No laps! No lines! No lectures…
A few basics for coaching kids…you’re probably not going to like a few of these, and your old high school coach will probably HATE them, but you’re going to have to trust me.
No laps. No lines. No lectures. And never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever…breathe…ever, ever, ever, ever…hang in there…ever, ever, ever, ever…we’re getting there…ever, ever, ever punish with exercise.
Let’s break it down.
No laps. Here’s what I tell the kids first day of summer baseball practice, “I’m not a track coach, so we’re not running laps.” Yeah I stole the line, but you can feel the relief from the kids when I say it (then we teach base running, and get our running done anyway). Having your kids run laps usually means you don’t know what else to do with them (unless you’re a track coach). They can get plenty of exercise doing sport-specific skilled drills, if you take the time to organize your practices right. Few things turn a kid off basketball practice than running around without a basketball…same for “name-your-sport”.
No lines. The more time a player stands in a line, doing nothing, the worse job you’re doing. Simple as that. Standing in line teaches you nothing, gives you no love for movement, gets no one better. Never run a drill with one line when you can split it into two. Never drill with two when you can do four. Never do four lines, when the whole team can participate. When you design a drill with everyone involved, you take care of teaching, reps, and conditioning at the same time. Do this; when you’re done with practice, take a look at your lower skilled players and ask yourself how many times they touched the ball, puck, bat, racket, etc. Divide that by your practice time, and you’ll get a nice little data analysis of how good your practice was. Better yet, imagine the kids parent watching your practice and focusing on their kid alone. Would they be okay with the number of reps their kid got.
No lectures. Kids don’t want to hear you talk…they want to play their game. Let them play. AND, their parents want them tired when you hand them back at the end of practice, not rested from napping through your lectures. Almost always better to show them, through action and repetitions, than to tell them.
Here’s a good piece of science that’ll help with this concept: when teaching a new skill, a person can only absorb 5 reps of quality-attention right brain activity before their mind-body connection splits. Then they need a break to reflect and reset before you can teach them again. You can do this 5 times a day…do the math and you see that you get 25 reps a day of quality teaching. After that it’s time to let them loose to apply that skill. So…pounding balls in batting practice, or at the driving range, or into the net, when you’re learning a new skill is a waste of time after the 25th rep. How’s that for an eye-opener?
And…finally…Never, ever, ever (ad-infinitum) punish with exercise. We want kids to embrace exercise, to fall in love with movement and sweat and physical effort. We don’t want them to look at hard work as punishment. I see coaches all the time (and so do you) who say things like “Okay, losers do 10 push-ups.” I absolutely freakin’ cringe when I hear that. Do we really want your players to equate exercise with being a loser? Makes me want to scream…
“NO, COACH…WINNERS DO PUSH-UPS! WINNERS RUN YOUR EXTRA LAPS! WINNERS GET IN BETTER SHAPE SO THEIR SPORT IS EASIER AND MORE FUN! THAT WHAT WINNERS DO!”
Footnote…here’s another one, since I’m on a roll. Kids don’t need to stretch. Sorry they just don’t. Did you ever stretch before you did ANYTHING when you were a kid? Neither did I. Did you know there is exactly zero scientific evidence that stretching prevents injury? Don’t waste their time…trust me, they don’t need to stretch.