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Parts of a Whole

by Shane Rubenfeld

Everything that happens at practice should be a building block and not an isolated event. You need to design practices behind a theme that's overtly stated to the whole team and repeated often throughout the day. Never let the participants lose track of the day's goal or remain unclear about the lesson at hand. Emphasizing concrete points of focus over the course of practice as well as the course of the season gives your players a measure of their progress, in addition to game-time tools. Here are five points to consider when drawing up and running practice: 

1) When you introduce a concept, tie it to your overarching offensive or defensive theme. Be clear about the exact actions to be performed, and under what conditions. Try to maintain consistency and keep clear delineation between 'system' -- your team's rules-- and exceptions to them. 

2) Avoid switching gears with no transitions. Don't switch suddenly from one practice point to another; if your two lessons don't relate somehow, you can probably save one for the next practice. 

3) Punish for lapses in the lesson of the day, not for every fault. A lot of teams run sprints or have other repercussions for turnovers, poor choices or other screw-ups. If your team employs such a system, be judicious about assigning them when you're stressing the lesson of the day. Sprints for drops when you're focusing on the cutting system or on breaking the mark will distract and waste minutes. Instead, how about sprints for the wrong cutting and clearing, or for getting broken? 

4) Scrimmage with intent. Don't just release the hounds after the teaching drill to go play ultimate. Mix up scrimmage rules in ways that keep the team focused on the lesson of the day: 7v0, half-field possessions, turnover limits with repulls, always starting the disc trapped on a sideline are all tweaks you can work in that will keep players trying to make each other better, and not just win an insignificant scrimmage. SIDE NOTE: Sprints are boring. Can you think of ways to ‘condition with intent’ in the same way? 

5) Review at end of practice. Challenge the players to mentally go over the lessons of the day. Again, when reviewing, place the lessons of the day into the larger strategic concept your team is trying to adopt. 

huddle issue031

Mon February 28th, 2011

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