We just read a fascinating article from Dr. Rob Bell on the importance of the start of practice. You can read his entire article here. He even sites thoughts from coaches such as Jim Mora and Tom Coughlin.
There is certainly an art to this and it needs to be calculated first by the staff and then by the leadership of your team. We talk to our team about having a “game day mentality” for practice. Make sure you come mentally and emotionally read to maximize the day’s workout. For us, there are a couple of things we utilize such as pre-practice, emphasis of the day and practice goal cards and you can read about of these here.
Dr. Bell talks about a “re-connect” with coach and player each day to start. One of the best examples I’ve seen of this is Sherri Coale. While coaching at LSU I took the opportunity to watch Coach Coale and her Oklahoma team practice one summer in preparation for a European trip. Each practice the players would come out and shoot and stretch. I observed Coach Coale make physical and emotional contact with every single player before they huddled up to begin. It might be a high-five, a grab of the arm or a slap on the back but it would be followed by a brief conversation and almost always a smile on the face of the player. Practices at OU started with great energy.
As Dr. Bell writes:
Arriving to practice should involve an emotional and team-oriented approach. Dynamic stretching, warming-up, and bonding between the players and the coaches are all part of arriving both mentally and physically. The arrival period of practice is also the best time for a coach to re-connect with players and get a sense of “what’s going on.”
Arriving early and establishing that expectation helps tremendously with the starting of practice.
Next, how do you emphasize the starting of practice. This is the time that you expect your team to be focused and dialed in. If the arrival has been taken care of, chances are the start will be effective as well.