Thursday, February 14, 2013

Youth Coaches—Scrimmage with Your Team in Practices

   You can use a number of different methods to teach your players the individual and team skills needed to successfully play their sport. These include group and individual skill demonstrations, short instructional sessions in which you describe a desired behavior, and various drills (both individual and team).

How else can you communicate knowledge to your players?

Get in The Action

If you are in reasonable physical condition and skilled, consider occasionally playing with your kids in practice scrimmages. By doing so, you can interactively teach game situations and skills.

In some practices, you may find your team short a player and unable to field two teams with an equal number of players on each team. This is an opportunity for you to step in and play. Besides balancing the teams, you can demonstrate team skills by example. You can also instruct individuals in real time as game situations occur.

What Are You Trying to Teach?

To begin, first decide on your teaching objectives. Do you want to demonstrate a teamwork principle to the team on which you are playing? Are you looking to help one specific player better understand game situations? Once your objectives are established, and play begins, constantly voice your thoughts on key points as they occur. Also use your hands, when appropriate, to physically push, pull or otherwise initiate an action in another player. By triggering a player’s physical response, you help a player better associate a game situation with a desired, timely behavior.

Demonstrate—Don't Just Lecture!

Use words and actions to demonstrate correct individual and team behavior (i.e., act as a role model). For example, when playing man-to-man defense in basketball, demonstrate how to “talk on defense” by warning your teammates about screens, shouting out instructions, and asking for “help” when needed. In this instance, your actions demonstrate to your teammates the correct way to communicate and play team defense. This “by example” approach is an effective one as it pulls your players into the desired mode of team play. Your in-game demonstration helps your players more easily make a connection in their mind between a given game situation and the appropriate action or reaction.

Instruct as Events Unfold

You also have an opportunity to interactively teach an individual player how to respond to game situations. In a basketball scrimmage, I might choose to defend a taller player who does not yet understand how to play the post position close to the basket. As the player dribbling the ball comes to his side of the court (the right side) and he is “posting me up,” I would say to him, “Get your left hand up—give him a target!” and then put my left hand under his arm and push it up above his head.

As I moved slightly to his right side, I would say, “Put your hip on me—push me—control me with your hip!”

If the ball was reversed to the other side of the court, I would shout, “Move to the other side of the key!” At the same time, I would grab his hips and push him in that direction.

When he got there, I would yell out, “Now post me up!”

This teaching approach is highly effective with beginners. Always look to teach whenever you scrimmage with your players.

Copyright © 2013 Jeffrey S. Rhoads. All Rights Reserved

If you enjoyed this article, you may like my book:
The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the best youth sports experience for your child (Amazon $8.95)

(Kindle Edition $2.99)

Copyright 2009-2012 Jeffrey S. Rhoads; All Rights Reserved


Wendy LeBolt said...

Hey Jeff,
There's no one that believes in "getting in the game" more than me. You are absolutely right that it allows so many realistic ways to communicate the game. And for coaches like you who have a lot of playing experience, this can work really well. Your article brings to mind three things I would add as cautions:
1. Check your ego on the sidelines. I see coaches step on the field/court and get a bit more competitive than makes sense with a bunch of 10 year old boys.
2. Be fit to play. Coaches come to me all the time with aches and pains after scrimmaging with the kids. Just running around on the field is not enough to keep an adult fit for sports. He needs to address strength, stability, balance and dynamic movement in his own healthy fitness program - apart from coaching - if he wants to stay healthy and injury-free.
3. Be cautious about "touching." Unfortunately, they always warn us about the hands on stuff with kids. In this day and age, unfortunately, there are coaches who have less than good intentions. Especially, men who coach girls need to be especially vigilant about being and appearing to be "appropriate." I like your idea about initiating movement with a physical reminder like a push or pull, but this must come with caution.

Jeffrey Rhoads [Inside Youth Sports] said...

Hi Wendy. Good qualifiers and caveats! I expected there would be a response similar to your #3. That's a tough one. My practices are "supervised," in that there is another coach and typically a few parents watching.

With today's transparency on bad coaching behavior, it's easy to say "no touching." However, there is no substitute for physical cues in training a child to read and react to certain game situations. The moments are fleeting and sometimes words don't effectively communicate what needs to happen NOW. Hands on the outside of the shoulders to move or turn a player, a tug at the back of a shirt, a slight push in the middle of the back to signal the player to move forward, are all effective physical cues. Exercised with caution and in the appropriate context, they are a valuable teaching tool.

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