I sometimes get questions about practice planning, and how to decide what to work on in a given situation. Here’s a quick look over my shoulder for a practice I ran, as a guest coach, this past Saturday.
I was asked to run a practice this past Saturday for my friend who coaches the local high school team. Their playoff schedule had changed, and this practice was scheduled at the last minute. Unfortunately, it was scheduled when he would be out of town with a prior engagement.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal. But in this case it was. This was what will end up being the last practice of the season. And if the team wins out the rest of their games in playoffs, it will have been the last practice before a stint of 4 games in 7 days. So it needed to be the right kind of practice to suit the needs of the team at this specific moment.
As I was consulting with the head coach, we came to the conclusion that this ought to be a “precision” practice. Meaning, the focus would be on skill details and precision, rather than physicality. We decided to work on passing, timing, shooting, skating & puckhandling, as well as some touch-ups on a few systems elements.
So as I was designing the practice plan, I was thinking in terms of an NHL game-day skate. I wanted it to be a tune-up. We had an hour-and-a-half time slot, so I knew we could take our time and iron out all the wrinkles before rushing to the next drill.
Over Plan, then Go with the Flow
So I put together this practice plan. You can download it here:
Because of the situation, timing of the year, and the fact that I’m not the regular coach, I decided to over plan. So I put in more drills than we would likely get through, and figured I’d adjust in real time based on the needs of the group, and how the skills and concepts were looking.
On a couple of drills, we took less time than budgeted. And on other drills, we took more time, and focused in until they looked good.
We spent quite a bit of time on the drill in the video above. I borrowed this one from a great skills coach named Danny Heath. It incorporates short touch passes, agility skating, and some timing elements, then finishes with a shot.
There’s a time and a place for everything. And it’s up to us as coaches to determine what our players need, and when. There are times when you need to have a high intensity “conditioning” practice. There are times when you need to focus on physicality and battling. There are times when systems and positional play need to be addressed. And there are times when you need to dial in the detail elements of the game.
I hope this example helps!