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Coaching session starts can be tough. That’s mainly because the players will arrive at different times, get changed at different paces and switch on their minds to training at different stages.
It would be great if you could blow a giant hooter. This would be the three-minute warning that the session is going to start and then, be ready to go, on time. Well, why not?
Or you could try out these brave ways to start the session.
Ticket to train
Put a load of post-it notes (or scraps of paper) and pencils at the side of the training area. Players must write down one thing they want to work on in the session on the post-it note and hand it to you before training starts. It might only be one word.
It might not help you start promptly, but it certainly focuses the mind.
And what happens if they can’t think of anything? Give them some nudges. For example: which part of the last training session or game did you think you might have done better in.
I would tell them in advance of the session this is going to happen. Perhaps, a social media message might work, and they can send you their ticket back in a message.
At the end of the session, pick out a couple of players and ask them whether they managed to make some progress on their “ticket to train”.
Theatre game entrance
Players love games. Start the session with a game (see below on how these might work). However, only let them join into the game at the right time. So just like arriving late at the theatre, you are only allowed to enter the game at a scene change.
Now, the late arrivals don’t just wander into the game. They come in when there’s an appropriate stoppage.
Players who must wait will know for next time: there’s always a downside for not being ready on time. If you had started with some laps of the pitch or boring drill, then that might be different. They won’t mind waiting until the end of that part.
Not just any game to start
Start with a game, but not just any game
Have a menu of games to start the session. Allow the players who have arrived on-time to choose a game from the menu. If, every session, they are constantly choosing one game above the others, then that’s off the menu for next week.
However, whatever game they choose, they must run it, set it up and referee the game. You will stand on the sidelines, only intervening to encourage a player or to introduce late arrivals.
The outcomes should be games the players want to play. They are also under less pressure to conform, which is something they will want to do.
Set out an expectation
Building on the work of Mark Bennett, from PDS coaching, decide with the players how training should start. This is a conversation you might have the start of the season, or when you want to change the way training looks on a more permanent basis.
The process looks a bit like this. You ask a series of questions. Notice how open they are, and that you might not elicit the answers you want to hear.
Now, you want to set some standards.
“Okay, now you’ve set out the rules, you will want to keep to your rules. I’m here to remind you.”
This can work with all ages. If the players just say fun for the first question…that’s what you are going to do. You can, of course, manipulate the session to help achieve that. Crucially, you’ve made it something that’s theirs, not yours.
What do you think of these starts? Do you use them already or use others which are successful for team/athletes? Of course, a lot depends on the players and their current environment. I would love to hear what you’ve discovered on your coaching journey and let’s continue to share best practice.
If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.
Dan, I think some of your comments are well thought out. As the coach of my previous team, pre season we held a players meeting to discuss as many aspects of rugby as we could for the coming season. This also included focusing on individuals development of skills, physical and mental progession and any other concerns. Some of the issues naturally had to be in private on a one to one basis. I and my coaching staff then used these issues and suggestions made by players to help develop the upcoming sessions and game plans. As coaching staff we also looked at other sports for inspiration and to make sessions more interesting, we were not always successful. As an example for this coming season our focus for our newly formed Colts rugby team will be focused on space, how to create, spot it, support players in and around the creation of space.One idea, yet to be tried is to play a game of "Ultimate Frizzbee using a professional standard Frizbee. The idea is firstly enjoyment followed by players having to achieve targets for rugby. Support, Communication, look for and create space going forward as well as a host of other functional targets for the game of rugby. I suppose the idea could also be tried for other team sports such as football.Will it work? I do not know yet. Will the young players enjoy it? Will they recognise the possible benefits, I hope so. Is it worth trying? I think it is.Innovation comes in many different guises as your comments show. Feed back is vitally important as is self coaching both by coaches and players by asking questions of them and getting individuals to constantly question themselves.
My sessions start at 4:30. If they're not there, they need to warm up on their own. It works a treat - I very rarely have late arrivals. If something comes up (like a traffic jam, parent held up at work), they call me and then I'll wait if it's going to only be a couple of minutes. A couple of colleagues of mine, don't do that and they're always waiting for late comers.
A Trick I found works for late arrivals is to get one of the others to explain what we are doing in the drill , that way you can check they were listening lol.
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