Activity: Skittles and Sprints / by James Leath

I don't know a single athlete who looks forward to the cardiovascular activities at the end of a practice.

"Take a lap. Run to that cone. Run to the other cone. Faster!"

Forget all that noise. You can yell all you want, but true motivation comes from adding in competition. And if you are a parent, let's be real: you know the reality of the importance of bribing your child! Here is one way to get your athletes to increase their cardiovascular fitness at the end of practice and have fun while doing it:

Skittles and Sprints
A few years back, I noticed that I had as many parents watching practice as I did kids in practice. Most parents sincerely believe their child wants them there, but that is a conversation for a different day. I had one particular 11-year-old child that would not run hard during sprints, no matter what I said. So I asked her:

"Hey, what will it take for you to run hard during conditioning."
"I don't know."
"Do you like candy?"
"Yeah, Skittles."
"Cool."

The next practice, I had two plastic bags in my hand, ready for the end of practice — one filled with pennies, the other filled with Skittles. With 10 minutes left to go in practice, I gave the athletes a break and set up the last activity of the day. I walked to the middle of the basketball court and poured out nearly 150 pennies from sideline to sideline. When the activity was set up, I called for all the players to grab a parent and huddle up on the other side of the court. (One athlete didn't have a parent there, so someone else's dad volunteered to be her partner.)

"Listen up! Athletes, you have two minutes to run from this baseline to the center of the court, grab one (and only one!) penny, and bring it back to your parental partner. You will do this as many times as you can within two minutes. Parents, you stay here and collect each penny. You are allowed to yell and scream encouraging words to everyone. Let's get loud! After 2 minutes, you can trade in your pennies for Skittles."

The kids went wild.

At the end of two minutes, the athletes were utterly exhausted, the parents were laughing and high-fiving, and I just got my team to work harder at sprints than ever before.

If you do this, take a photo or video and tag me @UTAthlete or @jamesleath!

NOTE: Since that first time, I have used gummy bears, gummy worms, m-n-ms, and one time I made it the length of the whole court and traded them pennies for licorice. I have also asked the winner to pick the next type of candy. I wouldn't do this every time, maybe pick one day a week or every other practice.