5 TIPS ON PRACTICE EFFICIENCYErick Streelman
Time is your most valuable resource. Let’s look at 5 tips on practice efficiency.
Let me ask you a question. What is your practice philosophy? If you cannot answer that question in 10 words or less with anything more than the cliche of, “We work hard and prepare,” you are like a lot of coaches in this country, and a lot like me for much of my coaching career. Too many of us have not really developed a practice philosophy. This is not to say that some elements of your practice plan are not effective. That is not to say that your practices do not prepare kids for Friday night. But ask yourself this: Why do you practice the way you practice?
My guess is that your practice plan is based on your experience. You model it after the way you practiced in high school or college or after a college coach that you saw at a clinic one time. But, let me ask you again: Why do you practice the way you practice? The problem is that many of our practice philosophies do not fit our goals. Maybe you are trying to match an archaic practice philosophy with a new age system. Maybe you are inefficient. Maybe your practices are boring or mundane. Maybe your assistant coaches stand around and let you do all the work. Whatever your issue, here are few solutions that we at Win With the Pass employ to ensure efficient and effective practices.
1)Practice Efficiency Tip #1 – Practice has to be fun
Of Course, this is a cliche, but everything I believe about football comes from this very simple premise. We all know that kids have a million options today and we all want as many of them as possible to choose football. Every coach wants practice to be fun and every coach will say that they try to create up tempo and competitive environments in practice. But, here is the brutal truth: What you think is fun is not what the kids think is fun. There are very few kids that actually enjoy the Oklahoma drill. There are very few kids that actually enjoy the tackling circuit. There are very few kids that enjoy your 25 minute half-line run period. No one enjoys your 1 hour film session. Now, we know some of this is necessary. You have to learn to tackle and you have to learn to block. But, these periods should be short and up tempo with a ton of excitement from the coaches.
Film sessions should be no more than 15 minutes. Break it down to 3 things you did well and 3 things you have to work on. You don’t have to watch every play with your team.
Use a 9 minute, 3 station tackling circuit, where each kid gets 1-2 reps at each station. Pick your favorite 3 tackling drills and run them in succession for 3 minutes apiece. It’s up beat. It’s quick. Kids know they aren’t going to get beat up. Coaches don’t get burned out and can actually stay excited the entire time.
Limit your heavy contact drills. There is no quicker way to lose on Friday night than to have your best player sitting out with a stinger or a concussion. I have completely eliminated Oklahoma and blood alley and all those old school tackling drills. They cause more harm than good. If you want to build toughness, hit the sled for 10 minutes a day instead of hitting each other.
One more thing…is there anything worse than sprints at the end of practice? You need to devise a practice philosophy that allows your kids to condition during practice. Sprints aren’t game like. Sprints aren’t fun. And, kids will save themselves in practice if they know they have to run at the end. If you need a few tips on how to condition efficiently, keep reading.
2) Practice Efficiency Tip #2 – Throw The Ball
This is part and parcel to my football philosophy. I strongly believe that the pass is the best way to score points and win games. Our system is based on being able to beat every coverage with a ball-control quick game, a vertical drop back game, and a screen game. So, at Win With The Pass we believe that you should throw the ball 90% of the time in practice. We usually have 12-13 passing concepts in our offense and the game plan may call for us to use 6-8 of those. We need to run each concept 50 or so times during the week for me to feel confident that it has a chance to be successful on Friday night. These reps can be divided between 1 on 1, 7 on 7, Routes on Air, and Team. So, that is 400 or so passes during the week, not counting our screen period. We throw the ball almost every play in practice.
But, even if you re a Wing T team or a Triple Option Team, I would argue that at least half of your practice reps should be passing reps. The x10 is a good barometer. if you are going to throw the ball 10 times on Friday, you should throw the ball 100 times during practice (that may sound like a lot, but if you have 3 days of full practice, its only 10 plays of 7 on 7, 10 plays of 1 on 1, 10 plays of routes on air, and 10 plays of team each day). If you are going to throw it 40 times, you better throw it almost every play during the week.
You see it all the time in high school…The QB sells a beautiful play action fake while a WR or TE breaks wide open up the seam, only to have the ball overthrown, or under thrown, or tipped, or picked, or dropped. Everyone in the stands groans and the coach throws his headset. In my opinion, the coach has no argument unless this play has been practiced over and over and over during the week. Just because you completed a fade to your best receiver against your 3rd string corner on Tuesday during your team period, doesn’t mean that you can do it again on Friday night. If, you’ve gone 9 for 10 on that play during the week, I would say there is a good chance it will be successful on Friday. But, you cannot be upset if your kids don’t perform if you haven’t practiced it. The problem is that most running teams throw the ball 4 times a day during the week then expect their kids to perform on Friday. There are too many moving parts in the passing game. Your receivers need to build confidence and your QB needs to know exactly where they are going to be. The only way to build chemistry is reps. Throw the ball! Its fun. Kids love it. And, when you actually need to complete a pass, it will work.
3) Practice Efficiency Tip #3 – Go No Huddle in Practice
I know what a lot of you are thinking. How in the world can I get 200-300 pass reps in during a week of practice? If you are still huddling in practice, there is no way you can. You have to go no huddle in practice. You don’t have to be Oregon on Friday night. In fact, you don’t even have to go no huddle on Friday night (although, if you practice it all the time our kids will get used to playing faster and the game will actually feel slow to them). Your goal in practice should be to get as many quality reps as possible in your allotted time. Your goal should be to run a play every 20 seconds. If you have a 10 minute 7 on 7 period, you should throw 30 passes. If you have a 20 minute team period, you should run 60 plays.
