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#1 Orange

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 02:12 PM

Dante Bichette lives in our area and coaches his kids in our little league. I listened to him give a presentation on coaching youth sports. I realize this is the football forum and Dante was talking about baseball but since I mostly post here I thought it appropriate. Also, I picked out some things that are not specific to any particular sport.

Of all the things he said two stick out in my mind. One is to practice, practice, practice. He emphasized that you cannot do enough practice with the coaches and the kids have to be given assignments to complete at home. I think this is age specific and to his credit he was talking to coaches from t-ball level up to juniors (14 years old). It got me to thinking that I have never asked my kids to do extra practice and maybe I should. I need to think on that one. He said when he helped coach our little league team to the world series in 2005 he personally made sure each kid took 200 pitches of batting practice daily for 2 months. 12 kids on a team and that adds up. I realize that level of competition is not for everyone but as my son gets older (10) he should be practicing more than now.

The second thing that Dante said that stuck with me is to challenge each kid in every practice. He said that made the most impression on him as a youth and now he uses it a lot as a coach. He gave some examples, like timing each kid with a stopwatch, asking them to beat their best times. Have elimination games like catching pop flies. He said they concentrate harder and seem to have more fun when given competition. I realized this and I do some of it but I'm going to make more of a point to do it in the future.


#2 Coach Rob

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Posted 12 January 2009 - 06:57 PM

Good post about Dante's coaching philosophy. The homework idea is a good one, especially since a lot of the coaches here run into the 1 hour practice format. In basketball, I try and give the kids a Pistol Pete ball handling drill to practice at home, just not around mom's good china. ;)

I agree with challenging the kids in practice. I've changed my mindset over the past year to make practices more difficult than the actual game situations so when they hit the real deal, it seems easier. In basketball, we use drills like dribbling with two balls - one high one low, dribbling blind folded, allowing full court presses in practice (even though games don't), scrimmages with passing only, etc.

I think you hit the nail on the head with the "age specific" comment. There comes a time when you have a group of kids who have more self motivation and can handle more intense drills. My 10 y/o's are pretty much there, but I can tell when they're tired of running drill after drill. It's important to throw in some fun, so we have one of the coaches run suicides with them and if they beat the coach, they only have to run 1 set or we end practice with a fun drill that still works on a skill set.

Great ideas, thanks for the post.

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#3 pointyfootball

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Posted 12 February 2009 - 02:23 PM

Somehow I missed this thread and just now read it. Maybe I'm a contrarian, and I'm certainly not on his level coaching-wise, but my personal opinion is that until the age of 13-14, sports should be primarily game-oriented. I think effort should be spent on kids playing the actual game(s) much more often, specifically in non-structured settings, instead of coach/parent organized practices. Telling an 11 or 12 y/o he has to take 200 pitches a day might get a LLWS and/or a major leaguer or two, but doesn't it run the risk of taking the fun out of the game for young athletes by making them work at it?

I've only recently REALLY noticed how much the actual game can teach the kids by observing my own son. My son (10y/o) started playing basketball at recess during school last year (he couldn't dribble the ball for more than 3 touches w/out losing control) and he will play me in HORSE or similiar at the house. This winter we signed him up for basketball and he has dominated. All without any coaching, just playing the game during recess. When I watch him in basketball practice, I can tell he's all about the competition, but what he really wants to do is play the game.

My personal thought is that we should get the kids to love the sport(s) first by playing it with minimal amount of structure, or at the very least encourage assist/encourage backyard games. One hour of a backyard soccer game with various aged kids is significantly better for their development as both a person and an athlete, IMO. Our goal should be to have kids play sports their entire lives and not just to develop winning teams or a few athletes that play at a higher level.

I guess the compromise, and what I'd like kids that I coach to do, would be to love to play the game on their own via pickup games and also enjoy some of the things that help them get better, like shooting free throws, juggling a soccer ball, etc.

Sorry if I'm way off base or coming across as self-righteous. That was not my intent. My main point is that I don't think we should make youth sports (below the age of 14) the equivalent of practicing the piano (ugh...those bad old days!).


PF

#4 Orange

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 08:12 AM

Telling an 11 or 12 y/o he has to take 200 pitches a day might get a LLWS and/or a major leaguer or two, but doesn't it run the risk of taking the fun out of the game for young athletes by making them work at it?

