Creating pressure on players in practice is important for your team. It helps the team increase the level of intensity at practice. Doing things with speed and purpose helps teams and players see what happens when they challenge themselves and also focus on the mechanics of a specific technique.
Imagine during a game that your team is down by 1 with 5 minutes left. They have been practicing for this situation all season. They are ready to go and believe in themselves. They have the confidence as individual players and as a team to win. That’s the feeling you want going into a big game.
Here are 5 ways to create pressure at practice.
Push off Players
During your typical warm up, put pressure like pushing off of players. Players love this. I do this for older middle school and high school players. They like the idea of it and often want to do the pushing. It helps during a game that can be physical as the intensity level rises.
Distractions During Drills
When doing a typical warm-up, as the season goes on, I love to add in distractions during practice. One fun idea that has helped is throwing balls at players before they take a shot. Obviously this won’t happen in a game but why not do something completely unexpected to see if the players can handle it. In addition to tennis balls, which I use because they are soft and bouncy, I have used a siren or megaphone.
Warm-Up Drills Competition
We often talk about coming against yourself. During warm-ups, a great way to increase pressure is to time and count passes or a certain skill. When warming up with activities like partner passing or a specific skill, have the pair count reps. Once they have a baseline, then increase the next goal by a certain amount. Those that beat their goal get something or if you don’t beat it, you have to do push ups.
The increase in the goal starts to create pressure. Players will rush through the drill and often make more mistakes so it is important to reinforce good skills and intent. As a coach, I often say do things with speed and purpose. This means go faster but also focus on the right mechanics.
My practice plans start out as a warm-up and builds up to skill-based drills, then small game play and end with scrimmages. As we get into the middle of practice I love drills that are complex and doing fit in a ball goes to player 1, then player 2, etc (this isn’t clear, not sure what you mean here). Creating a sense of chaos helps players figure things out on their own.
An idea for practice if you coach an invasion sport is a build up where things change quickly. Start out with a 1v1, to a 2v1 to a 3v2 and so on. Depending on your sport and the number of players you have, you can modify it easily.
Another idea is to do a make it, take it. This helps with the mental part of the game. It helps with quick thinking to switch gears for those on defense and now attack, etc.
Game Play Pressure
Create pressure in practice when you are doing game play. That pressure can come in the form of creating situations such as players being down by 1 with 5 minutes left in a game. See the intensity increase when they know that they have a short period of time to try to tie up the score. The speed of play will increase. Doing this over and over again will help your team be ready when that situation arises.
Good luck with your practice plans and creating pressure. It changes up your practice and the kids love it – a win-win for all.
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About the author:
Amy Masters is a sports mom, coach and club administrator. She has been coaching youth sports for more than 10 years. She started Jr Lions Field Hockey, the youth recreation program for the Hunterdon County community growing it from 40 players in year 1 to 150 players by year 3. A few years later, she saw the love and competitiveness grow then started Omega Field Hockey Club serving NJ and PA players. Prior to coaching, she was a collegiate field hockey player for Lock Haven University. In her spare time (lol), she is head of marketing for iSport360, where she brings her love of sports to a bigger audience.