best opportunity for success and engagement.
Are you building a practice field or a lecture hall?
Talk it. Walk it. Rep it. Rep it. Rep it. And then rep it some more.