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How to Improve Team Scrimmages

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I am continually amazed at how many coaches run their in season inter squad scrimmages like a preseason open gym. By this I mean that the players are allowed complete and total freedom in all their actions and the coach fails to make any corrections at all during play.

Even though the majority of players love to play this way, it doesn't fully prepare them for the rigors of a real game, nor does it help them get any better. If you are finding your team executing well in your organized drills but falling short of your expectations come game time it might be a good sign that you need to change up the way that you scrimmage.

As coaches we have all repeated the line, you play in a game just like you practiceover and over. (If you are a coach whose thinking differs from this statement, chances are you are the victim of multiple losing seasons.) While it is definitely important for players to match the intensity of a game while working out every day, coaches also need to do their part by creating game like scrimmages within their practices.

Here is an idea that you can use to improve your inter squad scrimmages by making them more game like and competitive.

If you are anything like me you are constantly exhorting your players to play harder. While it is a good idea for you and your staff to encourage players to play as hard as possible in practice (this will make the games seem easier) there is still one other component that coaches need to implement to make this a more realistic request. Try running scrimmages that match or only slightly exceeds the duration of a typical quarter.

In a typical high school or middle school level game, the contest is split into four quarters with each quarter lasting anywhere from six to eight minutes long. In order to train your athletes to play hard over the course of an entire quarter coaches should schedule scrimmage segments that last 9 to 12 minutes long. Not only does this utilize the overload principle to help your athletes get in better physical shape but it also makes it easier for them to focus mentally. Instead of your players attempting to play hard "forever," or even worse, having them trying to pace themselves in anticipation of an extremely long session, they will know that after 9 to 12 minutes they are going to get a short rest.

At the end of that 9 to 12 minute segment, give them a short rest and then continue to scrimmage for a few more minutes. This simulates the rest that a team gets in between quarters and will give you an indication of their recovery requirements. At the beginning of the season, players will have a difficult time trying to fully recover in only a couple of minutes but as they get in better shape they will be ready to get after it again more quickly.

Another idea you can use in this type of scrimmage situation is to give your players some type of verbal instruction during their rest period. Then, once play has resumed, stop and ask one of the players about your instructions. Again, this is very game like as your players need the ability to concentrate when they are tired.

Shorter, more purposeful scrimmages will do much more for your team than long, slow, open gym type environments. Don't let your players get into the habit of playing lazy - once the intensity of the scrimmage starts to dwindle the scrimmage needs to be stopped. Teach your players that if they want to play longer they need to play harder.

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