Creating a Fun and Safe Practice Atmosphere

Tough practices take a toll on athletes, and it’s only so long before they dread attending. At the very least, you can create an atmosphere that’s enjoyable to be in! This way, both you and your athletes can feel excited about attending practice. Your teaching will be both more appreciated and effective. Let’s talk about how you can change up your practices to create a fun and safe practice environment that everyone will benefit from!

1. Focus on development rather than winning.
When you’re teaching kids new techniques and skills, they’re bound to get a little frustrated. Take this chance to remind them that those are the steps necessary to developing and becoming a better player. Stray from pushing them to learn so they can be the winning team – it can cause anxiety in the players when they lose, which discourages them. They’ll focus on losing, rather than wanting to develop their skills to become better players. Teach them to focus on developing their individual skills, which helps them work more efficiently as a team in the long run.

2. Developing teamwork through inclusive games
Give your players a unique chance to work with teammates they usually don’t! Mix them up for a communication and fun partner-based activity, then keep switching their partners. Everyone gets to work with each other, and it helps everyone understand others’ strengths and weaknesses from working one-on-one. Team building activities are a great way to do the same thing.

3. Provide quality, individual feedback
Develop a personal relationship with each athlete. This will help them feel comfortable to ask questions and accept critique. Notice the details of each player’s skills and give each one tips and feedback about their individual playing. Focus on making it a two-way conversation. Feedback should be a neutral place, where you’re timely, positive and focus on the behavior, not the person. A performance problem can be coached and does not need to be emotional. Follow up and make sure the athlete knows you’ve seen their improvement. They’ll feel comfortable to even come to you and ask for critique with this kind of environment in place.

4. Keep lectures to a minimum; maximize play time
Quality over quantity should be your motto when it comes to keeping practices light and fun. Rather than lecturing for long periods of time, try to talk for 2-3 minutes, then resume practicing. Talk with them while they practice so you can get just as much information in, but the athletes are engaged and active for more time.

Your athletes deserve both high quality and fun practices. Making sure you’re changing up the routine and using time efficiently will keep your practices fresh and interested! With these notes in mind, your athletes are sure to see that you’re trying to create an environment that’s both fun and safe in many aspects and they’ll even be eager to come to practice!