No Court? No Problem for Creative Coaches

The term "creating space" has always had a definitive meaning in sports. Whether it is a shooting guard in basketball working to get off a shot or a wide receiver in football trying to get open or pick up yards after a catch, "creating space" is the term likened to distancing oneself from a defender.

In youth sports practices, the term takes on a different meaning. Coaches are frequently handcuffed by the lack of available practice fields, gyms or even ice time.

For basketball practice, court time is at a premium and coaches sometimes must make do with only one rim and 12 kids. In baseball, especially in areas with seasonal changes like the northeast, the supply of fields cannot keep up with coaches' demands. How are coaches supposed to rectify situations like this and run effective practices with limited space?

When I first began coaching youth sports, I remember showing up at a field to practice and another team had just stepped on the field before us. My coaching staff and I stood there looking at each other. I got the team together and told them sheepishly that practice was canceled.

Luckily most of the parents hadn't left, so the kids' rides were still there. Had I been more prepared and creative, I could have moved the practice from the intended field to any safe alternate, including a much smaller grass field or even a parking lot.

Coaches can be creative and run efficient practices in even the smallest or oddest of places.

In basketball, coaches can integrate a number of ball-handling drills involving the whole team. Stationary drills such as passing the ball around the body starting with the neck then moving down the body, to the waist and then each leg is a favorite of players.

The "Ball Switch" drill is also popular and builds up hand quickness. In this quick ball-handling drill, the player will hold the ball between his legs, one hand in front and one hand in back. The player will then switch hands, moving both hands simultaneously going from front-to-back and vice-versa without letting the ball touch the ground. If a young or inexperienced player can't do this drill right away, he can bounce the ball, and then switch hands with the front hand going in back and the back hand going in front, catching the ball after one bounce.

The benefit of this drill is that it enhances a player's coordination and develops quick hands. The player can challenge himself and see how fast he can do this. Again, the whole team can do this drill in a small confined area.

These are examples of optimizing limited space when challenged with less than optimal surroundings. Coaches need to make up two lists of drills at the beginning of the season. One list will have drills that are used on the regular court and the other list will have alternate drills for a smaller practice area. Coaches need to map out the props they will need and keep these in their trunk. Youth sports practice time is valuable because coaches can actually teach the sport and have the kids learn from their mistakes.

Don't let limited space change your practice plans. Be creative and create space!

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