Coaching Football's "Little Things"

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Archive for July, 2021

Preseason Practice Planning

Posted by admin July - 19 - 2021 - Monday 1 COMMENT

I apologize for not writing as frequently. My family covets your prayers. My sweet wife is battling cancer and I am her primary caregiver. It is a joy to serve her but it takes up a lot of time. She’s napping right now… so I thought I’d share something that’s been on my mind.

As preseason practice will be starting up soon, I hope that those of you who are responsible for putting together practice plans for your team are using the Principles of Learning that (any of you who are teachers) were taught in basic Education classes in college. Just as you make up Lesson Plans for your students, you need to work up “lesson plans” for your players. The same concept is involved and is most effective in promoting learning of the skills and assignments that football players must learn.

There is way too much to share here in one post. Let me focus on a key point that I think will help guide you as your develop your practice plans. It’s a point that several coaches have emailed me about in the last few years. That point involves the installation of plays. How fast? How slow? How many? and When? I think this concept that I’m going to share can help you answer all of those questions!

I will take the Offense as my example. I developed the idea that there are 3 phases to getting an Offensive play to the point where you feel good about using it in a game. Those 3 phases are: 1- INTRODUCTION; 2- INSTALLATION; 3- PERFECTION! Let’s look briefly at each:

1- INTRODUCTION. When you “introduce” something, you are merely presenting the “first appearance” of (in this case) a play. You are simply making the play “known” to the players. I believe that you can make a LOT of “Introductions” to your players in a short amount of time. We used to “cram” all of our Offense into the first 3 days of practice— since, in Virginia, you can’t wear pads anyway. I wanted the players to “become familiar” with a play… not be able to execute even close to the level we expected by the season opener. For some of the kids, this caused their “head to spin!” I would remind them that this is just an introduction. You will get to know these plays better when we start “Installing” them. When we started back on Phase 2, a player can say to himself: “Oh. We were introduced to this play last week!”

2- INSTALLATION. Now you start real “rehearsals.” Introduction was just a “walk through.” Now in Phase 2, coaches really begin to emphasize technique and memorization of assignments or rules. The more reps the better. However… it is imperative that with each repetition that the players execution it properly. If they make a mistake, correct it. If they perform well, praise them! *Principles of Learning!

3- PERFECTION. Nothing will ever be “perfect” but… it’s something to shoot for! We always expected a high level of execution. I shared with a coach recently that one of the keys to our consistent success over a 15-20 year career was that I “expected” them to strive for flawless execution. In Team period, if an assignment was blown, we stopped everything and “fixed” it! There is no sense in moving on to a new play IF the old one isn’t performed well. *Principle of Learning: Immediate Reinforcement. Think about it: you wouldn’t hand a quiz paper back to a student with a grade on it but not tell him which questions he got wrong, would you? I certainly hope not! I’d rather run 10 plays correctly than 20 plays with 1/2 of them executed poorly… and NOT corrected! We emphasized: Know Your Assignment and Execute it FLAWLESSLY! and Protect the Ball At ALL Costs! Rarely in my 33 years as a Head Coach did we have a game where there was more than 1 fumble. Most games, we had no fumbles at all. Why? Because we emphasized it. The closest I came to “punishing” a player was on Monday’s during Individual Period. I was the Running Back coach. If a player fumbled on Friday night, he got to do “Coach J’s Fumble Drill” on Monday— in front of all of his teammates. Let it suffice to say that doing my Fumble Drill was not fun! Challenge your players to strive for flawless execution. When they do, reward them! “If you want a behavior repeated, reward it!” *Principle of Learning!

I hope this helps you as you formulate your preseason practice plans!