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Making Every Minute Count

Are you and your team getting the most out of your practices? Really optimizing the work you can get done and material you want to teach? In a blog on his website, olineskills.com, Rich Alercio, Head Football Coach at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont, says far too many coaches don’t.

“I get the opportunity to observe a lot of practices in a wide variety of sports,” he writes. “Everyone is now doing some type of dynamic warm-up and static stretch cool down, but not everyone takes the time to coach it. Coaches seem to use that warm-up time to converse about the practice schedule, which should have been finalized long before, or they play catch with each other. During post-practice stretch, they review the practice that is not yet over.”

Alerico says there are several problems with these scenarios. First, it send a messages to the player that some portions of practice really aren’t that important. After all, if they see the coaches aren’t focused on the task at hand, they’ll think they don’t have to be either.

However, he says, every moment of practice is previous and needs to be treated that way. High schoolers learn by example, so set a good one.

Then Alerico adds that anything worth doing is worth dong right. So instead of talking over practice plans with another coach during stretching (of course this means doing so well before practice actually starts), make sure the players are doing their stretches properly. Check that they’re focused on what they’re doing and using the right mechanics.

In addition to getting the most of out your practices sessions by making them more efficient, Alerico explains that you’ll be sending the right message as well.

“You expect their best effort in everything they do all the time,” he says. “If you expect their best effort, you’d better be giving them yours!”

There are some practical steps coaches can take to maximize the time they have in practices. In a post on the NFHS website [https://www.nfhs.org/articles/maximizing-practice-time-with-minimum-effort-and-maximizing-results/], Jeff Walters, a California high school football coach, suggests using the game clock to keep track of practice sessions. He says this forces coaches to be accountable for their use of time during practice, limits off-task behavior from players who know how much time is left in each session, and promotes clock management that could pay off at the end of a game.

Another small, but helpful, suggestion comes from a blog post [http://fishduck.com/2017/07/coachs-opinion-making-the-most-out-of-your-practices/] by former college football coach Tony DeMeo that was heavy on football specific suggestions. One that applies well to most sports, however, is to name your drills so you can communicate them quickly and players can get lined up for them with minimal delay. He recommends keeping the names short. And don’t forget to teach them before hand so they are well learned before the first practice of the season.

Click here to read the full article.

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