Friday, October 18, 2013

Planning Practice

All leagues have different ways that they handle practice planning; some leagues have coaches who
can come to all of the practices and run things.  Other leagues have to fill in when the coaches can't make it, so they might have skater coaches or skaters who take turns designing and running practices.  If you find yourself in charge of crafting an amazing practice, then read on McDuff, and maybe the next practice you get to plan will be even more amazing.

Plan for it.
Seat of the pants practice planning never is a good idea....ever. So many people roll up to practice with a general idea of what they're going to do, but don't really have the details down. Have a game plan before you show up for practice! When I plan a practice, I make sure I have all of my ducks in a row, and that the practice plan makes sense.
  • Do I have a clear objective?  
  • Do I want this practice to focus on blocking, jamming, strategy, or footwork?  
  • Am I combining one or two of those ideas?
  • Are the drills I have planned good for the skill level of the group? Am I planning to teach newbies, or is this a plan for advanced skaters?
  • Do I have all of the equipment I need for this practice?  Do I have cones, jammer panties, tape, whatever? Do I have a stop watch? How about a whistle? You'd think these are duh-hee questions, but so many people lead practice without thinking about them.
It's important to have a warm up that preps people for the task at hand, and is fun to boot.  Think about the warm up as pregaming for the rest of practice.  If you can get them thinking about moving their bodies the way you want them to, or the footwork you need them to rely on later, then you're already ahead of the game when it comes to introducing the actual drill!
Think about what your league needs, and not what you want to do.
Are you amazing at toe stop work?  Great! Run a clinic on that, but if your league is struggling with plow stops and walling up, then your amazing toe stoppage needs to be put on the back burner for a while. If you're being entrusted to plan a practice, then really take your audience into account.  What would benefit them the most?

Do your drills build on themselves? 
Do your drills make sense together?  Random drills jumbled together for no reason other than you thought of them the night before don't make for an optimal practice.  Can you scale your drills to bridge the difference between player levels if you need to? 

Can you explain the drill well?
Explain the drill, now do it again, and again.  Are you sure you really know what the drill is supposed to look like? People need to be given input in different ways, and sometimes it takes more than one way of explaining things for people to get it.  Do you have people there who can help demonstrate the drill?  Can you slow the explanation down so some of your less experienced teammates can grasp the finer points?

Are you keeping the drills on track? (Haha, see what I did there?)
Part of running a practice is making sure that the "practicees" don't run off with your drill.  You know derby girls have approximately seven minutes of attention span at a time; if you leave people without supervision, they're going to change the drill, slack off, or get bored.  People need feedback.  If you're running a practice, you need to really need to be engaged as a coach.  Being a part of the drill really isn't the best way to have a successful practice, and that sucks if you're leading that practice. Tough!  Sometimes we all have to bite the bullet and sacrifice for the league.  Keep people on task and doing the drill with good feedback; you can participate in the drills when you're not running practice.

Are you over prepared?
When I was a teacher, I always made sure I had a ton of activities for each lesson plan I created; yes, I basically planned for an hour and a half class when in reality I only had maybe 55 minutes to teach each period.  You should do the same for practice. Overplan!  You need to be over ready for anything!  Sometimes drills go faster than you think, so always be ready.

Give people feedback, and expect feedback in kind.
You need to be able to give people feedback during and after your practice. Most of this feedback should concentrate on the improvements people are making in general.  Also, you should seek feedback after you lead a practice.  People may murmur "good job" at you directly after practice, but you should try to follow up with more formalized feedback.  It's always good to try to send an anonymous survey out the next day.  Because it's anonymous, you might get some feedback you don't love, but squash that hurt "feeling" and figure out how you can improve your next time leading practice!


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