That point made by Mr Bichette was specific to the Maitland All-Star team he had competing in the post season. I don't know, maybe he saw something that showed him that particular team could go far and he had them taking 200 pitches per day on their run to the Little League World Series. I did not get the impression that he was suggesting every team at every level get that serious. Also, as I pointed out he was speaking to a group of coaches that ranged from juniors (14 years old) to t-ball (5-6) so you had to take everything with a healthy filter. I've personally never seen him coach anything lower than majors.

With regards to learning through games versus practice I disagree with you mostly. I would say that kids can gain far more learning from practice. The reason is that there is constant instruction and many more reps. In a game, a kid may not get many chances. An example is defense. In a game an average kid may get a half dozen flag pull attempts. In practice between my drills and scrimmage they'll get a a couple dozen at least. Same with catching passes. In practice I can guarantee they will have 20 passes, in a game they could get as few as none. I remember coaching my son in soccer at age 6-7 and wishing we had a lot fewer games and more practices because some kids would get almost no touches in a game. Of course you have to make practice fun and enjoyable. I think that's what Dante Bichette was trying to say, and that's certainly what I try to do.

By the way, I've been using Dante's idea of challenging the kids in practice and they absolutely love it. They beg me to play it. I do two simple things, a pop fly challenge and a grounder challenge. I work with them on both for a while then I announce the challenge is on. I have three rounds and whoever is left wins. This is for my daughters rookie baseball team (6-7 yo).

#5 Texas_D_Coach

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 12:23 PM

I'm going to chime in here, because I agree with some points from both Orange and Pointy on this one.

I think the 200 pitches is beyond the scope of your average little league team, so I'm going to put that aside as a unique epxerienceto that one team.

I think practice is critical. You teach so much more and the kids get so much better during practice than during a game. To me, the games are when you show what you've learned, and maybe put some fine polishing on the things you've learned in practice. As Orange said, the kids get alot more ball touches in practice which is fundamental to their development.

I agree that "One hour of a backyard soccer game with various aged kids is significantly better for their development as both a person and an athlete" with "minimal structure" I think is the catching point. The kids need to learn to love the game, but they also need to understand the rules, etc. So I personally don't see structure as a bad thing (as long as it is not super exhaustive such as the 200 pitches example).

Kids learn by doing things, that's why I run scrimmages at every practice so, so the kids can have fun playing the game, but also learn what they are doing wrong and correct it before the game.

I really like the competition game idea, I think I'm going to try that this weekend on a passing drill with the kids.

#6 pointyfootball

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:09 PM

With regards to learning through games versus practice I disagree with you mostly. I would say that kids can gain far more learning from practice. The reason is that there is constant instruction and many more reps. In a game, a kid may not get many chances. An example is defense. In a game an average kid may get a half dozen flag pull attempts. In practice between my drills and scrimmage they'll get a a couple dozen at least. Same with catching passes. In practice I can guarantee they will have 20 passes, in a game they could get as few as none. I remember coaching my son in soccer at age 6-7 and wishing we had a lot fewer games and more practices because some kids would get almost no touches in a game. Of course you have to make practice fun and enjoyable. I think that's what Dante Bichette was trying to say, and that's certainly what I try to do.


I understand your point, but it's also kind of supporting what I am saying as well. The reason kids don't get as many touches in a game is why? Structured, timed, intense games where score and standings are kept etc. Regarding 6-7 y/o's playing soccer, that's even more reason to advocate small-sided, backyard-type games. If a 6 y/o is playing 6on6 soccer and they aren't very good, they're definitely not going to get their foot on the ball very much. However, if they play some 2on2 or 3on3 games with very small fields, they will almost be "forced" to participate.

Our soccer club has 4-5 "Player Development Nights" during the fall/spring seasons. Normally these attract 50-75 players, in the age range of 6-13. Last fall, my wife and I started Pick-up Soccer Nights, on the same evenings, but not when PDN were scheduled. Kids just showed up and were grouped in a 2-3 year age category and started playing immediately. No subs, take breaks whenever they wanted, etc. We averaged 100-125 players/night and the kids were disappointed that we didn't do it this spring. Maybe I'm biased, but they seemed to be enjoying it quite a bit more than dribbling through obstacle courses, playing 2v1, or the like. And, from watching the 10 y/o boys, some of them have learned how to take a shot on goal with an opposition player trying to tackle them.

