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Creating a Sense of Urgency in Youth Football Practices

One of the things many poor performing youth football teams do is waste practice time. They waste it by doing things that add little or no value to their team (priorities) and they waste it by not having a fast enough practice pace. Some of the teams I’ve watched practice moved around like their players were 90 years old instead of 9. Some almost looked like they placed a premium on trying to waste time. From 20 minute blathering speeches to scrimmaging with a play getting off every 3 minutes, some of these practices seemed to be contests on which coach could waste the most time.

These teams must have had an award for that at the end of the year. I can see their awards banquet with the MC saying- and now for our Time Wasting Award. This years award was so tough to decide on, all the coaches did such a great job at wasting time, it’s almost criminal to give this award to just one coach. Most of the teams I studied practice far more days than we do, so they must enjoy practicing. They were wasting so much time that practicing additional days would be a requirement to putting a reasonably competent team on the field. I’ve actually timed the number of reps these teams do during indys as well as team reps and compared those numbers to my own. In most instances we do about 2x-5x the number of indy reps per minute than these teams, while we do 4x-12x the number of team reps per minute than they do.

While we can all talk about practice pace and set goals for number of indy reps per minute and team reps per minute, it all starts with the coaches. If kids see coaches mulling around, wasting time and not hustling, they follow suit. One simple way to set an example is for coaches to never walk on the field, always be jogging to wherever you are going. That includes the 40 yard jaunt to warm ups, the 20 yards to water and the 10 yards between you and the coach you need to confer with about the blocking rule on a specific play. When kids see you are hustling and trying to squeeze every second out of every practice minute, they “get” that you value time. They in turn they have an easier time buying into having a sense of urgency in every practice. Of course none of this is of any importance if the coaching staff does not value time and chooses not to enforce a fast pace.

When I see coaches that aren’t sweating during practice, that tells me the pace isn’t fast enough. When I see coaches standing around that tells me coaches either don’t care, don’t value coaching or don’t know their jobs. When I see kids walking in practice and slow paces, that tells me the kids have no sense of urgency during practice and don’t value time. No matter what system you run, if you get 2x,3x,4x,12x the number of quality reps your opponent gets leading up to the season or game, you are going to win that ballgame. See what setting an indy rep standard of one rep every 6 seconds does for your team this year. See what setting a team fit and freeze rep standard of one play every 15 seconds can do for your execution this season. When you have sold that concept to your coaches and players and can execute it effectively, then it’s time to cut back the number of practice days. Then see the effort and attentiveness of your kids go through the roof.

One incident I will never forget came on a piece of game film I got from our camera guy a few years ago. He always left the mic on and I told him to keep the camera rolling during halftime. In this game, both teams fans were seated on the same side of the field in the grandstand. We were up 30-0 at the half and one of the opponents parents snarled over sarcastically- how often DO you guys practice? One of our parents replied, two nights a week. The other parent replied in a very disgusted voice, we practice 4 nights a week and this is the #$%& we get? While I had never watched this team practice, my guess is they placed a premium on wasting time not unlike the pace of the Walmart checkout cashier in the 20 items or less line. Priorities and pace, priorities and pace, priorities and pace.

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