Play More Games

By Brian Gotta President of CoachDeck

Where I live, in Southern California, youth sports spring seasons have already begun to ramp up. I observe preseason practices taking place and am amazed and saddened by the lack of spirit wherever I look. Drills are being run by well-meaning coaches and kids are doing what is asked of them, but no one seems to be having much fun. Here is an easy solution that can be adopted tomorrow by any coach who wants to:

Play more games.

Ask yourself this: Would you rather work at something or play it? I remember having a discussion several years back with a fellow Little League board member. The topic of the conversation was whether youth sports should be competitive. He said, “If you put a ball on the ground between people, there is going to be competition.” How basic, and how true. Yet the kids we coach aren’t competing as they naturally would, because we won’t let them!

I walk by baseball practices. Fly balls being hit to kids who may or may not catch the ball, then may or may not make a good throw back in. There’s no one even to throw to. Just get it near the bucket. Ground balls being hit and fielded. No apparent object to the exercise except to work on fielding.

I see soccer practices. Kids in line taking turns receiving passes and shooting on goal. No one remembers whether it went in or not the minute after it is kicked. Players dribble through cones and then get in line to go back the other way. I’m bored just writing about it.

Think about how many times you’ve started a sentence with, “Let’s work on…,” or “We’re going to work on…” compared to how many times you’ve said, “We’re going to play…”. When you start a sentence with “We’re going to play…” watch all the kids look up from the ground with smiling faces and expectant looks in their eyes. Now you’ve got their attention!

I can’t imagine running any of the above drills, or any others for that matter, without turning them into an exciting competition the kids will love. And if you’re wondering how, grab a CoachDeck because these drills and 50 others are in there and every one contains a unique, “Make it a game,” feature. Maybe it was because my siblings were all much older then I am so by the time I was in grade school I was essentially an only child. And there was no X-Box. I made up games for everything, even if I was alone, competing against myself. Even if you’re training one player you can make boring drills more fun simply by using a stopwatch and going for “record” times.

Come on, coaches…get inventive! Let your kids do what they inherently want to do, which is compete against each other, play games – have fun! You’ll see better attendance at practices, and your kids will be more prepared for real games. And guess who else will have more fun at practice? You will. Getting the kids together at the field tonight? Don’t work on anything with them. It will be the best practice you’ve run all year.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels which can be found at He can be reached at