CREATING YOUR PRACTICE PLAN
There is no exact science to creating an effective practice plan. As a coach, you know your team and players best, and should adjust your practice plan accordingly. Here are some guidelines to developing and running a strong practice session.
1. Theme/Focus: Think about what your team needs most at the time of practice (balance current needs with overall Season Plan). This will determine the Theme(s) or Focus Area(s) of the Practice.
2. Vision: Envision how a training session will run based on Theme(s)/Focus Area(s). Plan in detail. The more you prepare and plan, the easier it will be to adjust if necessary. Training sessions rarely go exactly as planned, so prioritize key elements. It is also good to have contingency drills/ideas in mind, in case of the unexpected (for example, players miss practice, injuries, etc).
3. Sequence: As you select your drills, keep the flow of the training session in mind, with physiological considerations. As well as a thorough warm-up and cool-down, the sequence of drills is important. For example, don’t place a static drill (walk-through) in between two strenuous active drills - especially if the weather is cold.
4. Share: If you have time to create a practice plan, it is helpful to share it with your players and other coaches ahead of time if possible. If you have assistant coaches and cannot meet beforehand, emailing out a practice plan will help them to think ahead and prepare to add their ideas. For the Training to Compete and Training to Win Stages, email a practice plan to players also - this will help the athletes to prepare mentally and know what to expect for the session.
5. Stick to the Plan: When a drill is not going as planned (for example, the players are not executing a skill correctly and need more practice), it is easy to let a drill continue, trying to make it work just as you envisioned. If it is a critical area that you are working on, take some extra time - but try to avoid continuing for long periods over the planned time. Make sure you have time to practice the other key areas that you identified when planning the session.
**Remember to focus on the areas of the game that are most critical to the outcome that you want. For young players in the middle of a season at the Learning to Train Stage, this might be spending more time on fun games to keep their interest level. For elite teams Training to Win, preparing for a big tournament, more time should be spent on Penalty Corners - which play a major role in game outcomes.
Don’t forget the details! If you have time, prepare a practice plan (see sample & template). Key Information to be included in the practice plan:
•Drill Details (explanation, diagram, etc)
•Player Groupings for Drills
•Notes for post-practice Meeting
•Sports Psychology/Team Building Elements