Time vs retention is a subject, as youth coaches we are all interested in perfecting. Teams may only have two or three days a week, or if lucky five, to practice during preseason. Maximizing teaching during this time, while ensuring our players are retaining what is being taught, is critical to having a successful season—however you define it. Below are some examples that might help.
Practice Optimization: Time vs. Retention
By Coach Charles Wallace
Muscle memory—reps, reps and more reps. Every rep is an opportunity to get better. Dividing players by lines, hustling to and from drills, planning out EDDs, and having players get to practice early, reduces the time players stand around.
Verbally reinforce what you are teaching. Walk-throughs, alignment assignment sessions, and EDDs are perfect opportunities for verbal teaching. Verbally reinforcing information with mental retention as the goal. Going on one or two when running sprints. Using consistent language as a coaching staff, and repeating that language—right foot, right shoulder—as an example.
Repeat what they have learned, while teaching others. Have your players teach what they’ve learned to someone else. Once they have a basic understanding of the drill, technique and application being taught, have them lead the drill, rotating players into the “teaching position” as they learn.
Use relational learning. Relate new information to things already known. A great example of this I learned from a friend who is a head coach for a local high school program. Use the cell phone keypad to number the area of the field for kickoff. So, from left to right, 1, 2, 3, are onside kicks, 4, 5, 6, are middle, and 7, 8, 9, are deep.
Visually teach schemes and alignment and assignments by using play cards, white boards or even tablets. I like to bring a white board with me to practice. Easy to setup, and given the time saved by using a racehorse practice we spend 15 minutes teaching the Offensive and Defensive plays we are practicing that day. Visually defining space on the field is very important—especially since we teach Offense attacks “space” and defense defends “space”.
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Write what they learned. Create simple tests/homework for them to complete throughout the week. Have them write position names and draw blocking/rushing lines on O/D alignment templates. Draw O/D alignment on play path templates; by the end of preseason, they should be able to draw up complete O/D plays.