How to Grab and Hold Your Players’ Attention

If you can’t get your players’ attention on a consistent basis, you’ll struggle to run a smooth and enjoyable practice.

Even worse, you’ll end up frustrated and yelling at your players, which is not fun for anyone!

To get some ideas for getting your players’ attention, we solicited advice from a school psychologist.  They use special techniques to keep the attention of kids that have trouble focusing.  Many of these techniques can be applied to coaching.

Here are a few techniques to get your players’ attention and keep them focused:

1)  Do less talking and more showing.

Young kids have a very short auditory attention span, so you should limit talk to a max of 2 minutes.  Then start showing.   All too often, coaches talk, and talk, and talk.  But it doesn’t do ANY good because no one is listening!  It’s easy to forget that young kids aren’t much different than you as an adult.

For example, how many times have you ignored the written assembly instructions on a piece of furniture or a toy and just focused on the illustrations to get the job done?

The truth is that we tend to learn more from the “showing” than the “telling”.

2)  Use all the senses.

Again, do more than just give verbal instructions.  You can get their attention by tapping into visual senses and actually showing them how to do something on the court.  You can use cue cards, chalk boards, and so on.

Another sure way to get a player’s attention is to put your hand on their shoulder.  You obviously can’t be everywhere and use this technique in all situations, but keep this in mind when you need to quickly GRAB a floundering player’s attention.  If an assistant coach is nearby, they can do the same.

3) Use point sheets.

Start a reward system where players can earn points by paying attention.  Keep track of their points on sheets.  Then, as players earn points they can earn rewards like play money that can be used to buy Gatorade, drinks, or other items that you have on hand.

4) Choose topics that are of interest to your players.

This might seem like a trivial tip, but few coaches seem to remember it.  Kids are more interested in things that they can relate to.

So, if anything, keep this in mind when structuring your practice:  Mix some interesting stuff in between the boring stuff.

For example, when working on shooting you can say, “Did you know that Landon Donovan takes practice shots every day?”

Learn about your kids’ favorite players and talk about them.  This little trick will keep them both interested and enthused.

5) Provide frequent breaks.

It helps to provide frequent breaks between drills and activities.  If players know that breaks are coming and you don’t push them too hard, they’ll pay more attention during practice.

6) Explain and show the reason why.

A great way to get your players on board is to explain the reason why you do certain things. Most coaches neglect this super effective tactic and instead they just jam the tactics down their players’ throats.

Explaining the “reason why” is a proven psychological trigger that causes people to take a desired action. Humans, by nature, want to know the reason why they are doing things.

If your players don’t understand the reason you want them to keep their knees bent, always be ready to help, see man and ball, apply ball pressure, and so on, then they will NOT give 100%!

7) Constantly change things.

Don’t dwell on the same drill for too long or your players will completely lose focus.  Continually change things and move onto new drills every 2-5 minutes.

8)  Use a timer.

A common technique used by school psychologists is to use a timer.  You can do the same thing during your practices.

Set a timer that beeps every two minutes so you know when you’ve been talking for too long and when to move onto the next drill. A stopwatch is also effective and less distracting to players.

9) Ask questions to keep things interactive.

When you’re talking, be sure to ask the group and individuals questions.  This type of interaction is much more interesting than just listening to someone talk, and it keeps players attentive, as they’ll want to be prepared in case they’re called on.

10) Use their first names frequently

Nothing grabs a player’s attention more than calling out their name.  In fact, anything that is about “you” or has your name in it will draw your attention.

If you don’t know all of your players names, heaven forbid, learn them!!

11)  All eyes on you.

During the brief moments that you’re talking, make it a non-negotiable rule that ALL eyes are on you. This makes it a lot harder for players to lose their focus.

PLEASE share your thoughts and ideas on this subject below…

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