Brought to you by the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.
When people think about coaches being prepared, they usually think about the playbook and game-time decisions. But as a youth sports coach, you know that key preparation usually happens in practice.
Coaches’ Preparation: Mental preparation is especially important for volunteer coaches, who often come to practice straight from work. Coaches should always take a few minutes to mentally leave the workday behind, so they can bring infectious excitement to the team and their practice.
Objective & Priorities: What do you want your athletes to have mastered by the end of practice? Responsible Coaches adopt a Mastery Approach™. Write down 1-3 objectives, and rank them in order to ensure you hit the most important items.
Opening Ritual: Responsible Coaches set the tone right away with a strong Opening Ritual, which tells athletes to leave school behind, and focus on hockey and his or her teammates.
Instruction: Every practice includes instruction. Our favorite piece of advice from the experts at PCA? Teach new skills in the “whole-part-whole” method. For example, if you want to teach players a play that involves different intricacies for each player, it’s a good idea to walk them through it to show them how it works. Then, after each player learns his or her part, put the whole thing together again.
Conditioning: Conditioning is critical, but can be a real drag for athletes. Why not make it fun? Change the location you hold each practice. Hold mini-competitions. Pair up kids.
Fun: Sports are supposed to be fun. Try to find ways to infuse fun into all aspects of the practice – from conditioning to rituals and everything in between.
Scrimmaging: Kids love playing in simulated game conditions. They develop skills faster and have more fun.
Team Meetings as Conversation: Teams come together when they participate with each other. Legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson talks about allowing players to have the first word in a group meeting. When coaches engage athletes in this type of conversation, they’re treating the athletes under their direction as equals. This is a big “tank filler,” which contributes to greater performance.
Adding the Life Lessons Question: Responsible Coaches seek to win both inside and outside the field. So talk about the life lesson from practice with your athletes. Then let them discuss and engage with the lesson.
Closing Ritual: Just as the Opening Ritual set the tone, the Closing Ritual helps kids take the positive experience of practice into their everyday lives. Fill emotional tanks. All of us, especially young men and women, need that.
Assessment: Assessment happens both with your team, and afterwards, on your own. How did practice go today? What was your favorite part and why? Is there something you got better at? And as the coach – what did I learn about my athletes during this practice that can help me become a better coach? A Mastery Approach holds true for both athletes and coaches alike.
In an effort to benefit millions of youth athletes, parents, and coaches, this article is among a series created exclusively for partners in the Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports Program powered by Positive Coaching Alliance.
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