Should teams practice over break?

All you have to do is step foot in the local mall or drive around the neighborhood to realize the holidays are just around the corner. Kids especially are looking forward to the more than week-long break that stretches from just before Christmas until after the New Year.

If your child is currently playing on a youth sports team, no matter how competitive a league it is, the question of whether or not to practice the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is going to be raised. (If the team is participating in a holiday tournament, then practicing over the break is almost necessary.)

I’m not suggesting that the team needs to gather Christmas Eve morning or in the late afternoon on New Year’s Eve, but I’ve found through the years as a youth sports coach that my team’s parents are more than happy to have somewhere to take their kids during the break. And during the few holidays when I haven’t coached, I certainly shared that same opinion as a parent. There’s nothing better than having your kid be able to blow off some energy in a gym or rink or, for that matter, any indoor venue.

The kids love it too. There’s nothing better for a basketball junkie than a warm gymnasium on a cold winter night with no alarm set to go off the next morning.

The key is making sure everyone is on the same page about the purpose of any practices held over the holidays. Basically — 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 to enforce the missed practice rule for the first game of 2014.

Likewise, 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 going to happen.

As a coach, I always make sure the holiday practices are fun — mostly scrimmaging and their favorite drills — and let the players know that ahead of time, knowing they will then want to attend and will do everything in their power to get there.

As a parent, I give my kids the choice to attend optional practices or not that are 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 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.

Contact Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.

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