I am often asked my opinion on things that involve football. The questions range from how to find which player position best suits a child to who I think will win the Super Bowl, and pretty much everything in between. I have many thoughts on the game, on coaching, and on improving performance, so I am starting Passing Thoughts to share some of those thoughts. I welcome your comments and conversation. –KR

Friday, October 4, 2013

Practice to Succeed

It is hard to believe we are already winding down the regular football season and preparing for playoffs! As the season starts to wind down, the drive to keep pushing new ideas and skill development can be lost and practices can sometimes become very boring and repetitive for coaches and athletes. Some coaches will fall on the poor habits of talking for long periods of time, having endless practice time of running plays, or requiring continuous tackling to the ground to “toughen the kids up.” Practice, even at this stage of the season, is the most important element of skill development and it is critical to strengthening the interest level of athletes to want to continue to play the sport. Coaches should look at this late season practice time as the most critical time for athletes and future development of their team and program.

Structuring a practice can help coaches prevent the long sessions that drag practice out and lead to athletes losing interest and possibly getting hurt. Another option is to continually mix in new drills to keep a high interest level. USA Football does an excellent job offering practice plans and drill suggestions to help with creating practices that will keep the coaches and athletes excited about football. I used some of USA Football's suggestions and came up with this sample practice:

1)  Warm-up (15 mins) Air

2)  Team Talk/Water (5 mins) Air

3)  Offense-Indy work (10 mins) Air

4)  Special Teams (10 mins) Air (should be incorporated every practice)

5)  Water Break (5 mins)

6)  Tackling Circuit (15 mins) Air (Do not need to take to the ground and use more than one drill. Have the circuit that keeps the kids moving.)

7)  Water Break (5 mins)

8)   Defense-Indy work (10 mins) Air

9)  Group Time (offense) (10 mins) Wrap

10) Group Time (defense) (10 mins) Wrap

11) Goal Period (5 plays) (5 mins) Wrap

12) Team Conditioning---(10 mins) Pads off—Flickerball in a smaller space. Competition, while

In my experience, a combination practice that keeps young athletes moving through fundamentals, skill development, conditioning, and competition, strikes a great balance.  Kids also remain more motivated during practice when they know there is competition at the end.  They always enjoy Flickerball! Conditioning doesn't have to be part of every practice, and coaches can certainly use drill/practice time as a way to reinforce conditioning.  The key is to keep things varied and moving along so that they are learning, working, and maintaining a high interest level.  It isn't always easy, but there are plenty of resources available to assist with structuring practices.  We are also available to consult with teams who need advice or assistance.

Best of luck to all our athletes and teams as they end their regular season and head into playoffs!  We look forward to seeing some great playoff football!

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