Ending practices the right way
By Greg Bach
Good exit strategies are a must when it comes to ditching a loathsome job, wiggling out of a disastrous blind date – and closing out a youth sports practice, too.
While the start of practice usually grabs all the attention, with coaches focused on setting a positive tone and creating energy, how those sessions conclude are equally important.
It’s why University of Tulsa football coach Philip Montgomery places a lot of emphasis on ending practices the right way, every day.
He wants his players – every single one of them – taking positive messages with them as they’re exiting the field.
And he reminds his staff every day to make sure it happens.
“What I talk to our coaches about each and every day is making sure that as we’re leaving the field – especially the kid who you had to get on multiple times in practice – I want them to go put their arm around that kid’s neck and I want them to tell him something good that he did that day,” Montgomery says. “So many times they’re walking off the field and they’re leaving with negative feelings and I want to make sure that the last thing they remember as they walk off the field is something positive that our coaches have found.”
PICK A POSITIVE
There are lots of options to choose from: it could be the player’s work ethic, the energy he competes with, the way he encourages teammates, or the improvement he’s made learning a new skill.
“You can find something positive every day to say to each and every kid,” Montgomery says. “He may have had his worst practice ever but you can tell him, ‘Hey, I see that you are trying, I see that you are working hard and not loafing.’ Find something positive to say about that young player.”
Regardless of the youth sport that you coach, apply Montgomery’s approach to your team to help forge a more confident group of players.
Many volunteer youth sports coaches may only see their team a couple times a week, with a Saturday morning game mixed in. So, if young athletes are climbing into the family minivan with unpleasant thoughts swirling in their head over their practice performance, those negative feelings can marinate in their head for days.
That leads to corroded confidence and athletes questioning their abilities.
When youngsters head home with positive messages from their coach, delivered at the end of practice, even if they didn’t perform as they had hoped they’ll likely return for the next practice with energy and enthusiasm because they know the coach believes in them.
So, plan your team’s exit strategy for sending players home in a positive frame of mind.
Former Major Leaguer and long-time youth sports advocate Jack Perconte on building optimistic, confident and team-first players
Connect players and build team cohesiveness with put-ups, says Porter Moser, who led Loyola Chicago to the 2018 Final Four
Former college basketball coach Gary Waters, author of the upcoming book Ten Principles of a Character Coach, on providing young athletes with a solid foundation for life
Former Stanford basketball standout and long-time coach Bobbie Kelsey on focusing on footwork, movement and helping young players enjoy learning all aspects of the game