Friday, August 3, 2012

Derby Pet Peeves: How to Run a Good Drill

One comment I got over and over when I asked about derby pet peeves was the fact that people didn't give a new drill enough of a chance in practice.  Sometimes people are just negative and not in the mood to cooperate, but sometimes, it's how the drill has been presented to the team.  If you are a coach, captain, skater coach, or someone who just runs practices from time to time (which could be anyone!), please read this and see if you are sabotaging your drill even before you present it to your team.

Introducing a new drill takes a lot of prep work; if you are one of those people who comes up with a brilliant thought in the car and hasn't really taken the time to think it through, maybe tonight's practice isn't the time to spring it on the team.  Talk to the teachers in your league, and they'll probably tell you that planning a lesson takes time and forethought.  Ask yourself some questions about your drill.

-What do you need for your drill?  Do you need cones, blocking pads, panties?  Will you need people in different colored shirts?  Do you need someone to time the drill?  Do you need a whistle?  Nothing sucks worse than starting a drill and then realizing you don't have a key piece of equipment!

-How many people can realistically do the drill at the same time?  If the drill only can occupy five people at a time on the track, and you have a league of 60 or so, you're going to have a lot of people standing around and therefor losing focus. You can't get pissed at people for talking and getting distracted if they're loitering around for a while.  If you're really savvy, you'll have an alternate drill going on (if you have the room). Another good way to keep people engaged is to have one group give feedback to the group that was just on the track.  This can help people stay focused when they are waiting to engage in the drill.

-Do you really understand the drill?  A lot of peeps are coming back from Rollercon with notebooks crammed full of drill ideas, which is totally awesome, but sometimes, drills get lost in translation.  Make sure you really understand how the drill was run, and why it was so successful! 

-How long do you think the drill should last?  Generally, on a good day, people invest about 15-20 minutes of focused attention to a drill, and then their attention span starts to wander.  Now, factor in standing around time, practices that come after a full day of work, and the emotional temperature of the league.  Sometimes you will be lucky to keep people focused for ten minutes, and sometimes you can get more out of them.  Look to refocus the team when you see the signs of restlessness. 

-Can you expand the drill by adding more of a challenge to it?  If the team catches on to the basics of the drill, can you up the ante and keep them interested in it by adding a challenge to it?  If you're working on a defensive drill, and they've mastered the basics, can you add an offensive player? 

-Do you have a follow up drill that reinforces the same idea?  You will be a master coach if you can theme your practices!  If you can help keep the team focused on the larger goal, such as "aggressive offense" by giving them different drills that reinforce the same idea, you will be doing your league a favor.  If you're just throwing several concepts at them, like footwork, endurance, offense, and walling up, are they going to retain the basic theme of the drill?  Probably not.

-What does the drill look like when it's done successfully?  Did you effectively demonstrate the drill?  If you can have people who understand the drill demonstrate it, that would be great.  That way you could talk it through while they demonstrate it.

-Do you know what you want to be the final objective?  Good question, do you know what behavior you want to see while they are practicing?  Do the team members understand what the goal is?  What kind of behavior do you want to see after the team has run the drill? Sometimes people change the drill's objective when you aren't paying attention; if the drill is to improve a jammer's footwork, and the blockers take over the drill, you need to remind the team that everyone will get a chance to be the "star" in the drill and everyone needs to play his or her part at the time.

-Is this drill teaching any bad habits? Sometimes a drill has unintended consequences.  Are you reinforcing the wrong thing?  An example of this could be letting people cut the track because the drill slows down too much when they stop to come in behind a blocker?  Make sure the good habits outweigh the bad ones.

-Were your directions clear?  We all think we're great at explaining things until we actually do it. Sometimes it helps to have the people you just explained the drill to explain it back to you, that way you can see if any miscommunication happened.  Also, hearing the directions twice can help some people absorb the information better.

Finally, remember that not every drill is going to run perfectly.  Take the time to keep track of which drills had the most success and why?  Ask for feedback AFTER the practice, when people have had time to reflect, and so have you.  Trying to do your best for the league is awesome and it's ok not to have a stellar practice each and every time.  You can only plan for so much, but planning is the beginning of designing great drills.

Now go and thank your coach for being awesome.

And always have a sense of humor. A sense of humor is the most important thing you can bring to practice! Photo by A Boy Named Tsunami

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy your blog, Q! It's funny how people can say they want to get better and resist change at the same time!