Just about every youth athlete has uttered the phrase “I don’t want to go to practice!” at one point or another. Let’s be honest, sometimes the sports parents don’t want to go to practice either. Why? Because if coaches aren’t careful practices can be about as much fun as watching the grass grow (something many bored outfielders have done to pass the time.) It can be hard for a coach to keep a dozen or so young players engaged and involved for every minute of every drill during every practice, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tricks you can use to help make practice more fun, while still teaching youth athletes the fundamentals of the sport.
1. Create drill “stations.”
Create drill stations and break your team down into smaller groups. By having various drills going on at once (as opposed to one at a time) you minimize the amount of time kids stand in line waiting for their turn and actually keep them moving! Stations also give players different things to work on every 10-15 minutes, helping you keep their notoriously short attention span focused. Drill stations are also a great way to get your team parents involved.
2. End practice with a competition.
Based on the skills you worked on during that particular practice, have an internal team competition where you turn the drill into a game. Everyone loves a good scrimmage, and turning a regular drill into a friendly competition can breathe new life into your practice and end on a high note. This is also a good way to make everyone’s least favorite drills a little more bearable.
3. Give players a chance to try new positions.
To really change things up, get your players out of their comfort zones and see what playing a different position feels lie. Put your soccer goalie as a forward, give your left fielder a chance to try catching, let your running back kick a field goal. Even if they aren’t any good in a new position, (and who knows, maybe they’ll surprise you) at least your athletes get to have fun trying something new. Letting them experience first-hand the pressure of a different position can even help with team bonding as players learn to respect what their teammates do.
The key to keeping practice from getting boring is to keep everyone moving and switch things up from time to time. If you need to work one-on-one with a player, make sure the other players have something to keep them active. Don’t be afraid to try new drills or exercises either. A little variety is the spice of life, or in this case, youth sports!