You don’t need a PhD from MIT to make sense of that. Basically, if you want to compete like a champion you need to practice like one.
Sounds simple. Well, not really.
The tricky part of practicing like a champion is creating a champion practice environment for the athlete.
The Investment Of Practice
In my sport (rowing) we invest approximately 20 hours of practice for each race. Those races are usually 7 minutes long. Using my handy-dandy calculator, (and sparing you some math) that’s roughly 100 minutes of practice for every minute of racing.
A big investment, and because of that investment, I consider myself a practice coach. On top of that, once a race begins, I am not allowed to coach my team in any manner. That puts an added focus on investing in my practices.
Following is the abbreviated story on how I invest in, and create, effective practices well before they ever happen. Lets use an April practice as an example.
A. 1 Year Out
Getting the right people in the right place at the right time is a continuous adventure for coaches. It comes down to recruiting the right people. Recruiting never stops.
It. Never. Stops.
I recruit athletes, and fellow coaches, and help from others, and ideas, and brain storms, and … and … and …
Get the drift? That year before a practice occurs is time to bring things together. Gather. R-e-c-r-u-i-t-!
B. 9 Months Out
In Division III, our playing season is 19 weeks. This includes the non-traditional and traditional seasons. 9 months before the practice I’m deciding the global plan.
Dividing up the 19 weeks, especially when they start, and where our contests are. Additionally, I focus on the equipment (rowing is one of the most equipment-intensive sports around), making sure we have what we need.
C. 3 Months Out
Our typical spring season is 3-months long, and at the beginning of the season I work up a macro-plan. This includes:
- training goals
- selection process
- contest dates
- breaks (rest is highly under-rated)
- travel plans (hotel reservations, event entries)
D. 3 Weeks Out
Now comes the micro plan. We work in three-week cycles of intensity levels. In the cycle:
- Week 1 is easy
- Week 2 is moderate
- Week 3 is hard
Then we reset, with week 4 being easy, but slightly harder than the previous week 1.
E. 1 Week Out
At the beginning of each week I send out a communication to the team, coaches, and those who-need-to-know. This includes our schedule for the week, along with a mental focus, and any issues/conflicts/events that need to have people’s attention. I call it This Week In Women’s Rowing.
That simple email message has proven itself time and again to be one of the best communications I do. It gives people a chance to respond with conflicts, additions, or things I have forgotten.
F. 24 Hours Before
I review the upcoming daily plan, looking how to make it more effective. Also, knowing Wednesday’s practice plan on Tuesday helps me use Tuesday’s practice to prepare.
For instance, if I know Wednesday’s practice will include a new drill, I might introduce that drill on Tuesday. Or send out video relating to what we will be focusing on the upcoming day.
G. 4 Hours Out
A few hours before practice, the list is simple:
- workout category
- weather check
- go/no-go list from trainer
- lineups and specific practice plan
I put these up on a shared Evernote notebooks, to bring the other coaches up-to-date.
H. 30 Minutes Out
A final weather check weather, communicate with other coaches, and off to practice.
I. Zero Hour
With the hour upon us, here’s a typical practice:
- Quick talk – to set the theme of practice
- Pre-motion – dynamic stretching
- Equipment prep – athletes get their gear ready
- Launch of shells – teams onto the water
- Drills and warm up – practice tempo begins slow and gradually increases
- Workout – here’s where the good stuff happens
- Warm down – giving athletes time to cool down
- Return from water – equipment put away
- Discussion – if warranted
- Posting of video – we use Ubersense so athletes can view video at their leisure
- Practice over
Not all those actions happen every practice. Some things may slide in or out, especially due to the weather, but those 10 steps are typical.
Actions You Can (and should) Take
Are there ways you can improve your practice planning? I’ll guess there are, because we all can do a better job. Try this experiment:
- Take a practice well into the future (a season or year away)
- Write down what you are doing today to make that a champion practice
- Take a practice closer, say … one week away
- Record what you are doing for that practice
- Now review your system
Does your system work? Are you creating a champion environment for your athletes and coaches? If not, connect with your mentor, and get the brain-power fired up!
That’s A Wrap
As you can see, lots of steps and planning go into creating an effective practice, and being effective at coaching sports. How do you prepare yourself, and them for champion producing practices? Drop me a note, I’d love to know (and learn).