By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck LLC
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 coach working on fly balls with his team. All 12 players are standing out in center field and the coach is on the right field line with a bat and bucket of balls. One-by-one a player steps out of the group, the coach hits a fly ball. The kid might catch it, he might drop it, then he throws it back in and it might be a good throw or it might be off the mark. Nothing really too wrong with that. But instead, why not divide those 12 players into two groups, Team A and Team B? Tell them each time they make a catch, it is one point for their team. Each time they make a good, one-hop throw back in, it's another point: First team to 30 wins. Now, every time the ball is in the air, all 12 players are paying attention, possibly even talking a little smack. When the score is 24-23, you can cut the tension with a knife. And when the game is over, they all want to play 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 is in left field in a crucial juncture of a game and a fly ball is coming, 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 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 www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.