The following information represents several different programs’ approaches for running a successful football program from top to bottom.
Approach to Practice
The first thing that is told to the student-athletes is that practice is the coach’s time; the intent is to work hard, be efficient, and simply get better. The games are for the players; this is the player’s opportunity to show their improvement and skill on the field. Practice is designed specifically to be efficient, challenging, and focused. The practice schedule will be broken down into five 30 minute segments with specific focus for each segment. The schedule is broken into 35 segments of five minutes each, which helps to keep the practice efficient and focused. Segments are intended to be broken up into short time frames so that there will be constant movement, instruction, and drill work. The quick pace of practice is ideal for student athletes and coaches because it helps differentiate instruction and allows players to remain focused due to the constant movement. This is also important because it allows for efficient movement from individual position period, into group period, and then a smooth transition into team period. Practice will begin each day with a team meeting in the film room where we begin with going over the practice agenda, word of the week, and focus for the day. There are times where the coaches will show a short video that helps emphasize our focus and word of the week. After our team meeting the players will break off into their positions to get detailed and specified instruction from their position coach. After film and instruction, the players will put on their pads, get a team breakdown, and head to the field to stretch.
Stretching before practice is intended to be focused and is taken very seriously in our program. Each coach will be placed strategically throughout the stretching line to ensure the players are stretching properly and at an intense level. Properly stretching is essential in injury prevention and also sets the tone mentally for an efficient and focused practice. Before each practice and game our team will use plyometric stretching technique which uses movement and is ideal for pre-workout performance. Saturdays after games we will use static stretching to relax the muscles and help the healing process after a long week of practice and an intense game Friday night.
Our first segment is working with our specialist. The kickers and punters will work with long snappers and holders while our return specialist will rotate working on fielding kicks and punts. While this is going on our gunners, jammers, and punt blockers will be working on specific drills to improve technique. The quarterbacks will be going through their throwing progression to get warmed up during this segment. The offensive line and defensive line will be also going through their pre-practice routine working on technique and warming up. After the individual segment of special teams is done the specialists will move into team segments to work on kickoff return, kick coverage, punt, punt return, punt block, and punt protection. The team segment will vary on each day depending on the emphasis and the scouting report for that week.
The next segment will be offense specific in which we start off with position specific individual instruction. The first thing we always will work on is footwork and technique. We feel as though footwork and technique is the most important aspect at any position which is why we will work on every day with every position. The last five minutes of indy each position will go over responsibilities in the playbook.
After the individual segment the offense will move into a group segment in which the quarterbacks will rotate between working on the passing game with WR’s and DB’s to working on the running game with the OL and RB’s. During this segment the focus will be on carrying over the footwork and technique that was worked on in the individual segment along with executing responsibilities on each play. It should be noted that although this segment is emphasizing offense, the defensive players will also be going through individual instruction, working on technique, and executing their responsibilities on each play.
The final portion of the offensive segment will be focused on executing plays by coming together as a whole team. This will give the 1st team offense an opportunity to go against the 1st team defense and also give the 2nd team players, offense and defense, an opportunity to improve as well. The team portion will be live drill with the defense “fitting” the tackle; we do not want full contact tackling. We always finish our offense segment off by working on PATs and field goals, while also working on PAT and field goal block.
The last segment of practice is always our defensive focused segment in which is ran much like the offensive segment. The players will break off into individual instruction, move into group, and finish off with a team segment. The offense will also be going through indy, group, and team; however, the difference is that this segment is designed to be focused on defense. It should be noted that while during the team period of the offensive focused segment the scout team will give defensive looks of the opponent of that week and during the team period of the defensive focused segment the scout team will give offensive looks of the opponent of that week. The team portion will be a mix of scouting our opponent and going “best” on “best.
