TJ Buchanan | @usltjbuchanan
“Practice, in order to be effective, must be meticulously organized. Otherwise it’s no different than kids running around on the playground at recess.”
– John Wooden
For most coaches, practice time is limited. You may only have a few days a week and 1-2 hours on each of those days. How you use this time is very important to the success of your team on game day. Here are four ideas for organizing your practices:
- Have a plan.
Prior to the season, sit down with your assistant coaches and really think through what it is you want to accomplish. I always like to start with these questions:
- What do my players need to know by the first game?
- What will we need to do in the week before that game?
- What will we need to do the week before that?
- Determine how you will use the space you have available.
I’ve seen a lot of field space go to waste with kids only running drills in a small area. Ask yourself: Can I set up more than one station of a drill to allow kids twice as many reps in the same amount of time?
Another thought to factor in is what kids you want in specific drills—either together as an offensive or defensive unit or at different locations on the field—to allow you to focus on coaching specifically what each player needs. It’s difficult to keep track of what each kid needs to be coached through when you have your entire team in the same drill. If you split the group up and talk with your assistant coaches, players tend to get more personalized attention.
- Determine what drills you will use.
Each drill should have a purpose that relates back to your offense, defense, transition game, etc. While running any drill can help with skill development, try to be deliberate in using and modifying drills to meet your goals. For example, if you are going to spend time on shooting, use a drill that mimics the part of your offense that results in the shot. If you’re doing passing and catching drills, use or create drills that would be realistic to getting your offense working, or maybe even your clearing scheme. Thinking through the drills and their purpose will cut down on the amount of time you need to “teach” things like team offense and clearing.
This past weekend at the US Lacrosse National Convention, Gettysburg coach Dan Sharbaugh and I presented on the 2-2-2 offense for the men’s game. We never actually taught an offense in the traditional sense, but rather used a progressive series of drills that mimicked parts of the offense. In one hour, in front of more than 200 coaches, we took nine players who we had never coached before and had them running a team offense. This session, along with many others on effectively teaching lacrosse concepts, will be available for free to 2014 Convention attendees in The Vault in the upcoming weeks.
- “Adjust we must”
Even the best-planned practice sometimes fails. Don’t be afraid to stop a drill short if it isn’t working or to extend it longer if the kids are having fun and finding success. You can’t control things like players missing practice or bad weather cutting your day short. It’s okay to move something to another day when the right personnel is available or to scrap a less important drill to save time because you have to end practice early.
Photo Credit: John Strohsacker
US Lacrosse has developed the Mobile Coach app, which contains more than 200 boys’ and girls’ drills. The app allows you to organize drills into a practice plan, which you can keep with you on your smart phone. Visit our coaching resources pages to help you plan age-appropriate practices.