This article was provided by Coaches Network
Eliminating the three “L’s”
Coaches are always looking to maximize productivity during practice time, and it can be frustrating when athletes are not completely focused on the task at hand. Yet, before punishing athletes for misbehaving or not paying attention, coaches should look at the way their practices are structured. By eliminating the three “L’s” (Lines, Lectures, and Laps), practices are likely to be more productive and enjoyable for everyone.
According to Sam Snow, Coaching Director for US Youth Soccer, in an article on usayouthsoccer.org, there should ideally be no lines of players during a training session. When running a drill, it is important that the athletes maximizing their time spent moving and actually working on a skill. Players are too often put in long lines during a drill where they spend the majority of their time standing around waiting for their turn.
Lines are boring. No athlete wants to go to a training session just to stand around. Ideally, there should be no lines of players during training and any drill should involve constant movement and involvement for the athletes. If there’s no way around having lines in your drills, then be sure to modify the drill so that there are several short lines with no more than three players each.
Lectures may be a necessary part of some sports, as coaches have to talk about character, expectations, and strategy. While these moments can be very important for the development of an individual or a team, time spent talking always needs to be balanced with time spent playing and enjoying the sport.
Student-athletes who spend most of the day in school already receive their fair share of lectures from teachers. So when a coach starts to lecture during practice, it’s no surprise that athletes may lose focus or get frustrated. Providing instruction is a big part of any coaches job, just make sure that athletes are given enough time to apply these lessons to practical situations. As Snow writes, “The rule of thumb for all coaches…is talk less and play more.”
Laps are often the most dreaded part of practice for an athlete. When anyone is misbehaving or not paying attention, coaches frequently use running as a punishment. “Some coaches have even used running as a punishment for an entire team at the end of a match if the team did not meet the coach’s expectations of performance,” writes Snow. “For the individual and the team, using running as a punishment hurts team morale more than it solves any behavior problem.”
Running is a major part of the conditioning and health of any athlete, and in some sports it’s especially important for performance. Athletes have to like running if they’re going to succeed. Therefore, using running as a punishment doesn’t actually help anybody.
Instead of trying to correct behavior by having athletes run laps, coaches should consider using other forms of discipline. “Why give something so integral to the sport a negative connotation both mentally and emotionally for the players?” writes Snow. “This is just the opposite of what the coach should be trying to achieve in developing a team.”