Coaching youth football can be incredibly rewarding. It offers an opportunity to be a positive influence while doing something that you love.
But, to be a great coach you can’t just show up to practice and improvise.
You cannot afford to waste time by being disorganized. As the coach, it’s up to you to lead the team and make sure that everyone is prepared for game day.
What is a Practice Plan?
A practice plan is a script that college and pro coaches often use to manage the schedule within their team’s practice. It is useful because it outlines how every minute will be spent for the duration of practice.
When I am coaching at Overtime Football, I always use a template to script practices. This way I don’t have to start from scratch every time.
Building Blocks of a Perfect Practice
The 7 Period System is based on simplicity. To make things easy, all of the drills and activities that can make up a practice are divided into seven categories.
- Warm Up / Cool Down
- General Fundamentals
- Position Specific Skills (also known as “Individual” or “Indy” for short)
- Install / Review
- Game Preparation
Here is a breakdown of each category and how some coaches might fit them together.
Warm Up / Cool Down
Every practice should include a dynamic warm-up and some form of cool down stretch. Teach your players to take care of their bodies and develop healthy habits. When done properly, a good dynamic warm-up will prevent injuries and boost performance.
There is a small group of skills that are universal to players at every position. Anchor skills such as blocking, tackling, and ball security are all essential tools of the trade.
The fundamental skills needed to play the game of football should be taught and polished daily, even if only for a few minutes.
During this part of practice, most coaches break the team into groups and rotate through a drill circuit.
Position Specific Skills
Each position on the field is responsible for a different assignment. Quarterbacks have to drop back and read coverages. Linebackers have to drop into zone coverage and tackle ball carriers.
Young players can never do enough position drills. Techniques are the keys that unlock big plays.
When possible, Positional Period should be a daily part of practice.
Install / Review
Use an Install Period to introduce new plays and tactics. This period is all about teaching at a slow tempo and creating muscle memory.
As a rule of thumb, always get really good with the simple concepts before progressing to more complicated lessons. This is the best way to show players how to apply their skills in a game scenario.
Give your team a scouting report on the next opponent. Let them know what the plan of attack is. Show your players where to line up and what signature plays they need to defend in critical scenarios.
Game Prep Periods get the whole team involved. Full-scale football. Here is where you teach your players how to react in a game situation.
Playing together creates familiarity between players which is great for team chemistry. If you can, spend the majority of your practice in Game Prep Periods.
Competition is the foundation of all sports. Not to mention, a little competitive action is an excellent way to get the energy up in practice.
Give your players a chance to test their skills against each other in a controlled environment. Start with one on one drills and progress to group competitions.
Not all competitions have to simulate a game situation. You can have two players line up and race each other in front of the whole team. Maybe bet some push-ups on it, that will definitely get the team fired up.
Competition Periods are ur team building and character development.
If your team has high-tempo practices, you might not need a Fitness Period to improve your conditioning. On the other hand, many coaches challenge their team with conditioning drills at the end of practice regardless.
Conditioning tests are designed to push an athlete mentally and physically. Gassers, Snakes, Relays, 110s, and 300 The Hard Way are just some of my favorites.
A good coach brings players outside of their comfort zone and teaches them how to be comfortable in an uncomfortable situation.
Productive practices are a cornerstone of all successful teams.
Practice plans obviously vary from one team to the next. As the leader, you are responsible for building the training schedule.
Start by determining which periods to include in your practice plan and how much time to spend on each.
Help your team get familiar with the format and flow of practice. The more smoothly your practices run, the better. Try your best to minimize wasted time.
Eventually, this efficiency will translate into extra teaching time, more detail-oriented players, and overall improved discipline as a team.