This will require you to train your assistant coaches. Your coaches can’t just sit in the offensive backfield and wait for their guys to come back to the huddle. Your receiver coach should be running all over the field trying to catch guys as they are lining up for the next play. It should not take more than 5 seconds to coach a guy up on what he did wrong or pat him on the butt for what he did right. That means you can coach and get lined up and ready to run a play every 20 seconds.
If you do this right, your guys will be gassed after about 8 plays. This is especially true of receivers if you are throwing it 90% of the time. This is great for a couple reasons. First, conditioning is taken care of (see tip #1) and you don’t have to line up on the sideline for gassers after practice. Second, it allows you to rotate your second group in there for meaningful reps with the starting QB. Most of us are not blessed with 10 offensive linemen, so your lineman rotation may be 1 at a time, but most of us can find 4 new WR’s and an RB to rotate every 6-8 plays. Everyone feels involved in practice. Everyone contributes. Everyone has fun!
4)Practice Efficiency Tip #4 – Two-Platoon or 80-20 (And Get Rid of Scout Cards)
You have to decide if your guys are going to play both ways. Here is my advice. If you have more than 50 guys on your team, there is no reason to have more than a few two-way players. Here is the definition of a two-way player: If he can practice one side of the ball less than 20% of the time and still be the best player at that position, then he should play both ways. I usually find this with WR/DB and Linemen. If you have a D-I offensive tackle, I am sure he can be your best 3 technique without even lining up there one time during the week of practice. Your best WR can probably line up at corner with limited reps at that position.
But, if this is not the case, take a less talented kid and let him get really good at one thing. He will buy in. He will be committed. And, he will improve so much if all he has to do is practice one position all year. We need to change our mindset. So many of us think that we have to have the best athletes on the field. But, think about it this way: What if you have a a kid who’s an 8 out of 10 linebacker, but plays at about 70% because he doesn’t practice there all the time and he is tired because he starts at guard. But you also have a kid who’s a 5 out of 10, but practices every day at linebacker and plays at 100% because he has no offensive responsibility on Friday night. I would argue that your defensive is just as good and your team is way better off, especially from a morale and leadership standpoint, if you play the less talented kid.
Ok…I’m about to say something that is going to sound crazy to all you old school types and if you are a D coordinator you are probably going to hate this,but here we go… If you don’t believe that you can go Two-Platoon or if you are dealing with small numbers, I think the 80-20 rule still applies. If you want to be efficient and keep practice fun, your practice plan should be about 80% offense and about 20% defense. This is not because defense is not important, but simply because most defensive practice is inefficient.
Answer this truthfully: Does your scout team offense really give your defense a good look? In my experience, there is nothing more frustrating than defensive team period. The scout offense has 2 starters on it and they are trying to execute a scheme they have never practiced. It takes 3 minutes for the scout team coordinator to explain the scout card, which half of the guys are going to screw up any way. Even if they executed it perfectly, the third team O tackle can’t block the first team defensive end so after all that time the play ends with a loss of 6. This is the biggest waste of time in most practices but we all do it because it is what we were taught. Again, ask yourself: Why do you practice the way you practice? Is it because it is effective or because you have always done it that way? If you don’t have enough guys to go two-platoon, you don’t have enough guys to create a competitive offensive scout team. Scrap it! It’s a waste of time.
Instead, defensive practice should be drill focused. Practice creating turnovers. Practice tackling. Practice coverage. Teach your guys base rules about how to line up against different formations, and then do a short formation fit period based on your opponent’s scheme. If you want to scrimmage, let you second team offense line up and run your offense against your first team defense, or filter your first team defense in during the offensive team period. I’ll say it again: Run your offense, not your opponent’s. There isn’t enough time in the week to waste 30 minutes a day reading scout cards and trying to execute your opponent’s version of the Double Wing.
5) Practice Efficiency Tip #5 1 1/2 hours is long enough
I know this isn’t what you were taught and I know you think that your opponents are working harder and longer, but its not true. First of all, most 2 hour practices have at least 30 minutes of wasted time. Second, most of us are educators. We know that kids have short attention spans. If you go for 2 and a half hours, they aren’t listening to a lot of it. If kids know that practice will be done in and hour and a half, they will play harder and you will get more kids out for the team, which enables you to go two-platoon and have WR rotations and have up tempo practices and do all the things that we have been talking about. Go short and hard and them let them go home and do their homework and play video games. They are kids. They should be home for dinner!
Here is a 1:34 practice plan that accomplishes all the objectives that have been addressed:
If you are interested in more practice plans, click here
Pre-Practice – Kickers, Snappers, Holders, Returners
5 Minutes – Stretch/Warm Up
5 Minutes – Special Team (Kickoff Or kickoff Return)
9 Minutes -Tackling or Turnover Circuit
10 Minutes – Defensive Individual Period
10 Minutes – Formation Fit Period based on your opponent
(QB’s can warm up and do individual drills during this period)
10 Minutes – Offensive Individual Period
10 Minutes – Routes Against Air/Inside Run (Should run 30 plays)
15 Minutes – 7 on 7 / Pass Protection (Should run 35-45 plays)
5 Minutes – Team Screen Period (Should run 15 plays)
15 Minutes – Team Period (Should Run 35-45 plays. Punt every time you don’t get a first down)