Plan holiday practices (or not) now

jonbuzby@hotmail.comNovember 27, 2011 

One holiday weekend is almost over, but the next holiday season is just around the corner -- if you don't believe me, check out the local mall -- and no matter how competitive a league your child plays in, the question of whether or not to practice the week between Christmas and New Year's Day might come up.

The purpose for bringing this up in November is so that coaches can get feedback about practicing over the holiday, make decisions, announce it and give parents time to make plans (or not).

I'm not suggesting that the team needs to gather Christmas Eve morning, but I've found through the years as a coach that my parents are more than happy to have somewhere to take their kids during the break. And when not coaching, I certainly shared that same opinion as a parent.

The key is making sure everyone is on the same page about the purpose of any practice held over the holidays: Is it mandatory or just optional?

My suggestion in this regard is to make it completely optional. Undoubtedly you already have a player whose family is flying somewhere and isn't going to change their holiday plans to attend practice. So before Santa even comes down the chimney, if you make the practice mandatory, you'll have one player benched for the first game of 2012.

In addition, even if a family isn't going away the entire week, my guess is there are day trips planned. My family is already scheduled to make two day trips to visit family during that week off, so as much as I'd want to take my kids to a practice, if it falls on either day, it's just not happening.

As a coach, I always make sure the holiday practices are fun -- mostly scrimmaging and their favorite drills. Let the players know that ahead of time, so they won't dread attending. (But I also reiterate that it's not the end of the world if they aren't there, and that a family gathering or outing should take priority.)

As a parent, I give my kids the choice to attend practices held over the holiday. After all, it's their vacation too. Typically, if we are in town, they -- like me -- are more than happy to have a reason to get out of the house.

Holiday practices can be a wonderful distraction from the hustle and bustle of the season -- that is, if they are scheduled with the spirit of the season in mind.

Jon Buzby's columns appear in newspapers and magazines around the country as well as numerous websites. Email your comments to jonbuzby@hotmail.com and follow him at twitter.com/jonbuzby

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