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.