Oh the art of practice planning or is more like a mad science. How many times is it last minute and we find a sticky note and scribble a bunch of non-legible things down and head out to practice proud of our last minute work. Only to find we left the sticky note in the car/work/wherever and now we shooting from the hip. It times like these we are reminded of the popular quote derived from Benjamin Franklin. “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I fully believe in this so I take that to heart before heading to practice. Do we slip up at times, oh yes, but 80%+ of the time without a plan going in you will not maximize the time you have.
1. Repeatable beginning
After your season begins there is the feeling out pattern as players and coaches learn more about each other. Part of those early days I’d recommend a repeatable first 15-30 mins. This should include your warm up and some passing/catching drills. Maybe you want to include some small unsettled games to get the blood pumping.
2. Player Ownership
This repeatable opening should be on the team to run. The team should know how to start themselves in case the coaches are delayed for one reason or another (and psst it gives you at least 15 minutes to create a plan if you don’t have one). I like this because it also gives players ownership. While small, it requires them to push each other to get going. And they definitely don’t want my whistle to see they haven’t started on time.
3. Plan the entire practice to the minute
I don’t like to waste my time or the players time. When we are at practice, our job is to practice. Plus I find when having the entire plan down to the minute it keeps us on task. Typically I break my drills into 10, 15, and 20 minutes. The more repetition the shorter the drill (i.e. if the players will bore quickly I keep it to 10 mins). For larger group drills I typically go longer because reps are limited for each player so you need the time for everyone to participate. Yes drills run longer than their allotted time, and that is ok. Flexibility is necessary with this, but the good news is you have something to get into right away. This minimizes the downtime between drills as well. Speaking of between drills, because you have everything planned out to the minute, there is no time between drills. Players need to jog, not walk, from one drill to the next or you will lose time as @QKessenich just recently pointed out.
4. No Waterbreaks
Well not really, but I don’t recommend planning water breaks. It’s always hard to reel everyone back in when they go to the sideline as a group and start talking about the latest Fortnite dance they’ve mastered. The beauty of water bottles is that they are portable, have the team bring them with them to the drills. Grab a drink while you are at a drill and not on to stay hydrated, don’t waste good practice time on water.
5. Ensure the Coaches know the plan
I tried to make it a habit to email the plan to all the coaches around lunch each day to ensure they were on board with what is going on. This keeps them aware of what is going to happen that day so the head coach isn’t the only keeper of the plan. Now assistants can run things if you get held up talking with a player, training staff, or just running late. Sometimes we as coaches get so excited about coaching so maybe its best to have another coach keep the time to keep the team on schedule. By sharing this plan it keeps everyone working in harmony. It also gives your coaches time to make any suggestions/changes. If coaches know ahead of time, they can think of wrinkles that can help our team get better at what we need to get better at. And lastly one of my favorite reasons to email the staff, now you have record of it. You have a digital copy at practice to pull up on the phone at practice, a week later, or a year later.
6. End on time
Lastly, end practice on time. You need to set the expectation that players be accountable for being there on time and focused during those 2-2.5 hours you are on the practice field. If they are keeping there end of the bargain, you need to prove you can keep yours. Practice what you preach on timeliness and it will go a long away (and parents will appreciate it).
This is a quick rundown of the basic elements of a lacrosse practice. Later in the season we will talk about more specifics of what to include in practice based on different situations in your season. As always any questions or comments please leave below and get the conversation started.