Spicing Up Your Practice


Today I want to talk about developing a practice plan and adapting that plan to the needs of your team.  I changed jobs for the first time in 15 years and got off to a rough 1-4 start.  I immediately realized that the things I did at my previous school were not working at my new school.  Sometimes losing creates the biggest learning opportunities.  You really focus more on the areas that need improvement in your program when you hit the wall.  Sometimes when you are winning you tend to overlook some things that are done poorly because the result of winning hides some of the inadequacies in your system.  I am going to go through some of the changes we made in the middle of the year that have helped us a bunch.

The first thing we had to do was identify what we thought were the problem areas in our practices. We were starting a lot of really young kids and we were having a hard time finishing games.  We lost one game 28-27 and missed 2 extra points, we had two other games where we were tied at the half in one, and behind by a point at the half in the other.  Here are the three things we came up with:
1)We were not executing technically or fundamentally
2)We did not compete for 4 quarters
3)We did not fully understand football situations and scenarios

So what we decided to do was increase our reps vs. scout teams by using 2 different scout teams in every group period.  Having 2 scout teams allowed us to get more reps in because you always had a scout team ready to play.  Normally when dealing with scout stuff your practices slow down tremendously because of the time it takes to get the scout team coached up on the plays they are running.  By using two scout teams you can have one running a play, while the other team is being coached up on the next play they will run. Now our offense or defense has to run back and forth between the two groups while getting a call and getting lined up.  The other scout group is ready to go already so there is an immediate focus on alignment and assignment with no down time.  We wanted to replicate the pace of the game and the ability to play under duress. The increased amount of reps allowed us to really focus on the technique and fundamentals of our players.

The next change we made allowed us to kill 2 birds with one stone.  We came up with a few competitive team setting drills that allowed us to focus on winning and losing every snap while also teaching situations to our kids.  The first drill was a team goal line drill with 5 goal to goal plays run from the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 yard lines.  After every snap the losing group did 10 up downs. It forced our kids to value competition.  It also gave us a chance to coach situations.  We could talk to the ball carriers about getting north and south on short yardage, or to the DBS about playing tight press coverage inside the 5 yard line.  There is nothing more frustrating than watching a DB play 5 yards deep in the endzone with the ball on the 2 yard line.  You start yelling at players in a game about stuff you may not have covered in practice.    The next drill we did was a 3rd Down drill we called "Best of 6".  We had 6 consecutive 3rd down plays starting with 3rd and 1 and ending with 3rd and 6.  The loser of the Best of 6 had to run 2 half gassers after the competition.  We were competing while also coaching our kids on 3rd down situations.  We were talking about tendencies and formations and personnel groupings.  We were teaching receivers to know where the sticks were.  Our kids started taking a lot of pride in the competition aspect while not fully realizing they were learning to play based on situations and circumstances.  The last one we did was called the "40 Yard Dash".  The offense had one drive from the 40 yard line in 4 down territory to score a Touchdown.  It forced our kids to compete in a game setting with the ball being spotted and moved.  They had to know down and distance.  Our offensive players started to understand the mindset of 4 down territory.  Again the loser of this drill had a consequence whether it was up downs, gassers, or who got to eat pre game meal first.  What the loser had to do after the drill was not important, the main goal was getting our kids to value competition and understand there was a consequence for losing.

We are 3-1 since the making the changes to our practice structure.  The kids are having more fun, and we feel we are getting more game specific teaching done.  Another thing that helped us a bunch was keeping practices under 2 hours.  We determined that our kids had about an hour and 45 minute window that was productive for teaching and learning.  Anything more than that and we were wasting our time.  There is no right or wrong way to do things so keep tweaking your practice schedule until it fits your players.  This is not about my way or the highway, it's about understanding your kids and your program and doing things that give you the best chance to win.


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