Measuring practice success and developing good habits

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After a discussion on how to improve our performance in practice, and additional discussion on how to get more out of our scout team, our tight ends coach Pete Peterson presented an idea for creating practice measurables which we could use to evaluate both effort and execution.  We decided that putting the focus on our players and their effort and execution would pay bigger dividends than being frustrated with the scout team.  As long as we can get the proper alignment and assignment that is drawn on the scout card, then our players can understand the schemes and concepts that we are executing regardless of the performance of our demonstration players.  Our goal became to develop better practice habits by giving our offensive players some tangible standards. By creating practice habits that will show up on video, we can evaluate practice more objectively, and more importantly the players can see and evaluate their performance.
Setting up the script and practice
We start the ball on the 30 yard line going in.  The script is arranged so that all of the left hash plays are together and the middle together and the right hash is together, which will make it better for the players to achieve these goals. On Tuesday and Wednesday (our full padded work days) we arrange the reps so all plays of a certain personnel group are practiced together.  We create more of a game day type of a mix on Thursday.
The standards and evaluation

1.  Every play scores. Even when a defender touches or “fits up” the offensive player, he continues and scores.  The back-up runs on the field and plays the next snap so tempo is not interrupted.

2.  No defender touches the running back for the first 5 yards. (If a demonstration player can touch the runner, a first team player can tackle the runner).

3.  On pass plays no defender is within 4 yards of the quarterback ever!

4.  On pass plays every player runs toward the ball after it is released for at least 5 yards. This is just good football – offensive players are finding work and are in position to make a big block or recover a fumble or to just get to the spot for the next play because we are an up tempo team.

5.  A coach can counts out loud on every snap to make everyone aware of the tempo. We chart the times and expect them to be within certain parameters based on the tempo we are using.  
We post the results of each practice in the locker room giving the number of opportunities for each standard and the number of times we achieved that standard, resulting in a percentage grade  and a comment on what that means overall.  For example, “Good practice and tempo, room for improvement.”  “Not a championship effort.” “That was a B- day, we can do better.”  Coach Pete is responsible for posting these and does a great job pointing out what went well and where we need to do better.
Overall, this has helped improve our practice effort and execution.  Our offensive players have clear standards of what we expect to see on film.
More on this topic in future posts…

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