I've read your posts (your approach to FF has been a huge help to myself) and have no doubt that you have the kids best interests in mind. I just think that most coaches I know would have come away from the Bichette talk, thinking that they needed to get their kids to work harder on their own and that they had to always be getting better. My main point is that sports are there for fun and is it so bad if a kid goofs off and learns nothing at a practice, or if he/she just wants to run around and play the game and not learn how to do a technically correct chest trap?

I have these questions/struggles of how much players should be "worked" in my own coaching life, as I coach a travel soccer team. There is so much pressure on 11 y/os, and in turn, on me, that sometimes it doesn't even feel like a game. I guess as coaches we have to constantly be aware of what is truly important and try help players learn to love playing the game. This coming from someone who hates to lose at UNO! :)

Again, Orange, I totally respect your coaching philsophy and hope you don't see this as an attack against your coaching methods. Thanks for all you do for this forum!

V/R,
PF

P.S. A good read (might have to copy/paste, didn't know how to post a hyperlink), if 7 years old: http://www.washingto...eople/6530.html

This is from the area my travel soccer team plays in. I'm one of a tiny minority of unpaid coaches (most are foreign-born, ex-pros, etc). I do see the results of the pressure put on these kids whenever we go to games and listen to parents/coaches. If nothing else, food for thought.

#7 pointyfootball

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 01:38 PM

I'm going to chime in here, because I agree with some points from both Orange and Pointy on this one.


Are you running for office?? j/k!

I think practice is critical. You teach so much more and the kids get so much better during practice than during a game. To me, the games are when you show what you've learned, and maybe put some fine polishing on the things you've learned in practice. As Orange said, the kids get alot more ball touches in practice which is fundamental to their development.


To an extent, I agree. But, I think it's because we, as coaches, are trying to get them to perform tasks at a higher level, as quickly as possible, instead of teaching the basics, the rules and letting them go. Who cares if a T-baller can't throw the ball more than 5'? Does it matter if a 7 y/o soccer player can't pass the ball, or if a same aged football player can throw the football accurately. I know who cares. Parents and coaches. We don't want kids to not do well on the pitch/field/diamond and we want them to have a leg up on the other kids. I myself do, and have (and probably will continue to) fall into this trap as both a parent and a coach, so I can't be throwing stones from inside my glass house! I am trying to get better though.

In the long run, athleticism and desire will trump parental involvement/hovering/$$ and coaching, IMO. Just look at the poor developmental records of England's Soccer academies as an example. Or at how many NFL players didn't start playing football until middle school (or later).

Kids learn by doing things, that's why I run scrimmages at every practice so, so the kids can have fun playing the game, but also learn what they are doing wrong and correct it before the game.


Good on you. What do your kids say when you say, "OK, let's scrimmage!" They probably are totally pumped up for it. It's amazing how many practices I've seen (soccer, football and especially basketball) where there is no game. What young kid wants to go do dribbling/passing drills and then learn plays for basketball for an hour and a half? zzzzzzz Only thing worse than not having a game every practice, IMO, is using it as blackmail. Another thing I've observed in watching practices (I'm always watching other coaches practices to try and learn). "If you guys don't start taking these drills seriously, there isn't going to be any scrimmage!" ugh

Cheers,
PF

#8 Texas_D_Coach

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 03:35 PM

Kids learn by doing things, that's why I run scrimmages at every practice so, so the kids can have fun playing the game, but also learn what they are doing wrong and correct it before the game.


Good on you. What do your kids say when you say, "OK, let's scrimmage!" They probably are totally pumped up for it. It's amazing how many practices I've seen (soccer, football and especially basketball) where there is no game. What young kid wants to go do dribbling/passing drills and then learn plays for basketball for an hour and a half? zzzzzzz Only thing worse than not having a game every practice, IMO, is using it as blackmail. Another thing I've observed in watching practices (I'm always watching other coaches practices to try and learn). "If you guys don't start taking these drills seriously, there isn't going to be any scrimmage!" ugh

Cheers,
PF

You're right. They absolutely love scrimmaging. That is what it's all about...Having Fun!!!

