The Coach’s Classroom
If games are the tests, practices are the classroom. A coach must treat every practice as another opportunity to better prepare the team for the next test. Whether it is developing individual skills, or preparing the team as a whole, practice is where teams have the best opportunity to improve. Players must know how important each practice is to their success as a team. Coaches must treat each practice as the most important part of their work day.
Every practice must teach players to give maximum physical and mental effort. It must teach players what it means to compete at a high level in a cohesive manner while at the same time showing respect for coaches and teammates. Players must learn to not take competition personally. Players must learn to accept a coach’s criticism and use it to help them to improve.
Coaches must prepare for each practice like it is the most important practice of the year. Each minute of practice must be planned in order to get the most out of it. Every drill, every player, and every situation must be considered in designing the most effective practice for that particular day. Lessons must be learned from the practice the day before. Coaches must anticipate possible obstacles in the upcoming practice.
Practices should contain a combination of physical, mental, and emotional challenges. Players must be placed in uncomfortable situations in order for them to improve. Players may not always be successful in figuring out how to defeat the challenge that’s in front of them. However, learning how to deal with failure and learning how to deal with adversity is part what coaches must teach over the course of a practice.
Practices must encourage competition while at the same time encouraging players to try skills that they are learning. Coaches should anticipate that their players will make mistakes. Are players making the mistakes at full speed? Are they making the same mistakes over and over again? Are they focused on the task at hand? Coaches must know which mistakes are acceptable and which are not. Coaches must hold players accountable for unacceptable mistakes. Coaches must encourage players to work through the others.
If players are well prepared in practice, they will play better more consistently in games. This does not guarantee wins, but it does give coaches a foundation to build on to help teams improve consistently. In the long run, teams will be more successful if they continue to improve on a daily basis.