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AGC #020 - The biggest mistakes you're making at practice

And four changes you can make right away!

I’ve coached everyone from over-50s women to under-8s boys over the last 11 years.

I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some of the top high-performance coaches in the USA and Ireland, and to mentor complete beginners.

And every single one of them, like me, makes mistakes at practice.

Here are 4 of them that all coaches should try to avoid.

Let’s dive in.

Mistake #1: Trying to fix everything

In each training session, there will be several things going wrong, or that you feel need coach intervention.


You must resist the temptation to try to fix it all.

Whatever the focus of the session was when you planned it - just talk about that.

Nothing else.

Otherwise, you will dilute your key messages and confuse your players.

Keep the main thing the main thing!

The same goes for games, too:

Mistake #2: Believing that more is better

Many coaches over-communicate and over-function.

This is what you sound like:

More is not better. Better is better.

Doing a little less of everything usually makes for improved sessions and a better learning environment for your players.

Here are 3 ways you can do this, starting today:

  • Put a 60-second timer on your watch before each group intervention. Try to get your point across before it goes off

  • Use simpler words and shorter sentences when coaching groups and individuals

  • Tell your players you plan to remove your voice from part of the session. Your observation will improve, and their voices will need to fill the void

Mistake #3: Overcomplicating your exercises

As a player, I once shivered for almost 10 minutes in sideways January rain while a new coach explained an endlessly complicated flow drill.

He eventually let us try it just twice, then explained it all over again as any motivation the group had left quickly evaporated.

Good coaches make things simpler for the players; bad ones make things more complicated:

A well-intentioned but common way coaches get this wrong is scoring systems.

Well-crafted ones draw attention to the areas of the game you’re working on, and motivate appropriately.

But they’ve got to be easy to understand, and you have to actually keep score for everyone’s accountability.

Otherwise, you’re showing the players you don’t care about your own exercise - so why should they?

Mistake #4: Planning too many parts

If you’re the coach that is always running out of time at the end of your practices, this one’s for you.

Plan your next session as if it was 15 minutes shorter.

For most people, this is going to mean cutting out an exercise - but you can always have it in your back pocket on the off-chance everything runs smoothly.

In most cases, that 15 minutes will still get eaten up by transition time, and interventions running longer than expected.

You might have a few minutes left for “one more round” or “next goal wins” of whatever you’re doing.

And now you’ll know how much less planning you need to do moving forward.

Time, like most things, is something that it’s better to be looking at than looking for.

If you’d like to make practice planning easier for yourself, check out Efficient Practice Design. This is a multi-step system for creating practice plans that will flow smoothly, stretch players appropriately, and save coaches of team sports dozens of hours a year, on and off the field.