Practice Planning

There are three parts to this assignment. Describe how you would organize daily practice for the early season (prior to the first contest), mid-season (half of games completed) and post season (preparation for championship game.
Incorporate the XYZ situation into the six steps of instructional planning discussed in Chapter 9. Be sure to use your own words when defining how you would execute each step of the process in order to develop XYZ into a successful program.
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BOOK
Six Steps to Instructional Planning* 
As with building a puzzle, using a systematic approach can help you put together your season plan. After you have articulated your philosophy, you can begin planning for the season ahead by following a simple six-step procedure called “Six Steps to Instructional Planning”: 
Step 1: Identify the skills that your athletes need 
Step 2: Know your athletes 
Step 3: Analyze your situation 
Step 4: Establish priorities 
Step 5: Select the methods for teaching 
Step 6: Plan practices 
*Reprinted, by permission, from R. Martens, 2004, Successful Coaching, 3rd Ed. (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics), 237. 
Step 1: Identify the Skills That Your Athletes Need 
The first step in organizing the season plan is to identify the specific skills that the athletes must be able to execute for the team to be successful, as shown in column one of figure 9.1. This list of skills is based on the technical and tactical skills in this book as well as the information on communication and physical, character and mental skills from Successful Coaching, Third Edition. In the following steps, you will be examining the list of skills and adding others if necessary. Step 4 of the planning process will then explain further how you can put this list to work for yourself. 
Step 2: Know Your Athletes 
The next step in the planning process is to work with your coaching staff to refine the list of skills that you are planning to teach, based on an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses and ability of the athletes in your program. For example, assume that you want to run an option offense because you think that it creates strategic advantages on the field. Before installing this offense, you and your staff must evaluate the ability of the quarterbacks (both the starter and alternates) in your program to determine if they have the speed, quickness and decision-making ability to run an option offense effectively. 
As you learned previously, this evaluation takes place in many forms. You should study videotapes of the previous season’s games, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual athletes instead of analyzing schemes. The results of off-season testing for speed, strength and agility also provide useful information during this evaluation. Summer workouts, including weightlifting sessions as well as camps and passing leagues, also reveal the ability of the athletes who will be competing during the season. 
Using all this information, you and your coaching staff need to add or delete skills on the list that you began developing in step 1, based on the ability of the athletes in your program. 
Step 3: Analyze Your Situation 
As you prepare for the season, you must also weigh the external factors that will both guide and limit you. Budgetary issues and related fund-raising options will affect scheduling, training facilities, practice equipment and professional development opportunities. Administrative and community support will influence goal setting and expectations. Teaching loads and staffing structure regarding assistant coaches will set parameters for both off-season and in-season programming. Clearly, then, many factors influence your planning.
Step 4: Establish Priorities 
Steps 1, 2 and 3 of the six steps to planning describe general factors that provide an important base of information regarding your players and your program. Now in step 4, you must make a decision about where to start and how to progress in the teaching of skills. Refer back to figure 9.1 and notice the three columns under “Step 4.” You are asked to evaluate each essential skill based on two factors—teaching priority and the athletes’ readiness to learn. To assess the teaching priority, you must think of your overall scheme and plan for the season and, for each skill, ask yourself, “Is this a skill that I must, should or could teach?” Then, you must think about each skill and your athletes and ask yourself, “Are my athletes ready to learn this skill?” 
Take some time now to rate the skills on your form. These ratings will divide the skills into three groups. Skills that are A-rated are obviously priority skills that you must teach immediately and emphasize. Include B-rated skills in the planning process and teach them periodically. Finally, depending on the progress of the season and of the athletes, you can incorporate instruction for the C-rated skills. 
After you have finished your A, B and C ratings, you will want to create an installation schedule, as discussed in “Developing Installation Schedules,” to ensure that during the season you will teach all your A-rated skills, most of your B-rated skills and some of your C-rated skills.
Step 5: Select the Methods for Teaching 
Now that you have a complete installation schedule, you should go through the schedule and determine the methods that you will use in daily practices to teach the skills that you have decided are necessary to your team’s success. As you learned previously, the traditional approach to practice emphasizes technical skill development and usually involves using daily drills to teach skills, interspersed with group and team drills, whereas in the games approach, players learn to blend decision making with skill execution as you add the elements of pressure, competition and game-day nuance to the performance of essential skills. 
