Monday, June 29, 2009

Whistle or Not In Practice?

This may be a trivial thing, but it's still something to think about. Do you use a whistle in practice? If so why or why not? I remember my first day as a coach, freshmen assistant at LaCrosse Central HS. I bought a brand new whistle and was all excited about it. I'd been waiting 19 years to blow that thing. After the first time I blew it, the guy I was coaching with, Coach Colburn, asked to see the whistle because he wanted to look at it. He then promptly threw it across the gym and said there was no way he was going to listen to it all season! I still laugh when talking about that story.

Ever since that day, I've been a voice guy in practice. I use my voice to start and stop drills and always liked it that way better for some reason. I was watching a Phil Martelli video today (14 Ways to Build Mental and Physical Toughness in Practice) and he said he never uses a whistle because you don't use a whistle in games to communicate with players. It's not like you jump up off the bench and blow your whistle to talk to them about changing defenses or closing out better. You use only your voice in those situations.

I completely agree with this, the kids need to get used to listening for your voice and not a whistle to receive instructions. If they are not used to listening for your voice, they many times will miss what you are saying during a game, especially an exciting one.

On the other hand (to play Devil's Advocate here) I've heard many coaches who say they use a whistle for drills because that is what stops play in a real game. We've all heard the phrase "play till you hear the whistle" and it's one that many of us (including me) go by. So then where is the whistle in practice for me? How can my guys (or other "voice" coaches) get used to playing until the whistle when there isn't a whistle most of the time?? It's hard to just turn it on for a game.

After listening to Coach Martelli's comment about why he does not use a whistle and thinking about whistles versus voices, it actually had the opposite effect for me. I may start to now use a whistle in practice in certian situations, mainly to stop drills. That way my guys can get used to playing until the whistle, especially on competitive drills. Maybe that will be the job of the assistant coach, stopping drills with the whistle so I can still be a "voice coach". This way players can get used to keying on both my voice and the whistle. I may just use it for some drills, or may use it for all.

Hopefully this got you thinking about what you do in practice with your whistle or voice. Think about why you use one or why you don't use one.


Peter Robert Casey said...

I'm with Coach Colburn. Whistles, though effective in commanding attention, are a nuisance to the ears. Unless, of course, you're scrimmaging.

GeekCyclist said...

I watched the same video over the weekend. I have occasionally used a whistle but hadn't since the the 2nd or 3rd practice last year.

Brandon said...

Having your assistant coach use a whistle is the best option to me, and it is what we personally do.

During "live" drills, such as shell drill, we end the drill with a whistle, simply because the drill is very game like. In other drills, such as one on one dribbling, etc, we go by voice.

With this approach, I believe you can integrate both methods into you practice and perhaps get the best of both worlds. Hope that helps some coach!

John said...

I only use a whistle for specific things. In scrimmages obviously it is appropriate as the game is played to the whistle. I also use it in practise for two things:

One short whistle blast = stop immediately and stand still.

Two short whistle blasts = stop immediately and gather round me.

This is useful in terms of safety and also if I want to instruct everyone in the gym at once. I don't use these very regularly in practises though (sometimes not at all). For everything else I just use my voice.