Hall of Fame lacrosse coach Bill Tierney firmly believes that coaches who are more organized with their practices are far more effective overall. When it comes to establishing practice plans, Tierney likes to break things down into four different areas; from a seasonal, preseason, weekly and daily standpoint.
Season Practice Plans
Your season practice plans should include long-range goals, personnel issues and “What If’s” such as injuries, weather and changes in opponents. Consider looking at your schedule and examining it, too. Mark down your definite wins, probable losses and question mark games.
Also, be sure to set realistic goals for your program. Is it a rebuilding year or a competitive season? As for Tierney, the current Denver head coach prefers to shoot for the moon and set goals high, even if he has a young team. Also, assess things to see how you can change some of those losses and turn the question mark games into wins.
And finally, predict what is happening with your players, from the stars to the kids that mature, to the kids who come out of the woodwork and to your practice guys.
Preseason Practice Plans
Consider setting goals by making a monthly calendar. Start from the back with the first game of the season as the goal. This is the time to work on things like conditioning. It’s really important that the players are in shape and ready for that first game. But remember, don’t over do it. This is also a time for teaching, from incorporating drills for riding and clearing, to implementing plays for man-up and man-down offense and defense.
Meanwhile, the preseason is a big evaluation period and be sure to include this in your practice plan. Coaches should mix things up and move around to best evaluate their players. It’s critical that players feel that they are being evaluated in a fair way. Play a lot of people in practice and scrimmages. It’s important that players feel that they are contributing, especially early on. You can also find out how certain players handle pressure. Don’t forget to allow younger players to compete for any recent vacancies, too.
Overall, the goals remain for everybody to improve and get better, and that includes the coaching staff.
Finally, keep in mind the reminder of time before the season opener. Keep it a tangible goal and it will keep the players excited. As for scrimmages, keep in mind the big picture. Use them as a step-by-step process and play everyone equally. Map out what needs to be done in that game, the whole preseason and that particular week.
Weekly Practice Plans
Start off by setting goals, whether it’s to upset an opponent, respecting each other or figuring out opponents’ strengths and weaknesses. Also, be aware of any player conditioning needs. Make sure to provide an opportunity for everyone in practice and keep the big picture in mind. For instance, don’t risk a player aggravating an injury by playing him in an easier game. Play someone else who isn’t hurt. It will turn out to be a dual positive.
Next, establish a six-day calendar and map out how the week will run. As for Tierney, the head coach uses Monday as a review day of the previous week to correct mistakes and highlight positives. Lifting is also frequently done on Mondays. It’s important to continue and maintain strength throughout the course of the season, so be sure to incorporate proper weight training schedules depending on your level.
On Tuesdays, Tierney uses this period to work on the scouting report of other teams. It’s now time to forget about the last game and get the next one in mind. Wednesday is a work day and then Thursday is a play day, a time for scrimmaging and getting the players up and down the field. When the kids work hard on Wednesday, they deserve rewards on Thursday. Finally, Friday is a light day, a time to stay loose and do simple shooting and just clean up any areas mentally before facing the opponent on Saturday.
Daily Practice Plans
Daily practice plans should always have goals and should keep in mind the big picture (which is typically the next game). Keep an eye out for players who are coasting, players who are ultra-motivated and even the players who are upset about not playing. This is where you should motivate the team. Design effective drills to get the excitement up and move at a fast pace and make everyone keep their eyes on the prize.
Consider listing each daily practice plan, including all the players by position and availability (some players may be injured, late, away, etc.). A coach must know who he has available. Next, every minute of practice should be scheduled, but be sure to plan for other factors as well.
Also stick to your schedule. If you have 5 minutes scheduled for a drill, stick to it and then move on. Keep things short and timely.
Finally, here’s a look at how Coach Tierney breaks down a typical daily practice:
Stretching – 15 minutes
Stickwork – 15 minutes
Full Field Transition – 15 minutes
Skill Drills & Lead In Drills – 20-30 minutes
Half-Field Work – 30 minutes
Full-Field Work – 30 minutes
Specialty Work – 15 minutes
Conditioning – 5-10 minutes
Shooting – Anytime
The previous practice plans and coaching tips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Championship Practice Organization for Lacrosse” with Bill Tierney. Check out more exclusive coaching resources by clicking here.