The traditional method might cover all the techniques of football adequately and may even cover most of the skills that players would typically use during games, but it does have at least two glaring shortcomings: First, traditional practice sessions by their very nature emphasize techniques at the expense of tactics, and, second, they involve too much direct instruction. Typically, a coach explains a skill, shows the players how they are to perform the skill and then sets up situations in which the players can learn the skill, without placing that skill in the context of game-day, tactical decision making. 
Recent educational research has shown that students who learn a skill in one setting, say the library, have difficulty performing it in another setting, like the classroom. Compare this finding to the common belief among coaches that today’s young players don’t have football sense, the basic knowledge of the game that players used to have. For years, coaches have been bemoaning the fact that players don’t react as well to game situations as they used to, blaming everything from video games to the increasing popularity of other sports. But external forces may not be entirely to blame for the decline in football logic. Bookstores offer dozens of drill books to help coaches teach the technical skills of football, and teams around the country practice those drills ad infinitum. If drills are so specific, numerous and clever, why aren’t players developing that elusive football sense? Perhaps just learning techniques and performing drill after drill creates not expertise but the ability to do drills. 
An alternative way to teach football skills is the games approach. As outlined in chapter 1, the games approach allows players to take responsibility for learning skills. A good analogy is to compare the games approach in sports to the holistic method of teaching writing. Traditional approaches to teaching students to write included doing sentence-writing exercises, identifying parts of speech and working with different types of paragraphs. After drilling students in these techniques, teachers assigned topics to write about. Teachers used this method of teaching for years. When graduating students could not write a competent essay or work application, educators began questioning the method and began to use a new approach, the holistic method. In the holistic method of teaching writing, students wrote compositions without learning parts of speech or sentence types or even ways to organize paragraphs. Teachers looked at the whole piece of writing and made suggestions for improvement from there, not worrying about spelling, grammar or punctuation unless it was germane. This method emphasized seeing the forest instead of the trees. 
This forest-versus-trees approach is applicable to teaching football skills as well. Instead of breaking down skills into their component parts and then waiting until game day for the athletes to put the pieces together, you can impart the whole skill to the team and then let the athletes discover how the parts relate. This method resembles what actually occurs in a game more than the traditional drill method does, and learning occurs at game speed. These latter two concepts are crucial to understanding the games approach. 
This method does not take you out of the equation; in fact, you must take a more active approach. You must shape the play of the athletes to get the desired results, focus their attention on the important techniques and components of the game and enhance the skill involved by attaching various challenges to the games played. 
You can use the games approach to teach almost any area of the game. For example, instead of having quarterbacks and receivers work endlessly on route timing drills and one-on-one drills against a defender, you can create games around pass routes and reads, and encourage competition. 
Step 6: Plan Practices 
At this stage you should sketch out a brief overview of what you want to accomplish during each practice for your season. You will pull all the information that you have gathered from the previous steps. Your installation schedules should also help you greatly at this stage in the process. 
Figure 9.4 shows a season plan for the games approach, using a 12-week season plan that includes a two-week period for postseason playoffs (for a sample traditional approach season plan, please refer to the Coaching Football Technical and Tactical Skills online course). Although this season plan was created in isolation, you can use it in your season planning. You may find that you are more comfortable teaching blocking using the traditional approach but that the games approach works best for teaching pass reads. Use these season plans as templates to help you to create the plan that works best for you and your team. 
In the sample season plan, you will notice that the first two weeks are completed. After the games begin in the season, the practice plans are more open ended so that you can focus on problems that may have occurred in past games and can develop practices according to your game plan (we will discuss this further in chapter 11). You will also notice that we have identified some technical and tactical skills that are important to teach during those later practices. Keep those skills in mind as you are further fine-tuning your practices during the season. The main objective of your practices at this point is to focus on your game plan, but as time permits you should fit in these key skills to help your players continue to learn throughout the season. Keep in mind that this season plan was based on the skills in the book rather than on an individual installation schedule. Although this season plan provides a good example, you should use your installation schedule and the information that you gained in the other five steps of the process to create a detailed plan tailored to your program. 
After you have developed your season plan, you can further refine individual practices. We will help you do that in the next chapter by showing you the components of a practice and providing a sample practice plan for the games approach.

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