Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baca's Mailbag

Today's mailbag question comes from a player/coach who has a lot on his plate--around 40 total players competing in a number of different divisions. They routinely practice 3 times a week though not everyone manages every practice. It also sounds like they focus a lot of their efforts around mastering gun skills. (Which isn't a bad thing.) The questions asked amounted to curiosity regarding how a pro team practices and a query for ideas on ways to mix things up and keep them fresh. I can't tell you how pro teams practice but I can tell you how my team practices. And I will include in this post as many links as I can find to past posts discussing specific practice-related routines.
Over the past three seasons our practices have changed from one year to the next. Partly because of ongoing player development and partly because of changes in the format--particularly this year. (This is also an issue with a large club-like group with skills and experience spanning beginners to upper division play.) What the majority needed then isn't what they need now. At first we needed to integrate our incoming experienced players with the core roster of inexperienced players while continuing to develop the inexperienced players. Our drills & practices focused on the critical skills, team building, learning to play together and at the same time individual time to focus on the differing weaknesses within the team. With a smaller group that isn't hard to do in practice--but it's impossible if there isn't an overarching vision or goal for the team. Players can be taught the fundamentals and they can be taught various roles that are part of the game but they can't be taught to be part of a team if that team doesn't have real direction, and it can't, unless there is a singular goal or vision. That goal or vision isn't only about what the team wants to achieve it is also, more importantly, about how the team will achieve it. (More in a minute. Or three.)
This year we are focusing on preparing for the format change--and continuing to inch closer to our vision. Our drill keys are laning off the break, running & gunning & edge control. (And again.) We are preparing for the new length PSP field & how the new layouts are likely to play--not by adjusting our style--but by doing the things we do well, better, faster and with even greater precision than in the past. At the same time it isn't all dull drills. Our practices tend to be progressive in that we go from the basic or simple and add degrees of complexity, building on the fundamental(s) we began the day with. By the end of a practice we have (hopefully) worked our fundamentals from drill to scrimmage in ways that reinforce the skill while placing it within the context of the play of the game.

Let me recommend a couple of things to teams large and small. A lot of teams struggle, not because they aren't competent or committed players, but because they don't really know what kind of team they are or want to be. They haven't evaluated their strengths and weaknesses and acted as a unified group. If you are working with a large or multi-team group the first thing that needs to be done is to understand what each team currently is and then make decisions about what sort of team the members want it to be or what sort of team best suits the players' skills & temperament. Everything else will flow from those decisions.
Let me also suggest the large group scenario may decide it's necessary to reduce the total number of practices in order to more effectively focus on the unique needs of the different teams and developmental level of such a large group of players.

Here's a number of different past posts on drills & practice routines. Laning OTB. Laning OTB 2. Gunning & Running. More Gunning & Running. Gunfighting. Not as many as I thought there'd be. Don't know how many I may have missed but there should be a few useful ideas in the batch.
Didn't care for that answer? Did it leave more questions than it responded to? You know where to find me.


sdawg said...

The gun fighting link is not found. Help! I have tournamens coming up.

Baca Loco said...


Anonymous said...

"A lot of teams struggle, not because they aren't competent or committed players, but because they don't really know what kind of team they are or want to be."

Can you clarify what you mean by "what kind of team"? Are there specific types of teams you have in mind?

What strengths and weaknesses would you attribute to each kind of team?

cc said...

I think that's a great line Anony...
"they don't really know what kind of team they are or want to be."

If you look at the games you win and lose without trying to think of yourself as a hero (when you win) and the other guys as cheaters (when you lose) you can start to see patterns. What was it that happened that led to your win (and loss)? Maybe you're better at reacting to mistakes they make, instead of creating openings of opportunity?

I know a lot of teams like to think of themselves as aggressive game breakers, that go out and dominate the field and fail when they can't. Other teams think they can just hold tight and lock down the field but their gun fighting skills are so miserable they get chewed up even (especially!) when they are "sitting".

Find out what your strengths are, improve them and play to them. Examine your weaknesses and try to limit the damage that can be caused there. But often I think teams fail when they try to turn their weakness into a strength. Of course, not sure what the Baca was thinking.

Baca Loco said...

cc does a good job of describing some of the consequences of a team not knowing who they are. It also manifests itself in other ways; things like incomplete plans "we made the fifties, why couldn't we close them out?" and post game or match arguments about who was supposed to fill what role or what priorities different roles assume.
At the end of the day all these sorts of things usually stem from a team not having a shared & unified understanding of how the team plays the game.
Of course it's not as simple as getting together and deciding as a group what sort of team you want to be--everyone also needs to understand what that means when it comes to actual on field play and how the various on field roles change depending on your chosen (or accepted) team identity.
I am not however suggesting that every successful team actively thinks about this situation the way I'm describing it--many don't, I'm sure--but they make up for it with strong leadership and a deep knowledge of the game ends up creating the needed unity and understanding by a different path. But every unsuccessful team is failing in this process somewhere along the line.

As to anon's query about types of teams I break it down into five types; aggressive, aggressive counterpuncher, counterpuncher, defensive counterpuncher & the defensive. Nowadays the purely defensive team is the rarest followed by the purely aggressive. Almost all competitive teams fall into one version of the counterpuncher or another. I'll describe them in more detail in a post later this week.

Gabriel said...

Thanks for the clarification.