With this being the middle of August (wow, where did the summer go), and many of you coaches getting ready for the upcoming season, I wanted to talk about a recent and very relatable topic thread from the X's and O's Coaching forum debating the merits of having open practices. I've had the opportunity to observe several practices from local high school coaches around where I live and I've always appreciated that chance. As a result, my opinion has become more impartial towards the idea of open practices. But still, I can also understand why some coaches have serious reservations with the open practice concept. Here is a summary of the pros and cons:


- by being as transparent as possible, it helps with disarming the administration in that they can see for themselves how practices are run should it become an issue, and also to confirm who is present and who is missing.
- helps for parents to see what their kids are doing in practice, gives them an idea of the kind of offense and defense to be played in games.
- for parents of kids that won't play much in season, a chance to see their sons/daughters in action with the rest of the team, and not just sitting on the bench.


- distractions, if girlfriends and boyfriends are allowed to sit and watch, it can cause your players to lose their concentration.
- parental interference, parents who are used to coaching their own kids may not be able to resist the temptation to gesture or even pull their son/daughter aside and coach from the bleachers.
- performance anxiety based on Zajonc’s Theory of Social Facilitation as the audience can hinder skill development -- players tend to do what they can already do well rather than trying new skills.


I think most of the coaches agreed that possibly having a limited number of open practices at the beginning of the season is a good idea, but with the following rules:

1. Only parents/siblings and school staff allowed. No friends.
2. Observers must sit far enough away so as not to be a visual or oral distraction.
3. No open practices during tryouts.

Another possible concept is to have part of every practice, open. For example, during the first 1.5 hours of practice, you might want the full undivided attention of your players, and the final 30 minutes might be some full court continuous drills which you will allow outsiders to observe.

Hope that helps...