Every player comes to practice with a different daily experience. Some show up with high spirits and others may have experienced some lows during the day. Regardless of the other things that have gone on throughout the day practice is still going to occur. The outline for what is to be accomplished is set. How much progress will be made during the day relies much on how focused your team is.
Instead of rushing into practice, take a moment to pause collectively. No doubt for a few of your players a chance to restart is critical. Otherwise the bad grade they received in Algebra turns into sloppy play on the field. The argument a player had with a parent, boyfriend, or girlfriend turns into them being a space cadet during practice. Their mind clearly somewhere else. Not helpful situations for the team or the player. Progress is slowed. If you don’t already try starting with the following strategy to refocus their focus. Providing a fresh start for players can be an opportunity to get back on track.
Consider doing these things before practice begins:
- Restart – the present is what matters, how great or awful the day has been can impact performance, using a restart strategy marks a chance to continue the highs of the day or create a u-turn in the day for others
- Refresh – use 2-3 minutes of deep breathing exercises. There are many examples on YouTube, or modify them to make your own and play it for your team, this will allow players to relax a bit after what might have been a hectic day and could mark the first time they haven’t been on the go all day
- Regroup – use some time to clarify the goals and purpose of the day
- Review – go over some of the core values your team has by repurposing them in a quote, personal story, video clip, or audio
We used this technique at the beginning of our practices and the difference was noticeable. Although we were giving up some time (5 to 7 minutes) at the beginning of practice what we gained in return was well worth it. We called them Skull Sessions or Mental Minutes. Others I have worked with call them the 4R’s, R’s, Restart, or Reset.
Call it whatever you want but getting your players focused or refocused is within your power as a coach. There really isn’t a substitute for a great start to a practice or game day.