Coach: “Pre-season is about getting the boys fit. They’ve been eating Christmas puddings, drinking too many beers with the bros. They’ve basically been lazy buggers. Our pre-season sorts the men from the boys. Shuttles, hine mullas, down-ups. We see who has been doing the work and is keen to impress.”
Interviewer: “How many boys are you getting to practice?”
Coach: “Arrgghhh.... Ummm.... at the moment (start of Febuary), about 10, mostly the young keen ones and fringe players. The older fullas probably won’t come till late March. They’ll be in for a shock when they’re not named in the starting team.”
Is it any wonder why players aren’t turning up to pre-season practice in January / February. It’s hot, they’ve been having a blast with their friends and family and the coach offers up a grueling boot camp that involves running up and down a field for an hour. If you’ve decided to start practice this early in the year, then we have to give them an incentive to be there.
If you’re in the fortunate position of having oodles of players to pick from, then you’re one of the minority. Most coaches face the challenge of coaxing players in. Here’s not how to do it.
1. Do boring as bat shit fitness trainings
2. Threaten non-attendance and poor fitness standards with starting spots.
Practices - mix it up. If you get them laughing and yarning to each other then that will be success. Get the ball involved, play games, have fun, build competition and actually coach the players. Why wait till pre-season games to start implementing how you will play? Start working on it now.
Very rarely do players run in straight lines in team sports, so why do this in practice? Create fitness games that replicate your sport. Condition rules that get them moving and encourage work-rate, use large spaces, adapt team sizes - mix in small-sided with large group games.
And we all know that the best player is going to be selected, even if they don’t meet certain fitness standards or turn up to the entirety of pre-season. So be cautious about setting black and white standards around fitness and attendance. Point the finger in before putting them in a box. And besides Jonah might not have got to level 14 in the beep test, but Mike Catt knows that he could offer some magic out there.
Success will be - the players hanging around after practice to chat / socialise + coming back next time. Come on coaches, let’s inspire.