Below are three simple things you can implement to make your practices run smoother and more efficient:
People thrive on consistency. When you have a consistent practice plan, then everyone will be on the same page every day. Drills will run smoother. Transitions will happen quicker. Less time will be wasted. Generally, everything will be more efficient.
1. Have a plan.
We try to be consistent on a daily and weekly basis. In other words, all Monday practices are the same, all Tuesday practices follow a different format, and so on.
Here is an example of a practice schedule we used last year. Note: We were a two-platoon system, so there is an offensive plan and a defensive plan included on separate pages.
Notice a couple of things:
- Positions are grouped together. In other words, we find times for QBs to work with WRs, RBs to work with the OL, etc...
- We progress through practice from individual to group to team. Everything builds on itself and culminates with the team session at the end.
- 90% of our coaching happens during individual and group time. We coach on the fly during team time, and rarely stop to correct or redo a play during this part of practice. Pace is important to our offense, so we want to interrupt the pace of practice as much as possible.
2. Go on the clock.
If you have a consistent practice plan, then everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to time. Unless every coach syncs his watch at the start of practice, nobody will be consistent.
Notice that our practice schedule is divided into five-minute segments. One drill might be five, 10, or 15 minutes long. We started using our scoreboard clock to help us keep pace during practice. Our managers keep track of the clock, blowing a horn every five minutes to help keep us on pace.
The managers also advanced the home score by +1 for each period, so everyone knew what period we were in. For example, everyone would know that 7-on-7 starts with period 17.
If practice is not going well, one effective strategy is to yell out, "Stop the clock!!" This will quickly get everyone's attention, and it is a signal that we are going to do things right, even if it means taking more time. Sometimes players think they just need to put in time and wait for the clock to run down. Stopping the clock is a good reminder of when practice will end IF things are done correctly.
3. Create competition.
Practice can get monotonous and boring as the season goes on. There is only so much team time you can run against your scout team. Eventually, boredom will set in and bad habits will form.
We implemented a short, five-minute period called "Championship Period" where we went our #1 offense vs. our #1 defense in a game situation. This was full-speed with little to no coaching involved.
Our championship periods included:
- Goal Line (1st and Goal from the +8)
- Read Zone (1st and 10 from the +20)
- 3rd and Long (+8) - Blitz pick-up
- 3rd and Short (+2) - Short yardage plays
- 2nd & Short
- Two-minute offense
- Four-minute offense
- 1st and 10
Each play there was a winner, so if the offense gained 10 yards on 3rd and 8, then the offense won. This created a spirited competition, with even the players on the sidelines getting excited.
This period lasted no more than five minutes, which was about eight total plays. This competition prepared our players for the speed and intensity they would face on Friday nights.
I believe coaches are some of the best teachers in the school. The ironic thing is that these same principles apply to teaching the in classroom, although we often don't correlate the two. In an upcoming post, I will talk about how I apply these same ideas in my English classroom. There really aren't many differences.
What are other key strategies you use to help make sure your practices are efficient?