I was recruited by Michelle Ng and Without Limits to write about my experiences in my final season of College Ultimate. 2011 has many possibilities...let's see how they pan out. E-mail me (robyn-fennig@uiowa.edu)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blizzard Night Two-fer: Indoor Practice Planning

I received an e-mail last week inquiring about indoor practice planning for small teams. Here is my response, courtesy of the blizzard I'm sitting through, alone in my apartment.

I apologize, first and foremost. I have not actually planned a practice since last season. Mikey, DK, and Steve plan practices. I get to show up and play. Bear with me as I recall all sorts of things we took into account/planned for at UW-Eau Claire.

UW-Eau Claire SOL, circa 2008 (Sectionals). Yup our full roster

Back to my response…For those of you familiar with the Wisconsin-Eau Claire program, you will know that SOL exploded out of nowhere. My first season, we had eleven on our team total. This meant that we were lucky with 6 or 7 at any practice. Though our numbers reached something close to thirty every season after that, we still had a problem getting girls to practice. It’s hard to “require” practice or adopt a mandatory attendance policy when you go to a relatively small school. Let’s be honest, I think there is more to life besides ultimate, and college is the prime time to foster those interests and jump-start the resume a bit. As a result, our sub-optimal practice times conflicted with all sorts of meetings, classes, volunteer-programs, etc. We had low numbers at practice.

So how can you effectively use your time when you have 12 players? Yes, we all preach that games and scrimmage time is the most valuable way to learn the game, but when you don’t have enough for teams, let alone subs, how can you expect people to do so at a high intensity?

The answer: drill progression into controlled scrimmages.

As captains, we would plan practices via e-mail with our coach, Pat Niles. We would develop our focus. (For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll say we are having an offensive focused day, specifically working on swinging the disc.) After the plan is finalized, we send it out the night before or day of practice for the team. That way our teammates know what to expect, as well as what to hold themselves accountable for if they cannot attend.

After 5 minutes of tossing, and 10 minutes of warm up, we get right into drilling. As we get water, we go over the focus. We’ll what we are looking for. We set up a drill that starts with the basics, progressing into more difficult skills.

You need to break down your focus into pieces. The most basic being first, adding more into the skill as the drill goes on. Making sure that there is continuity on what the focus is from one drill to the next. Keeping a central theme helped us stay on track.

Okay, so let’s say we expect to have twelve players at practice.  It is the end of January. We’re indoors, on a basketball court. We have the gym from 6:30-8 pm. This would be my suggested practice that focused on swinging.
    SOL busts off the line during indoor season 2007
  1. Warm Up (6:30-6:45 pm) Ideally, if we had access to a hallway before practice, we’d do warm ups at like 6 pm in the hallway. That way we could get going right at 6:30. Not realistic everywhere.
  2. Water/itinerary/explanation (6:45-6:55)
  3. Situational Drill, Progression 1: Basic Swing off the force side-line. Break into 2 groups of six. No defense. Basic swing, with a mark on the sideline only. Rotate after each successful repetition. (6:55-7:00)
  4. Situational Drill, Progression 2: Same as Progression 1, but add defense to all handlers. Rotate after every successful repetition.  (7:00-7:05)
  5. Situational Drill, Progression 3: Same as Progression 2, but change defensive position on off-disc handlers. Rotate after each successful repetition. (7:05-7:10)
  6. Situational Drill, Progression 4: Same as Progression 3, but in one big group. Defense on all handlers. Add a cutter cutting into break side (no D). Rotate after each successful repetition. (7:10-7:18)
  7. Situational Drill, Progression 5: Progression 4, but add D to the cutter coming in on break side. (7:18-7:25)
  8. Break for water. Re-cap points of emphasis. (7:25-7:30)
  9. Controlled Scrimmage 1 (7:30-7:45): 4 v 4, basketball court. Start with dead disc on the sideline. Offensive team gets 5 attempts to swing and get into some sort of offensive flow, sub between every point. Sidelines should be talking to defensive players. Switch O-to-D after 5.
  10. Water break. Discuss basic take on scrimmage. Things to switch quickly to increase efficiency/success rate? (7:45-7:50)
  11. Scrimmage 2: Regular scrimmage from "pull." Emphasize that disc should not be worked up sideline. Rearrange teams. Even split, or rookies vs. veterans.  (7:50-8:00 pm)
Boom. Practice planned.

Don’t feel limited by space or facilities. You just have to be creative with what you have. Keeping drills fast paced and altering controlled scrimmage situations keeps your players constantly thinking and constantly moving, hopefully minimizing boredom.

1 comment:

  1. As a player on a team who is unable to effectively use their facilities, it's refreshing to see some great creativity bound to solid ultimate practices. I couldn't agree more about the importance of having an underlying focus for a practice. I know I'll take a page of out of this... blog... book(?). GG.