Saturday, December 29, 2012

Practice Planning and Reflection

One thing is for sure: if a practice doesn't go well, it's the coach's problem.  How do you fix it?

“Wisdom comes from reflection.”
― Deborah Day, BE HAPPY NOW! 

Regardless of how busy I am before training, I always find a way to have something written on paper for that session.  Most times it's a very formal plan, other times it's scribbling and doodles and lines.  But I always have something to refer to.

Can I run a session without a written plan?  Of course.  But that's not very smart.  In the chaos that sometimes develops from the presence of a group of youngsters, you can easily forget your sequence or to include coaching points along the way.  I always have my paper tucked into the waist of my shorts ready, if/when I need it.

My plans are simple.  At minimum:
  • Type of session (technical/small sided game/GAG/phase of play/11v11/etc)
  • theme
  • draw a quick sketch of the organization
  • equipment required (balls, cones, pinnies, etc)
  • list possible progressions
  • list key factors/coaching points
  • list possible detours if something is not available (players/equipment/space).  This is called "thinking on your feet", but it's easier if you have ideas already.
  • action points from the reflection of previous session
Coaches will have their personal preferences as to how they prepare for training, but something tangible, in writing, is a must.  And it has to be on the coach while they are on the field.  Leaving it in your bag is half a job.

Here are some links to sample practice plan templates:

After training you want to perform some form of personal reflection.  These are some questions to ask yourself:
  • How was your mood?
  • Did you look and sound like a coach?
  • What went wrong?
  • What went right?
  • Was the session enjoyable for you and the players?  Why?  Why not? 
  • Did the players improve?  Did the team improve?
  • What could/would you change?
  • How will your observations today affect your next session?
For me, I know how I feel after a good session and that's the feeling I want during the drive home.  When I don't feel right,  I look inward to find out why and work to fix it next session.   If I have a good session I work to build on it next time.

Reflection is not an option if you're looking to improve as a coach.   Honest reflection is your biggest tool in running a continuously improving program.  Create action points from your reflections to help plan your next session.