Routines: A Coach’s Best Friend
When we think of a coach, we often picture someone on the sidelines of a game, yelling instructions to their players, making substitutions and giving half-time speeches. While all of those things may be true of all coaches, one major aspect of successful coaches is often overlooked: their use of routines.
When dealing with 15 to 20 players on a team, all with different skill sets, attitudes and levels of discipline, the one thing that can bring them all together at the earliest stage of a season is a routine.
What is a routine in sports? A routine is simply a set of guidelines that players will follow automatically before, during and after a game or practice. Routines are meant to facilitate the management of a large number of players, and because routine rarely changes, the need to actively oversee routine drills or warm-ups are not always necessary. Coaches can keep a passive eye on the players, while discussing lineups or strategy, for example.
Youth players, either 4 or 17 years of age, respond extremely well to routine.
After an entire season (where you could have had 25 practices and 35 games), you will not have all players at the same technical level—some will have skill sets way above average, some average, and many still below average. Their attitudes won’t all be exemplary after a season; some will still have short tempers, while others lose their cool. It is therefore important to find a common ground amongst every single player, and this is where the implementation of routines will come in.
Here are ten reasons why routines are so important in youth sports:
1- Routine doesn’t discriminate and help unify a team. It doesn’t require specific skill set from anyone. Whether you’re the best player on the team or the least skilled, everyone is doing the same exercise/drill and this unconsciously unifies the bond between the players, regardless of how skilled they are.
2- Routine incorporates repetition, which is vital for mastering skills and developing muscle memory.
3- Routine allows you to assess your players’ progress as you will know what to look for when they are doing a specific routine and evaluate who has been progressing, as well as those who may be regressing (although regression is rare, if a player is injured and is trying to keep it from you because he/she wants to play for example, this will be easy to spot during a routine warm-up for example).
4- Routine set expectations and discipline. If you decide to create a warm-up routine, you are setting an expectation for all your players to follow that routine and do the exercises correctly and with precision.
5- Routine intimidates opposing teams. A well-organized team will always look intimidating to the opposition—even if they are a weaker team. Synchronization and organization are associated to discipline, and discipline in sports is often associated with success.
6- Routine force parents to be on time with their child. If a parent knows that the warm-up starts half an hour before the game and that only players who are there on time will have a chance to start the game, parents will have a reason to get their child there on time. If there is no consequence to arriving three minutes before the start of a game, coaches can often find themselves with not enough players to start the game.
7- Routine allows the coaching staff to organize themselves before the game (i.e preparing the starting lineups and substitutions for the game). Once a routine is in place, they are able to see which players are present and those who aren’t. Something simple such as players running side by side up and down the field with the jerseys’ numbers ascending can allow coaches to see which players are missing, all the while allowing their players to keep warming up (as opposed taking attendance before a game for example).
8- Routine is understood by everyone on the team. Because you will most often than not have everyone execute the same exercise/drill, players won’t need constant instructions as they can simply copy everyone else. This time can be used by the coaching staff to evaluate players and bring correction to techniques if necessary.
9- Routine is malleable. Once you’ve established a routine, you can change aspects of this routine while keeping the same discipline from your players. Because they have gotten accustomed to a routine, you won’t have to explain what a routine is again nor your expectations of them. Those things will eventually be set in stone and you will be able to implement more complex exercises/drills as your team and player’s progress.
10- Routine is predictable, and sometimes predictable is good. Coaching is essentially multitasking. You’re managing 15 to 22 players, parents, assistant coaches, team managers, referees, as well as yourself! There needs to be some form of automation that allows you to successfully multitask while keeping your players active and stimulated, otherwise this becomes a free for all: three players running all over the place, seven players shooting at the goalkeeper at once, four wondering off to speak to their friends playing on the opposite field, and the rest just kicking a ball or playing dodgeball on the sidelines.
Stay tuned for a follow up article detailing the numerous routines that I have developed with my players (and parents!) on game day.
Hope this article was helpful!
Thank you for reading,
Montreal Soccer Coach