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For coaches, one of the best parts of youth sports is watching young athletes grow, build confidence and improve their physical skills. How can coaches ensure that their players will improve? By maximizing the number of touches players get on the ball.
This can be a challenge, considering some youth sports teams practice only once or twice a week. Therefore, maximizing touches on the ball is a high priority when designing practices. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.
Use One Ball for Every Player
Have every player bring their own ball, or provide a ball for everyone. This allows practices to incorporate a wider range of drills that ensure every player gets touches. It also allows the number of touches per practice to increase. If an entire team of 15 soccer players has only one ball, each player may only touch the ball 20 times an hour. But if each player brings their own, drills that allow players to get 20 touches per minute can be incorporated into practices.
Don’t Use Lines
Avoid drills or activities that require players to wait in line. Pair players up or place them in small groups when participating in drills. This will reduce the time between touches on the ball.
Use Simple Drills
Drills should be straightforward with a clear objective. If you cannot explain the game or drill within two minutes, don’t use it. Explaining drills wastes valuable time that can be spent getting touches on the ball.
Don’t Stop Drills or Games to Provide Instruction
If you notice players making mistakes, pull them aside and explain what steps they can take to correct their poor habits, then give them the opportunity to try again. Stopping the entire team to provide instruction breaks the rhythm of the drill or game.
Avoid Full Team Scrimmages
Players can go long periods of time during a full team scrimmage without touching the ball. To avoid this, break your team into smaller teams and play three on three. Doing so creates more opportunities to get involved in the game.
Avoid Conditioning and Running Drills
Every team needs to be in top physical shape. However, if practice drills only improve conditioning, players may never get to touch the ball. Instead incorporate fitness and conditioning into drills and games that involve the ball.
Encourage Playing at Home
Because practice time is limited, give your players ideas on how to get touches at home. Demonstrate drills they can do by themselves. Even better, incorporate fun games into practice. This will give players plenty of ways to build skills outside of practice.
Niel Curley has coached multiple youth sports ranging from ages six to high school aged athletes and has served as the league director for youth sports leagues. He is currently a member of the team at 101volleyballdrills.com, and provides coaching insights relevant to all youth coaches including a comprehensive list of free volleyball drills.