4 min read

The results of the coach surveys we have done in the past are clear. One of the biggest “pain points” for coaches is developing effective practice routines.

But this makes sense if you think about it. The truth is that the majority of coaches have not had any training in how to effectively plan for practices.

Teachers receive training in making lesson plans. And yet we sometimes expect coaches to automatically know how to make a practice plan. This is somewhat of an unrealistic expectation in my opinion.  While it may come naturally to some, it requires practice and guidance for most of us.

But the reality is that making effective practice routines can “make or break” your ability to run a smooth practice.  In turn, this has enormous impact on your teams ability to improve.

As John Wooden once said: "It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen."

In other words, we can't ignore planning effective practices!

While there are various components to planning any effective practice, below are five tips for any good practice plan or routine.

Practice Routine Tip #1: Write Down Your Plans (With Times)

Seems kind of obvious I know. But many coaches just try to “wing it.” A plan that is written (or typed) on paper is going to help you stay focused throughout the practice and get much more done. And when you have specific times allotted for each part of practice, you will get even more accomplished.

Basically, your practice plan is like a series of goals that you want your team to get through that day. And we all know that goals that are written down are much more likely to be reached! I go into more detail about the importance of writing down your plan in our free Practice Planning Series. 

(NOTE: Join our email list in the footer or sidebar & you will automatically receive the practice planning series!) 

Practice Routine Tip #2: Think Through Your Use of Specific Equipment

For outdoor sports like baseball, lacrosse, & tennis, buckets are the most underrated tool for practice organization. For basketball and volleyball coaches on the other hand, it might be your ball racks.

If you have specific equipment that you use every day, it helps to think about where you will need them beforehand. For example, I will typically set out buckets in the places that I know we will need them in order to keep practice flowing.

When you think through this ahead of time your drills and transitions will happen much more fluidly.

Routine Tip #3: Make Some Components of Practice Competitive

Skills and drills are great. But after a while they will become stale if you don’t make some modifications. To help keep things fresh it is important to make some of your drills competitive. At least part of each practice should have a competitive element.

This can be as simple as giving points in the cage for line-drives, or giving targets for volleyball serves. It is amazing how when a drill becomes competitive (whether it’s a timed goal or a point system) the focus of your players will increase ten-fold.

Tip #4: Establish Pre-Practice & Post-Practice Routines

It's critical to establish practice routines in your programs.  This will make your time more efficient and effective! 

Getting organized helps your players get mentally prepared for a great practice and leave each day feeling excited for the next one!

Watch the video below where Coach Ritchhart discusses some of these components. 

TO RECAP, HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS THAT YOU CAN DO TO START YOUR PRACTICE: 
  1. Greet them with a smile and a few words. Something as simple as “Hey, I’m glad to see you!” 
  2. Establish rituals on what the players will read each day. For example, you could put something on the board such as a daily quote for each day’s practice.
  3. Establish routines on speaking to the team. For example, it might be a quick pep talk or discussion about practice for the day.
  4. You could have a ritual for what they say as a team. For example, they could use some type of line or chant that they say in unison each day.
  5. Lastly, you can have the team form a group circle to chat or stretch before they start their warm-ups at the start of practice.  This could be led by your team leaders or captains.

HERE ARE SOME IDEAS THAT YOU CAN DO TO END EACH PRACTICE: 

  1. Competition exercises.  Use your imagination!
  2. Teams of players that have established "post-practice" jobs or responsibilities. 
  3. A team building activity. 
  4. Have another group circle to end each practice. This can give an opportunity for you or the players to end with something positive! 

Regardless of what you decide to do, the importance is having some routines that the players can come to expect!

Key #5: Minimize Standing Around

If you want to “lose” your players at practice, then put them in long lines or have them sitting out for long stretches of time. Most sports require a ton of individual skill work.  For example, soccer players dribble, shoot, and pass. Baseball & softball players hit, throw, field grounders, etc. Basketball players dribble, shoot, and pass. And so forth. 

Because of this, it’s important to strategically plan the routines for each practice so that your drills move quickly. This will give your players the maximum amount of reps in a short amount of time!

If you get the sense that players are standing around too long, take a step back and analyze what needs to be adjusted.  The drill may be ok, but it might need to be done just a little bit differently.

For example, if you are doing a simple ground-ball drill in baseball or softball, perhaps you make two lines instead of one to keep things moving more quickly. There are many ways to minimize standing around, but it does take planning and analyzing when a drill isn’t “working.” If it isn’t working don’t sweat it. Oftentimes a simple adjustment will make a big difference.

It does take some time to make effective practice plans and routines for youth sports coaches. But keep at it, because the time invested makes it easier in the end!