You don’t win trophies during the season, you win them now. The summer club season is winding down and hopefully your players had a successful season. It’s time to put the focus on the high school season upcoming and planning it out to ensure you, the coach, are laying out the best path of success for your players and the team. Below I’ve laid out what I believe to be the most important 5 key elements of winning the off-season and setting your team up for the most success possible.
- Skill time
- The off-season is a great time to hammer the fundamentals. I love devoting an 1 hour practice to ground balls. Here is where you need to get creative and create drills that make a basic skill competitive. For example with ground balls: musical chairs but with GB’s, field full of GB’s who can get the most in 1 minute (teaching getting really low and speed), relay races, and more. Make the fall about making your fundamentals consistent.
- Field time
- Decide how and when you will include field time. This can be at tournaments, winter leagues, or just scrimmage-like environments at practice. We used to always compete in a winter league but found that the 1 hour of drive time and the 1 hour of playing time was not worth it. Players would rotate out on regular intervals and get more action at some games and none at others. When we converted to our own 1.5 hour practices in the winter (yes it can be cold, so dress appropriately) it was less time commitment and I could dictate the field sense elements I wanted to teach. Competition is good though so a fall/winter tournament can help keep things fresh. Best of all – competing with other sports team for field time on a 35°F day is easy, they don’t do it.
- Gym time
- Strength and conditioning are key to building the best athletes. I knew early on this wasn’t going to be my strength so I ensured we had people that knew what they were doing. This can be a Strength and Conditioning coach at the school or outside of school at a local facility. We’ve had success multiple ways. No matter the path you choose, attendance is the important part. I kinda let my Seniors lead how they wanted to workout because I knew if they were committed it would reflect down through the team.
- Service time
- We are members of the community and we should be strive to help out. This admittedly was my biggest weakness. We did participate in some areas but not near enough for my liking. I tried again to have the seniors help organize this and did not have great success. Maybe its best for a single event like cleaning up a park (our most attended event) because weekly opportunities like visiting a senior care facility had limited success. The experience of giving back is what matters and really can positively impact the kids. As a coach, I feel its our job to help educate and nurture these kids to become positive influences on the world around them. Community service events is a great way to do that. Also, side benefit of team building.
- Fun time
- The off-season is a great time to just let the players get together and let them be kids. I like to have a senior organize an activity each month that is low cost so all players can participate. The whole idea is to get the players out together and just have fun. Start building that chemistry now that can stand firm in the face of adversity in the spring. This I feel is one of the most under-utilized activities of the off-season.
The best team’s I’ve coached have had successful off-seasons. Those off-seasons were well attended and often lead by seniors. Keep your players engaged and let them help plan the off-season. It’s their season too, and here’s a great chance to shake out the leaders. Best of luck!