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As I travel to various high school and college practices this year, I’ve realized that many coaches use running as the main form of punishment for their team.
Here are a few factors as to why I think coaches favor running:
- Running is something that you can get done relatively quickly.
- Players don’t like to run so that incentive alone is enough to get them to work hard.
However, is this a smart coaching technique?
In today’s college game, where teams are doing their best to get up and down the court as quick as they can, coaches need their players to be in peak physical shape.
So why would coaches who need their players to be in great shape, also use it as punishment? This doesn’t make sense to me.
Running and Prep/College Sports
When I was a head college coach, I was very aware of running as a form of punishment and did not like to use it, especially since I wanted our teams to average over 80 points per game. As an alternative, I would use playing time (in games and/or practice), push-ups, wall sits, making a player shoot a given number of consecutive free throws, etc. instead.
Not only was I hoping that this served as a reminder to win that particular drill or competition, but I it was my way of not reinforcing a negative view of running. I wanted something that would make my players better.
Let me be clear, I do believe that there is a time and a place for running, but not during the season when your athletes’ legs are important and the chances of burn out are high. Coaches who continue to use running throughout the season send mixed messages and more than likely hurt the overall team health (freshness) and morale.
Even in the pre-season, time that is typically used to get athletes “back in shape”, I was careful to reinforce that running wasn’t a punishment but rather, a means to an end (winning and playing a certain style). Even though I don’t care for running as a form of punishment, it is often a necessity to proper pre-season preparation.
Running and Youth Sports
However, youth sports are not college sports. When it comes to youth sports (depending on what age/level you consider youth sports to be) I think running can serve as a wonderful release of energy and something that the kids still consider fun. Youth coaches typically only have an hour or so a week to practice with their teams, so they need to maximize the time they have.
Coaches at this level can surely make running a part of their practice as a way to develop skills, but they should not be running competitive practices, with running as punishment, at such a young age. Again, depending on the level, a majority of these players will not even go on to make their high school teams so although they may be there to learn the game of basketball, practice really needs to be a fun, physical activity.
There are a few different ways coaches can incorporate running in a fun way at practices e.g., who is the fastest? Who can beat the clock?, etc. Depending on your sport you can ask them to dribble a ball during the drill or pass to a teammate as a way to train different skillsets.
Here are a few of my favorite running games/drills you can incorporate into your youth practices:
- Fun agility drills that can help with speed
- Running games for kids
- The running drills I use in camps (PDF download)
If running is viewed as fun and part of a good practice, youth coaches should not have to make their teams run as punishment.
Coaches – how do you use running in your practices? Does it make a difference when it’s pre-season or during season? If you prefer other forms of punishment, what do you use?
Image via Flickr Creative Commons: woodleywonderworks