Last week I was ‘coaching’ my college Futsal team at one of our last practices of the season. I put on some music and walked out of the gym. I came back to the gym (I was watching the whole time, just from a position that they couldn’t see me) and whistled for them to get water. I asked them how they felt and they unanimously said they were happy and having fun. I said great, let’s get back out there and play some more. They went back out and played Futsal. SIDE NOTE: they had picked their own teams after I had left the gym, the teams remained the same for the second round of play. Both teams played with incredible creativity and freedom. After 15min I blew the whistle and called the team in again. I asked the girls what the score of the game was and none of them had any idea. They said they didn’t care, they were playing for fun!
I told the girls that I wanted them to go back out on the court and just keep doing what they had been, only this time I would put 15min up on the clock and keep track of score. I was amazed at how drastic a few lights on a scoreboard affected the game. Suddenly the girls became less creative, less smiles, more yelling at teammates, and getting angry with themselves.
After the 15min was done I called the girls in and again asked them how they felt. All of them said frustrated and had reasons as to why they were. I asked them why they became less creative and they told me because they feared making a mistake. I asked they looked at the scoreboard during play, and all of them said yes (compared to all of them not even knowing the score of the other games).
I asked them which environment they felt that they would best learn a skill in and all of them said the play environment without the scoreboard. However they did suggest that they felt more competitive when the scoreboard was used, and that as a collegiate team there would be benefits to playing in that environment as their games were played in that way.
I believe that my athletes shared in a lightbulb moment at this practice, in the importance and effectiveness of play.
Athletic Director, Olds College