WYC 135 – Coaching Education – Dr. Clayton Kuklick talks Random practice design & the power of analogies

Dr. Clayton Kuklick is a University of Denver Clinical Assistant Professor of Master of Arts in Sports Coaching and a PhD in Athletic Coaching Education. Clayton played college and pro baseball and has coached at all levels from youth through college.

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Coaching your own kids

  • Make sure to communicate the different roles you will be having with your child – coach vs. parent

Cringe moments

  • Initially Clayton was very structured and controlling. He learned to incorporate different ways to facilitate and teach vs. structure and commands.

Teaching Skills 

  • The difference between learning and performance – Create variation in activities vs. blocked practice design.
  • Dynamic systems theory – Provide a few guidelines, then allow athletes to try different strategies and learn. Small-sided tactical games are a great way to do this.

Mental toughness

  • Routines can reduce stress – Having a pre-bat routine in baseball reduces stress. Practice it. In practices, before they perform a task, have them: Take a deep breath, one positive thought, then we go. A positive thought is best when process related: fast and loose vs. get a hit.


  • It starts with core values. Keep it tight – have only a couple core values. Then you have to define what behaviors demonstrate those core values.
  • Great analogies to reward behviors –
    • The Sugar Shaker – who made practice sweeter today?
    • The Live Sponge – who learned and applied something new today?

Connecting with and impacting kids

  • Clayton coached a kid who was struggling in school, he had a big presentation coming up – so they used some of the same mental skill approaches they use in athletics to apply to his presentation

The one that got away

  • Clayton played on a team in college that went to the playoffs, and they got pampered and ate a bunch of unhealthy food. They had not educated their players throughout the season about the importance of their diet.

Best borrowed/stolen idea

  • Clayton played with Justin Gordon – and Justin did a great job using analogies

Favorite Quote/Book

Parting Advice

  • Challenge: How can you embed life skills into your practice drills? Decision making, resiliency, social skills.

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