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Practice Plans for Coaching Champions for Life

Winning games and championships will help coaches retain and advance in their jobs, but in the long term, what will mean most to their players is whether the coach made them better people. Here is an outline that will help coaches achieve both goals.



  • Do I understand the components of my sport well enough to teach my players how to get better every day clearly and straightforwardly? (studying video of your players frame-by-frame helps!)
  • Coaches ask their players to work hard to get better every day. In what ways are you learning, adapting, and changing to get better every day? Coaching for 20 years does not mean you have 20 years of experience; it may mean you have one year of experience 20 times.
  • Have I learned from higher-level coaches in my sport and other sports?


  • Do I teach the mechanics in a progressive, building block, and efficient manner that sets my players up for success and includes tools for all learning modalities?
  • Which of the three learning modalities (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic) applies best to each athlete at hand, and in what ways are you adapting your coaching methodology to be consistent with it?
  • Coach process and execution, not results. Good processes and execution will lead to good results. When coaching process-oriented thinking, remember that most players today are not auditory learners. If you are yelling out to a kinesthetic learner, you better have some kinesthetic cues in the instructions, e.g., "land softly" to a pitcher.
  • When coaching the fundamentals and mechanics, everything starts with posture, balance, footwork, angles, and rhythm. If these are wrong, what is done with the glove, bat, and ball, for example, is doomed from the beginning.
  • When considering faults and fixes, always start from the ground up. Problems with mechanics in the upper body are probably caused partly by issues in the lower body, e.g., pulling your front shoulder or your head when batting is usually caused by the spinning open of the stride foot, i.e., poor weight transfer.

Teaching process:

  • Stationary “Dry Mechanics” – no glove, bat, or ball – simply working on posture, balance, footwork, angles, and rhythm (proper position of body parts, e.g., feet, hands, etc.); “Dry Mechanics” with movement – no glove, bat, or ball, but working on the same things with movement;
  • Stationary mechanics with a glove, ball, or bat; Mechanics with easy, comfortable movement; Mechanics with game speed and intensity;
  • Mechanics with game speed, intensity, and competition with significant outcome consequences (usually positive) – getting accustomed to pressure.
  • In games, constantly coach forward. Get the team to focus on the moment. If you are telling players what they should have done, you should be yelling at yourself and your coaches for not teaching them properly. Coach backward at time-outs and at the next practice.

Let your players play

  • Stop micro-manage your players’ every step. Teach them well and let them learn to think and communicate the game amongst themselves.
  • Adapt methodology to the personality of players and team – the coach sets the bar of excellence for the players to adapt. Still, the coach must adapt to the players' personalities on each team.
  • Teach leadership and accountability and establish team chemistry by:
  • Provide opportunities for everyone to lead and be team “captains.”
  • Having teammates working in pairs and being held accountable for process and execution, meeting your standard of excellence. “It is not what the coach knows that is important; it is what the players have learned that matters. And what the players have learned only becomes significant when they can teach it to others.”


Were my players inspired by my enthusiasm and example to be better people and better athletes?

In what specific ways did I coach the whole athlete, not just the player, and did I coach the whole person, not just the athlete?

The key to motivating players is to catch them doing something right. As much as possible, give praise publicly and individual constructive criticism privately. Motivate by inspiration, not intimidation. Constructive criticism is always about the behavior, never the person – do not make it personal.

Was I an effective communicator? Did I give clear instructions with players stationary, giving me eye contact, and using active listening skills?

General practice design evaluation

  • Consider what do I want my team to be able to do by the end of the week and by the end of practice? In other words, when designing practice plans work from the end of the week backward.
  • Action: all people engaged all of the time, including you – “Coach” = verb (Do I have sufficient equipment & help to use multi-stations of the same drill or multiple drills?) If you have players standing in a line waiting to be “served,” your practice plan has a flaw!
  • Repetition: (Multi-tasking. e.g., 3 ‘n 1’s, effective use of equipment, did the players get at least 20 quality (game speed, game intensity) position reps today?
  • Competitions: (Ind., pairs, teams, - targets & relays) with significant consequences (usually a positive reward) younger players love to compete for points leading to a reward; older players need measurable goals
  • Fun: (e.g., Games, Competitions, Creative Handshakes, Hi-Jinx Skits) Fun needs to start with you and your coaches – the first key to a successful practice is for your players to see you and your coaches having a great time and loving what you do. The “vibe” you create during practice is an essential part of practice!
  •  Flexibility: have contingencies for weather changes, player absences, field unavailability – weather damage, or competition from other teams
  • Segmented: Is the practice plan written and posted with timed segments incorporating general athletic, sport, and life skills?
  • Review: Does it end in a game simulation or scrimmage during which the coaches observe to see what the players have learned?
  • Improvement: As a result of my practice design, are the players better athletes, not just better players, in my sport?

Drill design evaluation (applies to every part of practice!)

  • Dry mechanics (e.g., no ball, just footwork or body movement) – stationary first, then with movement
  • Regular mechanics (e.g., add glove, ball, or bat), easy, comfortable movement first, then work up to game speed and game intensity, and finally to competitions with significant consequences
  • Be sure to use all Learning Modality Cues – Auditory, Visual, Kinesthetic
  • Progressions – Set your players up for success by using gradual progressions; the process of the drill should be the same process as in the game for every drill!

In summary: After every practice and game, the team should ask themselves:

  • Did we inspire others to be better people through our actions before, during, and afterward?
  • Could we have defeated our best competition today?
  • Did you see your players and assistant coaches smile and laugh? Did they see you do the same?
  • Were your players and coaches comfortable enough to share something from their hearts during a team huddle?
  • Did someone new step up to demonstrate leadership skills?
  • Was everyone committed to and held accountable for the TEAM getting better today?
  • Did everyone attempt to "practice perfectly" at every phase of the practice?
  • In what ways did you and your coaching staff push your players out of their comfort zone to be mentally and physically tougher?
  • Was there consistent high energy from beginning to end?
  • Did the execution of the practice plan in its flow and progression match its design?
  • Were YOU better today than yesterday?
  • Did everyone act excited to come back tomorrow?
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