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How to Avoid Having a Bad Practice

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Every season we play approximately 31 or 32 games and have approximately 100 organized practices and walk-throughs. Invariably there will be a few practices when, for whatever reason, the players just aren't excited to be there and things start to go downhill in a hurry. 

When that happens there are a few tactics that can be used in an attempt to get everyone refocused on the tasks at hand so you can avoid having a "bad practice." 

Remind the players of your team goals 

The first time a practice starts to unravel usually presents a teaching opportunity that helps us throughout the rest of the season. I gather the team in a circle and remind them of the team goals that we had previously set together which usually consist of winning a Conference or Region Championship. 

I explain to them that we often have enough talent to beat the majority of the teams on our schedule and that we are primarily practicing in order to beat the top four or five teams that we will face. With that in mind we now have two choices and two choices only - we can either change our actions or we can change our goals. 

For example, if we lower our goal to finishing fifth in our conference then that changes everything! We don't have to be as productive or nearly as efficient with our practice time. In fact, if we can be satisfied with finishing in fifth place we might even be able to take several days off! However, if we want to win we need to pick up the pace and the intensity. In other words, don't tell me and each other that you want to win if you're not going to act like it! 

Kick someone out of practice 

If the team doesn't respond to me talking to them about our goals then the next tactic is to kick someone out of practice. You can really kick out almost any one and get favorable results but preferably it is some who is displaying a bad attitude or who is performing extremely poorly. Uninspired performances, much like hustle and enthusiasm, are often highly contagious and the simple act or removing even one of the perpetrators can infuse the rest of the team with a jolt of energy. 

Run, run, run 

The third option in refusing to have a bad practice is a massive amount of conditioning. The players will undoubtedly look at the extra running as a form of punishment but that's not the way I see it. We have to devote a certain amount of time to conditioning each week. So if we are not getting anything else accomplished why not use the time to help the players get in better physical shape while making them mentally tougher at the same time? That way over the next couple of practices we should be able to use the time normally set aside for conditioning to work on other specifics. 

Pull the plug 

It seems like once a year we have one of those practices where absolutely nothing works no matter what motivational tactic we try and it becomes painfully obvious that things just aren't going to improve. When that happens we just cut our losses and end practice right then and there. Occasionally if I think the team will respond positively, I'll have them come back later that night and we'll try again. However, since we are using practice and to reinforce good habits it is often better not to practice at all than to have a bad practice. 

Regardless of which tactic you try, I think it's important that you do try something. It's too easy to just throw up your hands and let your team wallow in futility for two hours. That's not going to help your team get better and may even make them worse! 

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