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Deliberate Practice

Practice Design

Lately I’ve been working with coaches on practice design.

They want to know how to make the most of the time they’re given.

For more efficient and effective practices, start with the advice I heard legendary high school basketball coach Bobby Hurley give at a clinic last year in Iowa. “Write down your practice, and then follow what you write.”

It’s a variation of the old saying, “Plan your work and work your plan.”

Having a blueprint definitely makes all the difference. But the key is not so much the blueprint itself; it’s what goes into making the blueprint. Specifically, writing your practice plan helps you to focus on these questions:

— Is what I’m doing the right thing?
— What exactly am I trying to accomplish with this drill?
— Is it worth the time I’ve set aside for it?

Too many coaches fill their practice time with drills they’ve picked up here and there, with no thought to exactly what these drills are supposed to accomplish. As a result, the coaches don’t know what to watch for and they don’t know where to focus their feedback.

Let’s say you’re coaching basketball, and your drill is designed to work on footwork to get you to a certain spot. When you run the drill, give feedback on the footwork! It sounds so simple, but many coaches run footwork drills and then give feedback on the shot or the pass.

Last night I worked with a coach who had this scattershot approach to feedback. She put in a footwork drill, then commented on everything but the footwork. Not only was her feedback scattershot, but it was mostly negative.

We changed it by focusing on the feet. And we limited to feedback to praising the athletes who did it right. Soon all the players had a picture of what we wanted. When they began to improve their footwork, their overall performance improved.
So, to summarize, when you write up your practices, understand why you are doing what you’re doing. Then give feedback on it. You will be amazed at the results.


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