#9 rushbuster70

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 04:36 PM

I'm all for practice practice practice...###### if i could we would practice 4x a week...However we practice twice and we maximize the time.I've been to coaching clinics and lot of the coaches I have listened to have stressed maximizing practice time.I have tons of notes i'll look around for and post some suggestions.
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#10 pointyfootball

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 07:26 AM

I'm all for practice practice practice...###### if i could we would practice 4x a week...However we practice twice and we maximize the time.I've been to coaching clinics and lot of the coaches I have listened to have stressed maximizing practice time.I have tons of notes i'll look around for and post some suggestions.


I definitely agree that coaches and coaching clinics emphasize practice time, both individual and team, but why do they emphasize it so much? There are coaches in my division of FF that have three 1.5hour practices a week, for 10-12 year olds. That's tough to keep it fresh/realistic for 30+ practices in a season at that age, at least for me. I'd sooner have 1 practice and 2 games a week.

#11 pointyfootball

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 07:34 AM

Double post - sorry.

#12 Orange

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 09:21 AM

I'm all for practice practice practice...###### if i could we would practice 4x a week...However we practice twice and we maximize the time.I've been to coaching clinics and lot of the coaches I have listened to have stressed maximizing practice time.I have tons of notes i'll look around for and post some suggestions.


I definitely agree that coaches and coaching clinics emphasize practice time, both individual and team, but why do they emphasize it so much? There are coaches in my division of FF that have three 1.5hour practices a week, for 10-12 year olds. That's tough to keep it fresh/realistic for 30+ practices in a season at that age, at least for me. I'd sooner have 1 practice and 2 games a week.

Not me. With 10 kids on my roster and playing 5-on-5, each kid gets in for 1/2 the game. And the ones that are naturally less talented end up getting less catches, flag pulls, opportunities to do something. Of course in football you can force the issue by throwing them a pass or handing them the ball, but even with that, they end up getting much less out of the experience than they would in a practice. Sure, the kids who dominate get lots of reps in a game, both on offense and defense. They are the ones getting open and thus have passes thrown their way, or put themselves into positions to pull flags and make picks. Those types of kids probably develop as well, if not moreso in a game than practice. But for the average and below player, practices are much more important IMHO. Also, the younger the players, the more practice time is needed.

Also, I couldn't do 3 x practices per week. That's too much of my time (I work) plus I think it would become too much of a chore. I practiced once a week for 1.5 hours but I'm thinking next season I'll try doing two practices.

#13 rushbuster70

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Posted 17 February 2009 - 08:07 PM

I'm all for practice practice practice...###### if i could we would practice 4x a week...However we practice twice and we maximize the time.I've been to coaching clinics and lot of the coaches I have listened to have stressed maximizing practice time.I have tons of notes i'll look around for and post some suggestions.


I definitely agree that coaches and coaching clinics emphasize practice time, both individual and team, but why do they emphasize it so much? There are coaches in my division of FF that have three 1.5hour practices a week, for 10-12 year olds. That's tough to keep it fresh/realistic for 30+ practices in a season at that age, at least for me. I'd sooner have 1 practice and 2 games a week.

Not me. With 10 kids on my roster and playing 5-on-5, each kid gets in for 1/2 the game. And the ones that are naturally less talented end up getting less catches, flag pulls, opportunities to do something. Of course in football you can force the issue by throwing them a pass or handing them the ball, but even with that, they end up getting much less out of the experience than they would in a practice. Sure, the kids who dominate get lots of reps in a game, both on offense and defense. They are the ones getting open and thus have passes thrown their way, or put themselves into positions to pull flags and make picks. Those types of kids probably develop as well, if not moreso in a game than practice. But for the average and below player, practices are much more important IMHO. Also, the younger the players, the more practice time is needed.

Also, I couldn't do 3 x practices per week. That's too much of my time (I work) plus I think it would become too much of a chore. I practiced once a week for 1.5 hours but I'm thinking next season I'll try doing two practices.


Orange...Last season I had only 7 kids with 5 on 5 so we only did 1 practice.Basically we subbed every 3 plays and rotated so all the kids had equal time.

This season i'm probably going to get 11 kids.I coach 11-13/14 so with that many we like to do 2 practices especially since like you said the less talented ones get more out of practice.That is a huge reason why we do 2 practices.I communicate with the parents very well and make sure they understand this...I'm totally with you on it though.Im a huge practice guy.I love it.
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