This is Part 3 of this series on the 4 philosophies all coaches should have. The 4 philosophies all coaches should have are as follows: “General Athletic/Coaching Philosophy,” “Sport-Specific Philosophy,” “Practice Philosophy,” and a “Playing-Time Philosophy.” There may be more philosophies that coaches will want to consider, but these four should form the basis for most philosophies that coaches will want to establish. In the first two posts, I covered the “General Athletic/Coaching Philosophy” and the “Sport-Specific Philosophy.” You can get to those posts at my website, www.coachwithcharacter.com. Today I am going to talk about the “Practice Philosophy.”
As part of your Sport-Specific Philosophy, you need to develop a philosophy with regards to how to practice your specific sport. Just like every sport has different ways it can be played, so too there are different ways to practice the variety of sports out there. As a coach it is important to try to learn various ways to practice your sport and then see what fits your goals and personality best. Different sports demand different practice styles. Obviously, team sports and individual sports are going to have different styles. No matter which you coach, team or individual, it will help you to get exposure to different methods that other successful coaches have used. Also, different days of the week will determine different practice elements. For instance, on days before games or meets or matches, you will want to do more fine tuning and less new teaching than you have done on other days. Depending upon the sport, you may do less conditioning or hard physical training than on other days, too.
As a team sport coach, I have seen many different methods for practicing through the years. There are a few constants that I have noticed though. All good practice plans allow a portion of the day to be devoted to individual skill development, some time where certain groups get to work together, some time devoted to offense, defense, transition or specialties, and some time for physical conditioning. Most of the time, the practice follows that order, too – individual work, group work, team work, conditioning, although for many conditioning is done at the beginning or sprinkled in throughout. This is a good order, for it is a natural progression. Kids work on their individual skills, then work on those skills with others in their group, ie. guards with guards and centers with centers, and then move to their “team,” whether it be offense or defense.
After this progression, some coaches will choose to scrimmage. The idea is that we are now ready to put it all together and let the team “play a game.” The big dilemma is how much scrimmaging should you do? I believe there is value to scrimmaging. It simulates game situations, so that players get used to the pace of the game without stoppages for instruction. It allows them to “learn the game” while playing it. It can also help them get in shape for their games.
While I believe there is value to scrimmaging, I believe too many coaches scrimmage too much. I see many practices where more than half the practice is spent scrimmaging or working in team settings. The problem with this is that players are not getting enough drill work in the fundamentals of the game. They don’t focus and work on their own individual skills and skills within their groups, developing the necessary skills to handle situations they will be put into in games. Then, they jump into the games before they are ready skill-wise. The problem with this is that the bad habits that players have are not being corrected, re-taught, and drilled again. These players are playing in game-like settings without the necessary skill development to help them become their best. The problem is there is no magic formula, no cut and dried, sure-fire method to know when to scrimmage. Some nights will demand more scrimmaging than others, but the key is to know that you have taught and worked on the skills in individual and group drills necessary for success in the scrimmages and games.
This explanation of the concept of a “Practice Philosophy” is by no means a “be-all and end-all” discussion on the topic. Rather, it is a start for coaches to consider as they think about how they want to develop their own philosophies. For a more detailed explanation of each of the philosophies, sign up for my newsletter at www.coachwithcharacter.com to receive a FREE copy of the soon-to-be released eBook version of my booklet “Establishing Your Coaching Philosophy,” which will have more detail on all of the philosophies covered in these posts. The eBook is set to be released in early September.
In the final post on philosophies, I will cover a “Playing Time Philosophy.” Until then, I hope you are considering your own philosophies and what you believe youth athletics should be all about. As always I welcome any comments, ideas, or questions you may have on any of the philosophies we have discussed.
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