By Christopher Trieste
Effective coaches at all levels have routines and procedures that are familiar to their athletes. Early in the season, the coach should teach their athletes procedures and routines that will make life easier as the season moves on. Establishing routines and procedures may consume valuable time in the beginning of your season, but once firmly instituted, these routines and procedures will undoubtedly save time, reduce stress and increase efficiency in the long run.
Specific routines and procedures spell out exactly “how we will do this” and “how we will do that.” Routines and procedures clarify organizational and management tasks that could delay or disrupt a practice.
Another significant benefit of training athletes to follow specific routines and procedures is that it reinforces values such as discipline, responsibility, structure, teamwork, and pride.
There are numerous issues coaches may want to clarify through established routines and procedures. Among the most common to consider are:
- Do athletes need to help prepare the practice area in any way? If so, what tasks would be reasonable to put in the hands of athletes? How about setting up the bases or getting the basketballs, arranging cones or targets, sweeping the floor or prepping the field?
- When entering the practice area, are there specific locations for athletes to put their “stuff?” Belongings such as backpacks, books, drinks and equipment may need a location to be stored. By establishing a fixed location, coaches reduce the chance of belongings being lost or broken and lessen the possibility of time being wasted as athletes scatter throughout the area.
- What about the warm-up routine? Activities such as stretching, jogging, and basic warm-ups can be facilitated by team leaders while the coach takes attendance or makes final adjustments to the practice plan. If the coach introduces a warm-up routine to the athletes at the first few practices and expectations are clear, then there is no reason why, in short time, the warm-up routine cannot be conducted independently.
- Bathroom procedures! If one of the players needs to use the bathroom, he or she allowed to just go to the rest room? Does he or she need to notify the coach first? Do athletes go in pairs or small groups for safety reasons?
- Drinks or break routines also may need to be clarified. Are athletes allowed to get a drink whenever they feel it is necessary? How about a break? What kind of drinks are they permitted to bring to practice. Depending on the sport or playing surface – particularly indoors or on turf – water may be the only drink allowed. On the other hand, if practicing outside and in an open area, coaches may permit many different types of drinks.
- How is practice ended? Does the coach have a brief meeting at the end of practice to summarize what was accomplished? What about a preview of the next practice or game? By having athletes actively participate in end-of-practice conversations, it reinforces learning and important concepts.
- Do coaches require athletes to clean up or break down equipment? This type of routine teaches the team members to leave the area in better shape than they found it.
Coaches can learn by watching other coaches who have routines and procedures in place. Establishing routines and procedures will not guarantee success, and there are successful coaches who need to develop better routines and procedures. However, there is no doubt that by firmly instituting a set of routines and procedures, coaches will teach life lessons and develop positive character traits and habits in their athletes while, at the same time, make coaching more enjoyable and practice more efficient.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Christopher Trieste is the director of athletics and physical education at the Chester Academy in Chester, New York.