A 42-year coaching veteran who has won a Texas record, 26 state titles, Joe Lombard spoke to the Elite Coaches’ Mastermind last night. Joe Dale Carey, A.D. at Hondo ISD, asked Coach Lombard the best question of the night with, ‘When your teams entered the playoffs, did you change much?’
“We simplified things even more, when the playoffs began. My goal was that we played our fastest of the year, so we did less. I wanted them fast and confident, and I also ‘chewed them out’ less so they would not feel like it was stressful. We cut the time on the court with shorter practice times but did not limit our intensity. The playoffs need to be a time they look forward to.”
We did an ECMM roundtable a couple of weeks ago on this topic, ‘How to keep them fresh at the end of the year,’ and had some elite ideas. After Coach Lombard’s answer last night, I realized this needs to be sent out to everyone.
Another thing I love about this topic is it is not sport-specific. If you are a volleyball coach deep in the playoffs now, this list will help you. If you are a baseball coach, keep this list for May and June.
I will make this a list of ideas but let me start with the two most dominant answers: team dinners and cutting back the time players are at practice.
- More positive reinforcement.
- Hawaiian shirts the day before the game.
- Weekly ‘pick em’ contest with position group.
- Weekly coaches punt contest. All coaches stand on the 40-yard line and one by one punt to see who can get the ball closest to the goal line without the ball going into the endzone. Each coaches’ position groups get ‘juiced’ and cheer on their coach. The winning position group gets to go in first after practice. Another coach has players or coaches roll the ball from the 10-yard line to see who can get it the closest without going into the endzone.
- ‘Everybody dance’ – the head coach will stop practice at a random time and yell ‘everybody dance!’ Even the coaches get involved. This is a 15-30 second activity, and then they go back to work.
- Players do voice imitation of coaches, and coaches do voice imitation of players (so fun).
- Allow dads to stand on the sideline and go into the locker room and hear pregame speech.
- ‘Jersey day’. On the day before the game, allow players to wear their favorite NFL or college team jersey.
- Get players to speak to the team. Have two players give a ‘pep talk’ to the group emphasizing core values. (non-starters first).
- Most coaches stopped having them come in if they did bring the team up on Saturdays.
- ‘Monday off’ or helmets only. A coach said he would tell his team before the game, ‘if we block a punt’ or ‘if we have no turnovers’, we will go helmets only on Monday.
- Karaoke contest – we did this at North Forney in fall camp, and our players and coaches loved it. This would also be great in the playoffs. The best groups are small (two or three), and a coach and a player together is good stuff!
- More competition at random parts of practice. 1 v 1 is what kids live for!
- What you celebrate, you get more of. Spend time celebrating the ones who are ALL IN.
- Eat more with them!
- Cut practice but keep the intensity!
Early in my career, I was an assistant coach at a DFW area school, and we were preparing to play at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in the second round of the playoffs. Getting to have a playoff game at the home of the Dallas Cowboys is the DREAM for most Texas players.
On Tuesday, we were allowed to go to Cowboys Stadium for a one-hour practice in the morning. After we finished, we returned to school, had lunch, and practiced again for 2.5 hours.
The following day one of my position players came by my classroom, and when I asked him how he was feeling, he said, “coach, I’m just ready for this to be over.”
Don’t let your players feel this way. Make sure your team is the most excited team on the field or court when you play late in the season.