Fun, Effective Practices

Practice is meant to make players better, but this doesn’t happen automatically. Sure, getting more reps always helps, but a boring, monotonous, inefficient practice session will greatly reduce your athletes’ rate of progress. Here are some tips to make training both fun and effective.

It starts with organization. Before each practice, take some time to plan out what to focus on and how to provide your athletes with as many opportunities to get better as possible.

In article on the USA Basebal website, Darren Fenster, Founder and CEO of Coaching Your Kids, LLC, and current manager of the Boston Red Sox Class A Affiliate Greenville Drive, provides an example of what coaches should avoid doing during a practice session.

“The worst possible thing we can do as coaches is just roll the balls out and take batting practice with one player hitting and the rest of the team out chasing balls in the field,” Fenster writes. “The more standing around there is, the quicker players will become bored, not just at practice, but of the entire game. And we want to give them a reason to come and be excited for the next practice, not a reason to stay away and quit the sport.”

There are five aspects of a practice that Fenster suggests every coach consider before developing a plan:

1. Players

How many are on the team and will be practicing? What are the different skill levels of each player?

2. Coaches

How many coaches will be at practice? What are their different areas of expertise? How can they be most effective in helping the practice run smoothly?

3. Equipment

What equipment do you have available to you? (balls, nets, goals, safety gear, etc.)

4. Facilities

What condition is the facility in? What kind of surface and area do you have available? What amenities does the facility have to offer?

5. Time

When are you going to practice and how much time do you have with your players?

Coaches often have a limited amount of time to work with their team, which makes time management one of the top priorities when it comes to organizing a practice. In order to maximize the amount of time athletes have to work on a skill, consider splitting them into small groups. This will help keep everyone active and engaged, and will allow them to get a lot more reps. It can help to split players up by position and/or skill level, and be sure to match them with coaches or volunteers that can provide instruction, or at least supervise.

Once you’ve mastered time management, you can also focus on making practice fun. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by adding an element of competition. Nearly every drill or activity can be turned into a game. Try to come up with creative ways to add a type of scoring system into everything you do, and any extra incentive, such a prize for the winner, will go a long way in motivating your players. This will also increase focus and encourage players to get the most out of both the simplest and the most technical drills.  

“While there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to practice, keep the following two words at the front of your mind: fun and active,” writes Fenster. “No matter what is on the schedule for the day, if a workout is fun for players and it keeps them active on the field, they will be engaged and attentive, and they can’t help but get better. When we create a practice that is both fun and active, we are creating an environment where players will willingly want to practice.” 

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