Monday, February 04, 2008

Survey Results: Practice Participation

So, some 50ish people have responded to my "what do you do" survey, and the results are certainly interesting. I'm not quite willing to tackle some of the more sensitive subjects right yet, so today we'll focus on "active participation in practice", since 33 of 53 respondents replied that yes, they actively participate in practice.

To be clear, what I'm referring to is the practice of lacing up your boots and jumping into a drill or game. This does not include giving formal demonstrations - which is another topic all together. What I'm talking about is actually participating, physically. Breathing hard, getting dirty.

Clearly, for the player-coach, pretty much everything is a gray area, and the player coach has a responsibility as a PLAYER to maintain his or her skills. So they HAVE TO PRACTICE. The rest of us don't, but some of us choose to.

My personal opinion? No matter how much you believe that "seeing you in action" will help your players, IT WON'T. I've heard all sorts of comments....

  • "sometimes my team is just lazy, if I get in there and set the pace, then they'll have to keep up with me at practice".
  • "the players tend to take it easy on each other, so if I get out there and play defense, I will challenge them".
  • "the players will respect me more if I show them that I'm willing to do the same things I'm asking them to do"
  • "sometimes there aren't enough bodies at practice, so they need me to participate"
  • "I'm a big guy and I coach a women's team. I like to have them tackle me at practice - if they can get me down, they can tackle anyone.
  • the best way for me to figure out what's going wrong with a scrum is to just jump in there. If I feel it, I can fix it.
I don't buy it, for a million different reasons, but a few stand out.

1. If you go out there and "set the example" by increasing the pace or intensity of the practice activity, then you are in fact preventing the team from finding their own drive. Leadership seldom emerges when it is not needed. If you, as a coach, provide the "on field leadership" at practice, come game day the players who are formal or informal leaders will be unprepared. They will lead by assignment, rather than through experience. Yes, some people are natural leaders - but even they need to practice their craft and find their own style. Make them wait until game day, and you set them up for failure.

2. If you are playing, YOU AREN'T WATCHING!!! And if you ARE watching, you are only seeing what you are in position to see. We've got to be able to move about and look at both details and game flow - you just can't do that if you're catching your own breath or admiring your own work.

3. SAFETY!!!! REFER TO #2 above...

4. Maybe you're not as good as you think you are? The big risk of "watch me while I show you" is that you may in fact SUCK at whatever skill you are demonstrating. Who's coaching you?

5. You are taking valuable repetitions away from the players, and missing valuable opportunities to give feedback to players.

6. To those of you who like to "jump into the scrum" to see what's going on - how will your players learn those problem solving skills?

I'm sure some of you disagree ... bring it on!