It’s time for the first scrimmage of the preseason.
The second week begins. A little bit of the buzz has worn off. Players are starting to sort out. Roles are emerging. Athletes who surprised you initially may now carry the weight of expectations. Young players are starting to think too much.
In other words, it’s getting a bit harder for everybody.
Then the first scrimmage pops up on the schedule. Great! Finally an opportunity to test against an opponent. Everyone is excited and ready, but you coach, you have to makes some decisions.
What’s the Point?
You have to decide how to use your first scrimmage. Will you play everybody? Give each player a chance to either learn the position under pressure or to prove herself. Or, will you start to deepen the relationships between key personnel on the field? The game after all often comes down to decisions made in concert with a teammate on the field. You might also choose to give key players extra time who need the experience.
Create a clear communication plan for the first scrimmage.
After you make this choice–and any strategy is valid–how will you present and explain it to the team and key personnel?
This might be more important than the decision you make.
Let the team know the intent of the game. Set expectations and bring clarity to the process.
Have individual conversations with players:
Speak with specific players who either need a heads up about a growing role or those who may need to process a lesser one.
No surprises. Surprises are what cause drama.
Often players can handle any role as long as it is clearly communicated, the value of the role understood, and a path to a bigger or more appealing role clearly presented.
Our tendencies as coaches to either avoid that conversation or to assume the player understands creates more consternation and future drama than the actual decision.
Establish protocols and communicate proactively. Players may still struggle with their roles, but the coach has an opportunity to explain and mitigate the effect on the team.
Remind athletes: Be Prepared
On the other hand, players need to be prepared when their moments emerge unexpectedly. Remind them of this.
Prepare them for the expected role and for the opportunities that naturally emerge within games. Injuries happen. Teammates struggle. Strategies shift.
When your moment arrives, what will you do? This is an important question for anybody on a team.
John Maxwell talks about being the lid on the jar for people we lead. Our intention is for each person to reach her full potential. Information will help with this. Providing perspective will help. The journey is non-linear. Keep working. Keep going. Provide specific areas to focus on and encourage athletes to create a role now and a future role.
Establish for yourself now how you will proactively handle game day communications. Put those protocols in place and be proactive. Commit to each athletes growth, and help each find a meaningful role and path that is not solely determined by playing time. You may still have players who struggle with their role but at least you and they will have clarity and can address that directly.
Good luck with the first scrimmage!