Article Written by: Chad Harter
One of the biggest mistakes made by struggling coaches is spending valuable practice time “conditioning”. While conditioning is important there are better ways to utilize your time. Conditioning can and should come from a high paced practice where learning and conditioning go hand in hand. Consider the following when creating your practice plans. To execute the following you would ideally have a total of 5 coaches and a stopwatch or timer. It can be done with less but 5+ coaches would be optimal.
Maximizing Practice and Install Time
Kids enjoy structure! Any push back to structure is a test of boundaries; it’s normal. But make no mistake, structure is a key foundation for success. While your day to day will change based on needs, wants and personnel, each practice should start basically the same. The first 15 minutes are dynamic warm ups. This period sets the tone for the day. If you and your coaches show no interest in what the kids are doing during this period they will treat it with the same attitude. This is an instructional period. Be instructing, talk to your players, engage them and let them know this period is as important as any other part of practice by being engaged in the stretching/warm up process. This shouldn’t be the time coaches gather to goof off or chat.
The next 30 minutes is 3×10 minute position specific drills. WR, O Line, QBs and RB’s should all be in groups working skills specific to their positions. For WR we will typically do 10 mins stance and start, our sole focus is eliminating hitch steps. The next 10 minutes we work on getting in and out of breaks. The final 10 is used to bring it all together and run routes on air. Maximum reps and coach on the fly. We do not stop an entire drill to give instructions to one player.
After we have completed our 30 minutes of EDD or Every Day Drills, we start bringing groups together. This group is usually 15 minutes total. If we are focusing on the run game we will leave the WR to do more skill work or work route combos and bring the QB and RBs together. Ideally setting up two backfields and lining them up facing one another is the most efficient. They run the play, sprint to the opposing station and immediately set up for the next rep. This should provide a “conditioning” opportunity. The kids should be stressed to work up the tempo as they improve their proficiency of the task at hand.
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The next group is an install period and even still to this point the O-line is likely off on their own but following the agenda and working install. This 20 min period is when you should be installing any new concepts. If installing power the line is working power scheme vs the most common front seen. The WR, QB and RB will walk through power as well, the WR will sprint and stalk. The entire group on the whistle signaling the end of the rep will sprint 5 yards set up and rep again. Again we are incorporating an element of “conditioning” into the plan to maximize instruction.
The next period is team time where we bring all we’ve worked on in our groups together. Team time is where we should be focused on timing and syncing it all together. This shouldn’t be a heavy instructional time. You’ve already instructed this in smaller groups, now we are just bringing the pieces all together. Coach on the fly and keep it moving. Reps make kids better, not listening to you talk to one or two players after every rep. I also during this time will pre plan what plays we will run to ensure I hit on everything I wanted go over that day. It also gives you a chance to observe the pace of reps. Keep it simple and keep it fast paced and you won’t have to spend valuable time running sprints just for the sake of running.
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The final period is the 5 minutes I take to review and grade the day. Despite any amount of planning, some days will be better than others. Challenge them when they don’t meet expectations and praise them when they meet or exceed them. I like to set expectations for the week the first practice of the week, including making them aware briefly of the plan of attack for the coming opponent and how we will refine that plan the rest of the week.
Don’t forget to schedule multiple water breaks. Give them 5 minutes each period to decompress, get a drink and socialize. “Water is not optional.”
“Don’t tell me what a player can’t do; tell me what he CAN do.”