Effective Practice

Maximizing your Time and Effort

Laurie Wachs recently gave this presentation at the Saskatchewan Coaches Conference. Here is a small summary from her presentation about why planning is such an important tool for coaches to use.

Become a Meticulous Planner – The most important thing a great coach does is to “plan”. Start your daily planning process by asking yourself “What is my purpose for practice today?” After you figure out your priorities for that practice, make sure that your activities revolve around your priorities and that you give corrections based on those priorities. Remember to try and keep fun in every practice you plan.

Keeping Fun in Practice – Keeping a practice fun does not mean that you have to play games the entire practice. Giving swimmers challenges and obstacles to overcome can be very fun and satisfying for the swimmer. Use mini-competitions to challenge swimmers and always reward every athlete at the pool every day. Rewards can just be recognition of something little done very well. For example “Sue, the way you hold your toe on your leg in that sailboat is just right.” Invent a rewards system of your own; certificates, “snaps”, candy (but not too much). Be creative.

Create a Vision – When you have so many individuals on the pool deck a good way to keep them motivated is to make sure that they have a common goal to work towards. Together with your athletes come up with a vision that will drive you for the year and then you can rely on that vision throughout the year. Make the vision a visual/tangible tool to use at practice. Athlete’s who feel that they are a valued team member will go the extra mile and always give their best. Vision’s can then give coaches and athlete’s direction in goal setting, providing a plan to base goals on. Finally, after creating goals that revolve around the team vision, make sure to keep evaluating the swimmer’s progress and keep your goals up-to-date.

Feedback during Practice - When coaching, keep track of what “pops up” that needs more work. This will keep your focus on the identified purpose for this practice and ensure that you work on arising needs in the future. During the practice make sure that your corrections are very clear and specific, including the praise. Giving more praise than criticism is a great way to maintain confidence while fixing corrections. When practice is over take the time to evaluate how you and your athletes felt it went. Ask specific questions of them, including if they feel they need more work on something from that practice, or if they have anything arising from the practice they want to work on. Finally give everyone, including yourself, something positive to take from the practice and a goal to work towards during the next practice.

Adapted by Becky Thera, Technical Director, Saskatchewan Artistic Swimming, July 10, 2008