The start of the season is critical for establishing tempo, expectations and base rules for your team. In addition, it is also the time where you must start putting in your offense. There are several key elements for Week One Install that must be followed to set yourself up for a successful season.
First Week of Practice Install Plan
The first principle is to be prepared. The first practices are where players will get the general tone that they will guide them for the rest of the season. It’s critical that as a coaching staff you are over prepared and able to maximize your time. By being over prepared and having the drills and sessions planned out you can focus on getting players where they need to be and creating the tempo and urgency that you need to establish.
The second major principle is to limit the amount your are installing. Many times coaches want to put in as much as possible in the first week of practice because they think they have to get in everything right away. While time is a very real factor, it’s important that coaches realize that the players are also learning the practice schedule and expectations. This adds to the load that you are trying to install schematically. It is much better to pick one to two key concepts and install them at a steady pace so you can ensure that players are picking them up while still learning the practice schedule and expectations.
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Another key principle for the first week of install is to focus on the skills more than the play. Again this first week players will have their minds swimming and overloaded with information. To maximize the efficiency, position coaches should focus on the two or three drills that they are foundational principles of their unit’s identity. This allows the players to have a limited amount of skills and drills they are picking up in the first week. As practice continues into week two they can add more drills because players are more comfortable with the base skills and drills. From a coordinator perspective this means that you must focus on the play or group of plays that rely on those limited skills. This will help players see the transfer of the skills they are developing in their position groups and how they translate to the playing field.
The last principle of week one install is to have fun. The players need to understand your expectations and their assignments at the end of the week but it’s also critical that they come away from the week feeling satisfied. This doesn’t mean doing silly things and drills that don’t relate to football but as a coaching staff, you must start building and developing those emotional bonds that make players love the sport.
As coaches we love the sport and genuinely enjoy the process of developing a team and watching young men grow and mature. It’s key that you share this love with your players, allow them to see your vision of the position group, unit or team. This is, in my opinion, is how you make hard work fun and get players to fall in love with the sport.
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The first week is alway a great week of practice. Coaches are excited and players are eager to get started. That being said, it is also a very nervous time, coaches aren’t sure about the team and it’s personality, players don’t know how the coaches are going to be in practice and what practice schedules will look like. As a result it’s important that you focus on establishing great foundations of expectations, core fundamentals, and great relationships. If you are able to establish these in week one the time you invested in them will pay out a huge reward as the season progresses.