The end of practice is designed to do two things: Work on “unique” situations such as Hail Mary’s, two-minute offense/defense, victory formation, etc. We then finish practice every day by spotlighting players that have demonstrated the word of the week. For instance, if the word of the week is effort we will spot light a player(s) who had shown great effort in practice for that day. The goal of each practice is to work hard, be efficient, be intense, give constant instruction, and improve in each segment. Practice is designed to have constant movement and instruction for all athletes, we want to limit players from standing around. A properly planned and executed practice is essential to build and maintain a successful program. Furthermore, a properly planned and executed practice will maximize player improvement and minimize behavior issues. Our program will continue to emphasize the importance of a focused and properly executed stretch and we will continue to make adjustment when needed to ensure that our practices are structured with an emphasis on maximizes each minute for player development. We are also committed to developing and maintaining a positive and safe learning environment for every athlete, this includes keeping players properly hydrated throughout practice.
More important than any game strategy or fundamental technique ideology is the quality of the practice session. Practice sessions must be meaningful, fast-paced, and efficient. We want to accomplish as much as possible in the short amount of time we have. We do this through careful preparation and planning, enthusiasm throughout the session, and “coaching on- the-fly.” If we have 150 minutes to practice, we want to spend as much of those 150 minutes practicing as possible. Water breaks occur after reps. Bottles and water cows are always available. Critiques from coaches occur during natural breaks between reps. We do not stop practice to explain something unless absolutely necessary.
Student to Student Interaction: Just as we have a limited amount of practice time, we have a limited number of coaches. Therefore, players must assist the coaches in the following ways: 1. Players are enthusiastic in drills and support their teammates vocally. 2. Players offer drill explanation during natural breaks between/during reps. Players should not critique the quality of their teammates’ performance. Rather they should point out tips on proper completion of the drill/reinforcement of teaching points. 3. Players jump in on reps and hold each other accountable. Older players will help coaches establish a rotation on scout teams.
Student to Coach Interaction: Student/coach interaction during practice should be limited to asking for clarification when necessary, and responding to questions when prompted. Players need to recognize the short amount of time available to the coach and should allow him to use the time as he sees fit. Suggestions or comments should be tabled until after practice at an appropriate time and place. Players should not attempt to tell a coach what he saw, unless asked for input. Such communication detracts from the efficiency of a practice.
Teaching Methods: Drills should be designed by each position coach to maximize the time available. When planning, consideration should be made to get the greatest number of players the maximum amount of repetitions. Standing in line should be minimized. Explanation should be minimized. Drills should be named for ease of setup. Any necessary equipment should be available and set up prior to the drill segment beginning. Coaches should use team managers to accomplish this.
Drills should be fast-paced. We need to get our conditioning in during our drills. When practice is over, practice is over. We do not extend practice to run sprints. Our conditioning must come from 150 minutes of hard, full-speed practice. Live drills are kept to a minimum to avoid injury. Full-speed practice means full-speed to the ball… not through the ball.
Formative Assessments: Coaches should constantly be checking for understanding of concepts and mastery of skills throughout drills and practice sessions. Checking for understanding should be performed “on-the-fly.” Mastery of skills can be observed by the coach. Any concept or skills the coach identifies as needing re-teaching or reinforcement will be recorded by a team manager. The coach will then have the opportunity to incorporate reviews into video teaching sessions and/or future practices.
Summative Assessments: As coaches, we have the luxury of weekly games to serve as evaluative tools. Following each week’s game, the position coach will establish grades based on points of emphasis from the previous week of practice. Players will only be graded on 1) points of emphasis from the week and 2) in-game effort. Coaches will use these assessments to plan the following week’s practice segments. Coaches should plan to continue to emphasize points until an acceptable level (determined by the coach) of mastery has been reached. Additional points of emphasis may be added, but no more than three points of emphasis should be incorporated into any one week.
Practice Organization: The daily practice will be organized into between 24-30 5-minute segments, depending on the time of year and whether 6th period was used for weight training. The horn for each segment will be strictly adhered to for the following reasons: 1. We have multiple concepts and skills that need to be addressed in each practice session. 2. We will do everything in our power to get to all of them. 3. The segments keep practice moving at an efficient pace. 4. As the segment clock progresses, coaches are provided instructional time feedback. As a coach is notified he is on his final segment of a three-segment teaching period, he knows he needs to move on to his final concepts if necessary. 5. Five minute segment breakdowns provide coaches with a real indication of how long drills take to accomplish effectively. Since we are constantly revisiting our drills, the log of past practices will give us an idea of which drill period need to be extended and which periods can be cut down.