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Managing Intensity, Concepts, and Fun

by Peri Kurshan

Practice planning can be daunting and it’s often hard to know where to start. It can be difficult to strike the right balance between fun and intense, learning and playing, covering everything and getting enough reps on any individual thing, etc. In my experience, it helps to have a broad, season-long outline from which to flesh out individual practices. This means having a rough idea of all the different strategies you want to cover in a season (specific offenses, specific defenses, fundamentals, etc), and making sure there are enough practices to cover everything (and if there aren’t, then to scale back your expectations of how much to cover in the season!). Keep in mind that you need to save a few practices at the end of the season for consolidation rather than learning new things. I’ve found that it’s better to cover fewer things and have everyone really on the same page than to try to cram too many offenses or defenses in. I usually try to cover no more than 1-2 concepts per practice (for a 4 hour practice- for a shorter practice scale it back to no more than 1). It’s also useful to have enough extra practices allocated for things that come up during the season, for example something you realize you need to work on after a tournament. 

Once you have your broad outline set, and you’ve decided what you’re going to be covering in a particular practice, then it’s time to plan out the details of how the practice will be run. On Brute Squad we start every practice with a nice long warm up routine (it gets cold in Boston, and we don’t want any preventable injuries at practice!), followed by a warm-up drill that involves throwing with lots of touches, and enough moving around to build on the warm-up. We then go right into a quick game to 3. The goal of this game is to immediately get people’s intensity up and get them into the practice mentality. Jumping right into a game gets people’s minds off of whatever else is going on in their lives and helps them focus on Ultimate. It’s also good practice for coming out strong, since there’s no time to come back from an early deficit! 

After the game to 3, it’s time to start introducing whatever concept we’re working on that day, whether it’s a 3 person cup zone defense, or a horizontal stack man offense, or maybe even just a focus on cutting fundamentals. Having a large white board to use to explain concepts is often helpful, but after you diagram it out, you may want to walk through it on the field as well. In any case, keep the talking portion of the practice to a minimum- this is most often where you’ll lose people’s focus if you tend to go on and on about things. Keeping things simple is often better than giving an exhaustive treatise on every aspect of what you’re discussing! 

Depending on what you’re working on, it’s usually helpful to try to break things down into minimal components, and then drill the individual components. For example, if we’re working on man defense, we might start out by doing a drill that just works on proper footwork and staying on the open side of your player. Then after a while we might incorporate adjustments you make once the disc is in the air. Basically, the more you can break things down, the easier it will be for people to incorporate what you’re trying to teach. And if each drill builds on the previous one, slowly putting the pieces together, your players will get to solidify their muscle memory for one action while adding another one. With all this drilling, you can see how one concept can end up taking up a large portion of a practice! 

Finally, you can only spend so much time drilling- it’s important to take things back to realistic, game situations. We usually end practice with focused scrimmages, in which we try to incorporate what we’ve learned that day either by forcing the defense to throw a particular D, or by adding incentives to the scrimmage (for example, if we were working on deep defense, we might use a 2-point line to encourage deep throws). Ending on a scrimmage also ensures that people get a chance to do what they’re really there to do- play and have fun! 

huddle issue031

Mon February 28th, 2011

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Practice Planning Musts
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Take Control of Your Practice
by John Korber

Managing Intensity, Concepts, and Fun
by Peri Kurshan

Getting More Out of the Practice Warm-Up
by Pat McCarthy

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