Thursday, July 30, 2009

Strength in Numbers

Today's topic relates to practice planning and management. Often times when I plan a practice session, one of the first things I ask myself is: how many atheltes will I be working with? This seems like a vary easy question, but for any youth sport coach you know that the number of athletes you expect is not always the amount who show up. As can be the case at just about any level.

The reason I want to know how many atheltes I will be working with is because that number has an influence on the drills I will be running and the set-up I will be using. There have even been times when I had to modify a practice because an unexpected amount of athletes (either more or less) arrived at the practice session. On a few ocassions, I have even unexpectedly lost an athelte mid-session, and consequently had to change a practice session.

What this is all boiling down to is efficiency. By using the amount of atheltes in a session to my advantage, I can plan a more efficient practice session. For example, I was recently observing a coach who lined up nine athletes on a line to run some warm-up drills that varied in skill level. All the warm-up exercises were performed within a 10 minute time frame and the group moved on. After the session, I asked the coach how many atheltes he thought he could give personal and direct feedback to at one time and he told me about 2 or 3. Then I said, well with the way your warm-up was structured, you were ignoring 6 or 7 athletes! The coach couldn't believe what I was saying and I said next time organize three lines of 3 atheltes in each line and I think you will be able to concentrate more on each athlete giving them the attention they deserve because only three will be going at a time. I think this coach liked the change in organization and to me, he became a more effective coach because of it.

These sorts of managerial decisions can be made at any level to help a coach more effectively run efficient practices. Obviously, I encourage all coaches to look at your practice set-up and think about ways you could be more efficient or make things run smoother.

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