For coaches, practice time is a precious opportunity to get players ready for the next game. For players, practice is an opportunity to spend time with friends and doing what they like doing. These are not the same goals.
To get the most out of their players, coaches have to structure a practice that reaches a compromise between these different goals. A little fun at the beginning and end of a practice can help kids perform their best when working on stamina or quickness drills in the middle. Coaches should consider turning some drills into quick competitions among groups of players to help build team chemistry and fun, such as relay races instead of simply running or skating.
Dave Tippett, head coach for the Dallas Stars, believes that the best practice from a child's point of view is a scrimmage. "Kids want to play. I do the same thing with the Dallas Stars. At the end of a practice, I'll drop two pucks in the middle of the ice and just let them play."
Fun is important at all ages and getting the most from players involves using their personal motivations to accomplish the team goals. Practice fun goes a long way to building a winning team and makes participation more enjoyable for everyone.