How to Spice Up Your Practice Routine

Add new vigor to your practices and empower your leaders with video.

How to Spice Up Your Practice Routine

Add new vigor to your practices and empower your leaders with video.

Practice isn’t something athletes generally look forward to. Each one is a repeat of stretching, familiar drills and conditioning. Games are the payoff for surviving the practice slog.

Coaches are constantly fighting to find ways to inject life into practice. If your players are bored or checked out mentally, they’re not going to fully remember what you taught once the competition begins, which can lead to game-time mistakes. The more locked in your players are during practice, the more likely they’ll succeed during competition.

We’ve run into some interesting video tactics coaches are using to add some spice to practice and escape the doldrums of the season. Here are three options to better engage your athletes.

Use Video to Bring Lessons to Life

One of the most common refrains we hear from coaches across all sports is the importance of showing instead of telling. It’s one thing to verbally tell a player what needs to change or how he or she could be doing something better.

But when you can visibly display your point, it takes teaching to another level. Players can’t argue or disagree when the proof is right in front of them, and they’re more likely to positively respond and make changes.

Video sessions are great, especially when used right before practice, but their impact is maximized when you bring video onto the field or court itself. You may or may not have the resources to bring a monitor to practice, but an iPad or smartphone can give the same benefits.

Bob Rodgers, the head basketball coach at Whitman-Hanson High School (Mass.), has his players bring notebooks to practice. The players will watch the video of what they just ran through and take notes for on-the-fly learning.

“Any time you’re playing an opponent and there’s a certain set they run, we can simulate that in the shell drill, then go to the bench and take a look at that,” Rodgers said. “We’ll set up our chairs just like we would for a game and we’ll take notes right there. We might look at something on Hudl so they can take a note on something they’ve just done in practice.”

See more tips for how video brings lessons to life:

Record Practices

Just about every coach understands the value of watching their team’s game performances and using video to scout opponents. But more and more have begun to take their cameras to practice as well, which provides instant visual feedback.

The football staff at Lancaster High School (Penn.) records every practice and uses the video to help players improve right then and there on the field. Waiting until after practice to correct mistakes heightens their chances of not being fixed.

“It’s very easy to run a play in practice and when it’s finished say, ‘You should have done this,’” Gordon Eck, the team’s offensive coordinator, said. “You can run it again, but it’s not the same look as them having to react. That takes away the reps you get in practice.

“The ease of being able to pull up that practice film or immediately being able to upload film with an iPad, it makes the whole process easier.”

Let the Players Lead

The voices of even the most engaging coaches can grow a bit stale over the course of a season. Players get so used to being told what to do that coaches run the risk of having important insights go in one ear and out the other.

Allowing some of your more experienced players to lead portions of practice or video sessions introduces a different voice and provides a new dynamic. It not only gives development ownership to the leaders, and helps strengthen your relationship with them, but it keeps the rest of the team accountable to their peers.

Select a few players you trust and meet with them before the season. Teach them how to run a few drills or portions of a video session, then let them run it on their own. The other players will see how important it is to earn your trust and will aspire to lead sessions of their own.

Embracing technology and the advantages it provides can keep your practices fresh and your athletes engaged. For more tips like these, be sure to check out our Coaching Resources page.

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