Make Practice Fun and Meaningful

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

There are two things that kids want from practice. They want to get better, and they want to have fun. There are many coaches who are great at teaching fundamentals, but don’t have much fun doing it. And there are other coaches who run fun practices, but don’t teach much in the way of skills. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Coaches who make their practices enjoyable while teaching the basics usually get the most of their players.

Don’t get me wrong. Practice isn’t supposed to be just amusement. But think about a job you may have had (or currently have), that was actually kind of fun. Sure, you were working and getting things done, but it was more of a pleasure than a chore. Why can’t we make our practices the same way?

Here’s an example of what I mean: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked by a field and seen a group of kids, standing line, each taking a turn dribbling to a cone and back. If the ball is not controlled properly or a player takes his time moving down and back – no big deal. The coach might tell them to speed it up or keep the ball under control, but other than a verbal correction, there are no consequences for lack of effort or poor performance. Meanwhile, seven kids are always standing still, bored stiff.

Instead, why not divide that same group of kids into two teams and run a relay race down and back? A coach can incorporate a minimum number of touches or require a zig-zag through middle cones to teach ball control, but now, as the two teams come down the stretch in a close race, everyone is involved and excited. And when the drill is over, they want to do it again.

But maybe most importantly, what you’ve also done by conducting the drill in this manner, is to simulate game competition. Now, when one of those players has the chance to put those skills into action during a game, they’ve been there before. They’ve experienced the same pressure in a practice setting and thus, are more likely to perform.

We’ve tried to build this coaching philosophy into CoachDeck. Beyond being a simple pack of 52 good, fundamental drills, each card has a unique, “Make it a Game,” feature that turns an ordinary drill into a fun and exciting competition kids will love.

We believe this is one of the reasons that baseball, basketball and soccer leagues using CoachDeck are reporting that more kids are coming back to play year-after-year. This obviously means more registrations and a healthier bottom line for the league. In this way, leagues using CoachDeck tell us they don’t look at CoachDeck as a luxury, but as an investment that pays dividends.

Which is all nice. But our bottom line is that more kids are playing sports – and sticking with it. If we can have a little to do with that happening, than that makes coming to work a little more fun for us too.

Brian Gotta is a former youth baseball coach and volunteer Little League board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

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