One thing that all coaches, players and parents can agree on is no one wants to have a practice where there are lots of kids standing around. Kids standing around at practice are not getting better at football and normally are not having fun. As a result, it’s critical that coaches use every method they can to get players involved in practice and moving the whole length of the practice.
How Efficient Are Your Practices? Simple Steps to Increase Player Engagement
When kids begin to stand around for large chunks of practice several things occur. First their mind naturally wanders. Kids have a short attention span, that’s just a fact of life. If coaches create a situation where kids are standing around and are not engaged, there’s a good chance those kids will lose focus on the practice, I firmly believe this isn’t the kids’ fault, this is the coaches fault. Another thing that will start to happen is kids question whether they are important to the team. If the coach is focusing his teaching on a select group of players while another group is sitting to the side, it is natural that the group sitting to the side will feel left out. This will decrease their engagement in practices and will also cause them to not has as much fun in practice. While there is no perfect answer, and there are going to be times where kids are sitting out, there are a few ways that coaches can help to minimize the amount of time that kids are standing around.
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The first one is to have drill stations. There are essential skills like tackling, block destruction and blocking that every player needs to master. These drills are the perfect candidates to use for stations. By creating stations, you allow the players to get instruction in a smaller group setting, get more reps, and have the coaches be able to see more of these reps. Determining groups for these drills can vary. If you are doing blocking it might be best to group players up by position because kids playing on the line will require a different set of skills and drills than those playing skill positions. In addition, you should tailor each drill to each position. If you are doing a turnover drill it doesn’t make much sense for Defensive Linemen to work on getting interceptions, instead they would be much better served to work on stripping the ball after a sack or tackle.
The next major component is to use your players as the opposition. This seems like an obvious answer but it’s as quick way to double the amount of players in the drill. If you are having players work on defending a particular pass route you will obviously use one of your players to run the route. To take this a step further and get more players involved you can use the extra players to serve as the offensive line and give a high hat or a low hat read for the DB. This will serve to both help the player who is defending the pass get a better rep with more key while at the same time teach the players who are simulating the offensive line the difference between a lineman pass blocking and run blocking.
The last thing major tip for decreasing the amount of kids waiting is to have two or more sets of each drill. Even if you only have one coach you can have the drill going on twice. This helps eliminate the downtime that comes from the players getting in line and getting set up. The best way to do this is have the coach who is running the drill be in the middle with the same drill going on to either side of him. The coach tells one group to start the drill while the coach watches and gives quick feedback. Next the coach turns around to watch the other group do the drill. While he is watching the other group do the drill the first side is getting set up so that once the coach turns around they can do the drill right away. This helps eliminate the time that it takes to get kids in the right position and prepared for the drill.
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Every kid that comes to football practice wants to have fun. It’s on us as a coach to get these players to have fun by being engaged in the drills and keeping them fresh and exciting. This can take a variety of different forms but it’s critical that we keep all kids involved and moving to maximize our practice efficiency and player buy in.