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Full Focus, Full Effort

by Greg Husak

When planning a practice, it is important to think about the personnel and goals of a practice. For instance, a fall practice for a college team is going to have very different objectives than a fall practice for an elite open team. The college team might be trying to have a lot of fun to "set the hook" with new players and give a lot of reps to players still learning the game, while an elite team is tuning up for the peak of their season and should be focusing on consistent execution of skills. Recognizing the goals of a practice is critical in its design. This brief article will focus more on elite practices. 

Early in my ultimate career I was exposed to high level college and pro football practices. One of the things that I was most surprised by was that the players were only on the field for two hours. I was used to ultimate practices which went no less than three hours, and I figured top athletes were doing the same thing. However, in those two hours of a football practice there was more attention to detail, the movements were more scripted and the overall focus was very different than my experience with ultimate practices. In short, football players seemed to be getting more out of a two hour practice than we got out of three. 

This got me thinking more about designing practices for top-level teams. Rather than doing a drill for a mind-numbing number of repetitions at a continuous energy level that prevented execution at 100% speed, what if we did two drills, but only did 6 reps of each drill, and did each rep at 100% speed with some rest in between? The effects seemed to be very positive. The team was much more focused, and it seemed that there were no wasted reps. Further, the movements and timing of drills simulated actual play more closely than the old version. 

Some of the things that were required in order to get this focus and buy-in to this "new" style was a more thorough planning of the practice, development of new, stimulating drills, and finally talking to the team at the start and letting them know which drills would be done, when we would rest, and a general flow of the practice. When players saw that there was a clear plan, with a focus on particular skills, they were responsive to this change and the overall level of intensity at practice improved. 

Finally, we got away from a mindset that a practice that lasted less than three hours didn’t fully accomplish something. If the team could meet the objectives in two-and-a-half hours, then we didn’t need to practice longer. Incidentally, playing with full focus and full effort typically left players feeling equally exhausted after a practice that wasn’t as long as before. Overall, we were able to accomplish as much or more, in a shorter time, and at a level of play and focus that stimulated what was required on the field during competition.

huddle issue031

Mon February 28th, 2011

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