So you’ve decided to volunteer this season as a youth sports coach! First off, thank you! It’s parent-coaches like you that keep the sports wheel turning and without your our leagues wouldn’t be possible! As a coach, one of your biggest tasks is figuring out how to manage practices. How can you keep young kids engaged, having a good time, learning the basic skills of their given sport, building team spirit and more?! It’s a tall order for a few hours a week. One of the easiest things to do is keep your practice moving by planning several drills that focus on different skills.
Here are three reasons why drill stations at practice can make all the difference!
It keeps the kids moving.
Let’s be honest, most 8 year olds don’t have the longest of attention spans and standing in line for 15 minutes to swing at 7 or 8 pitches just isn’t going to cut it. Having drill stations during practice that rotate every 5-10 minutes means everybody is always moving and changing up what they are doing. They simply don’t have time to get bored! You can break the large team up into smaller groups (maybe by size, skill level, or even position) and focus on different skills at each station. For instance, your infielders could pair and up and practice fielding ground balls with each other (as opposed to you hitting to one at a time). Meanwhile, your outfielders are practicing relays (as your assistant coach or a parent hits it out far to them), and you can work with one or two at a time in the batting cage. Especially for younger players, staying moving and having fun while learning the basic skills is the whole point of practice!
Stations give parents the chance to help out.
Sometimes the best way to manage an overly-involved parent (the one that always coaches from the sidelines) is simply to let them coach! Give them a drill or two to run at practice and that might be enough to keep them happy and actually working on your side as opposed to against you! Most sports parents mean well, and they don’t realize how their sideline coaching could be undermining your authority or even putting their kid in an awkward spot (do they listen to mom/dad or you?). By inviting them to help coach at practice they get to be involved like they wanted, and it can actually help you run a better practice! Who knows, the sideline coach might even realize how hard managing a youth sports team actually is and stop insinuating that they could do a better job.
You get to try new things.
Practice should be fun for the coach as well! Having drill stations set up during practice means you get to try new things and keep yourself engaged. Now we are not suggesting you turn your U-8 soccer team into an Olympic training ground, but if there is a particular drill/game you want to try out why not give it a whirl one day and see how it goes over? Who knows, you might find a new favorite drill for your team. Or you find everyone’s new least favorite drill! Either way, you learned something about your team and that means you can work on being a better coach!