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Steve Gamel: We're talkin' about practice, y'all

I'm not sure what I expected to see at Krum's Memorial Day softball practice, but a few gloves lying on the blue infield turf with a bucket of yellow balls wasn't what I had in mind.

Two nights prior, coach Bryan Chaney told me in a text message that practice would be from 9 to 11 a.m. and that I was welcome to stop by whenever for interviews. So imagine my surprise when I showed up shortly after 10 and couldn't find anyone. 

No Chaney. No assistant coaches. No players. Just an empty field.

As it turned out, practice was already over. Chaney and his crew were  in the dugout — I just didn't see them at first — going over logistics for their trip to Austin. 

In case you didn't know, Krum plays Beeville Jones at 9 a.m. Thursday in a Class 4A state semifinal. It's the program's first trip to state.

I asked Chaney how long practice was, to which he told me, "maybe 45 minutes."

I should have known better. Chaney is one of a number of coaches across all sports who believe less is more when it comes to practice time. It's not a new trend by any means. But the list of coaches who preach shorter sessions is growing.

For one, it keeps your players healthy deeper into the season. Coaching staffs have long been wary of losing players to unnecessary injuries, and having a player go down in practice is a kick to the gut. It also helps with keeping players fresh. In softball, many are playing for select teams and going out of their way for private lessons.

So what do you gain by holding a three-hour high school practice several times a week? Or better yet, this late into the season with your team on the cusp of a state championship?

"It's rare for us to practice for two hours," Chaney said. "You hear of coaches who feel like they need to be out here for three hours, but with kids, you've got to keep them interested. At the end of the day, I don't want this to be a job for them.

"Don't get me wrong, we get our work done. We are strict. But we want them to enjoy this."

Long practices shouldn't be banned. Many teams that are part of newer programs or hit hard by graduation could use the extra work. But Chaney is one coach who has no need to draw out practice. Krum (37-4) not only is loaded but is set up for future success as well. His players have witnessed practically every in-game scenario there is.

At the end of the day, we're just talking about practice here. But Chaney's perspective has worked out just fine at Krum. And the players have completely bought in to that concept.

"[Chaney] got us here. He's a good coach to us," Krum's Regan Smith said. "When he's intense, we're intense. But when he's laid back, we are laid back. It works for us."

In the past, Chaney admits, he may have had a different mindset when it came to his approach.

In case you didn't know, Chaney is a longtime baseball guy. He took Maypearl to the Class 2A state semifinals in 2005. During that time he was a fiery guy with a my-way-or-the-highway approach. It wasn't until he took a varsity assistant position at Prosper under legendary coach Rick Carpenter that he learned how much he still had to learn.

"One of the biggest things I learned was perspective," Chaney said. "Kids are smart, and if they don't think they are getting anything out of a longer practice, then they won't. You still establish your expectations, and you don't waver on those expectations. But you don't have to be a tyrant, either."

STEVE GAMEL can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @NewspaperSteve.