Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Practice Planning using Game Preparation

I was speaking with some coaching colleagues the other night about some of the best ways to practice plan according to your game day timetable.  A few of us had watched a youth practice that was close-to, if not the easiest practice we had ever seen, and had wondered if that coach had done any kind of plan beforehand or had set goals for his practice according to his upcoming game schedule.

Here are some of the ways I try to structure practice planning once the season starts.-

1) Using the calendar to determine difficulty-  Unless I am rewarding the team for a job well done, I will make the furthest practice away from our next game the most difficult.  Typically called a "Battle Day", I will focus on 1 on 1's, 2 on 2's,  3 on 2's, and Defensive Zone concepts.  In my opinion this is where everything starts, and you should layer concepts on top of this foundation.

2) Progressing Skills within a practice-  The warmup will either be an individual or partner skill, and I will progress the difficulty of drills up throughout the course of the practice session.

3) Uptempo Days- These days occur after the Battle days, and attempt to ramp up the speed to game-like conditions.  Drills will include a lot of combo passing, breakouts and regroups.

4) Detail Days-  Focusing on Power Play, Penalty Kill and Systems work, the day right before a game, to me, are "detail" days that attempt to drill down into the systemic problems we may be having or highlighting areas that we can exploit in our opponents.

Other concepts-

* Meetings & Film-  Meetings should always have a desired outcome, and in my experience the more direct the better.  Kids get off topic easily, so keeping these short and to the point have traditionally had the best results for me.  It's better to have 2- 5 minute meetings about 2 unrelated topics than try to cram both topics into one meeting, as kids usually won't take away multiple topics.  Additionally, I am a big proponent of film study, and find better results are achieved by doing it this way as well.  Instead of watching a whole game, I'll take clips of just our d-zone faceoff or clips of just our forecheck, and focus a meeting on those items.  This may take a little longer, but a team will have a deeper understanding of the system in the long run.

* Splits- I try to use my help as much and as often as possible.  Assistant coaches are great assets, so split your group up into goalie, defense and forward groups and focus 10 minutes of a given practice on details for that specific position.  It empowers the coach, and drills down for the players in greater detail.

* Conditioning between drills- I've used sideboards, hardlaps, burpees, board jumps, suicides and small circles between drills to enhance my teams conditioning.  I've found that it's best to explain what you want your team to do in this area BEFORE you get on the ice and then give them the whistle or word command, so that they know ahead of time.  Keep it fresh and build it up, instead of gassing them all for 10 minutes at the end of practice.  A great deal of conditioning can be done off-ice as well.

* Lack of focus... COMPETE!- When a drill is lagging or the pace or attention span for a team is off, I will quickly end a drill and make it a battle or compete drill such as 2 v2 in corner or net battles.  I'd rather have 2 minutes of screw ups than 20, and most of the time words can not relay to the team what the coach is seeing in this regard.  Make them immediately accountable!

Here are some other Practice Planning Ideas-