Coaches: Create Space if Practice Gets Tight

The term "creating space" has always had a definitive meaning in sports. Whether it is a forward in soccer 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. The youth hockey coach must run efficient practices because of the cost of ice time and sometimes he must find a way to coach 12-16 kids using less than half the rink.

In basketball, court time is also 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 baseball, 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 soccer, some of the best types of drills are dribbling drills. Lou Fratello, a college soccer coach who helped create a number of soccer videos, insists that players do not need a huge amount of space to polish their skills.

A ball control drill called "Push-Pull" is one such drill. In this drill, the player pulls the ball back towards himself and controls it with his laces. He then gives the ball a light tap forward. He moves forward with the ball as he controls it. After moving forward, he moves his whole body backward, controlling the ball the same way with his laces.

From the description you can see how a team of 15 players can do this drill in a small confined area.

Another drill called "Foundation" also can be practiced in a confined area. Foundation is a great footwork drill. Here, a player taps the ball back and forth between his feet. Players should have their heads and knees up when performing all of the basic footwork skills. Foundation, as well as all of the other footwork drills, can be rehearsed in a stationary position, or while moving forwards or backwards. This drill is great for conditioning and better ball control. The whole team can do this drill in a small area.

These are examples of optimizing limited space when challenged with less than optimal surroundings. Coaches need to make up two lists of soccer drills at the beginning of the season. One list will have drills that are used on the regular field and the other list will have alternate drills for either a parking lot or a smaller practice area. And 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!


Marty Schupak, President of the Youth Sports Club, has coached youth sports for 21 years and has run more than 1,500 youth sports practices. He is the creator of 22 sports instructional videos including the best selling "Championship Soccer Drills," "48 Championship Basketball Drills" and "The 59 Minute Baseball Practice." He is also author of the popular book, "Youth Baseball Drills." For samples of his videos, go to VideoForCoaches.com. Contact him at YouthSportsClub@aol.com.

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