Too much of anything is unhealthy. Even a good thing, once you get to the point where it’s too much, the point of diminishing returns sets in.
Intensity in practice is a good thing. You need your teams to prepare at a high level, and the best way to get the most out of them is to make sure practices are intense. For the most part, that tone is set by the coaches.
But it can get to the point where it’s too much, and the intensity becomes counterproductive. I’ve seen a lot of different practices where I’ve been impressed by the intensity. Coaches who are constantly getting after their guys – in a positive way – making sure the focus and effort is always there. Sometimes, I’m not sure how they do it. I don’t think I can keep my intensity at a 10 for an entire practice. It’s not really my personality. But a lot of coaches do, and the players approach follows them.
The question to ask is when does the intensity become too much? If it’s a constant level of intensity that never wavers, your kids are going to plateau. It will have an effect, and they’ll know they have to keep it up, but they’ll likely get to an acceptable level and maintain it. Sooner or later the players will tune out the level of intensity coming from the coaches. It’s just natural to do so. And I think it can be counterproductive.
There have to be times when you break up that intensity and let the kids relax. Tell a joke, make fun of yourself or something that happens, get the kids to smile. Give them a break from the intensity so they recognize the level they need to get to and the value of getting there. It’s okay to laugh at something funny that happens even in the most intense practice. If you go over the top with the intensity, it certainly loses some of its value.
You certainly have to have a feel for it as a coach. Give your kids an opportunity to take some ownership of the intensity they need to bring every day. You certainly have to set the tone, and it’s okay to do it every day. But if it’s constantly at the same high level it will start to become noise and the approach becomes less effective. Don’t be afraid to find the balance.