by Billy Ebel, Assistant Coach - Lipscomb University (2015 AVCA Thirty Under 30 Recipient)
As coaches begin to plan a practice, one of the first things we think about is how to manage our time efficiently. We'd like to think all of our practices are run with great precision and precise detail. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. As I am designing drills to maximize our teams potential, I start with four very basic areas to cover over a 2-3 hour practice.
First, I begin planning a practice starting with an educational/ tutoring session. This educational session can be used for skills, defense to offensive systems, or mental growth training. We begin practice by discussing the focus for the day and the areas in which we need to improve. This immediately puts the team’s goals in retrospect and they begin to believe it is achievable. I believe it is important to let the team know the “Focus of the Day”. I have found that three main topics to cover in practice tend to be achievable in the certain about of time that we train our athletes.
Third part would involve small group training. This part of practice planning in our gym is very valuable to our success. This would be a great time to add layers to certain skills. For example, in our gym at Lipscomb we work a lot on block coverage. We designed a drill with three boxes in left front, right front and middle front. Each coach is on a box with a blocking pad. Another coach enters balls from the service line to a team of six. The team of six then receives the ball, runs a play, the attackers now attack the ball into the coaches blocking pad and the defense is forced to cover. They continue to transition and attack into the blockers on boxes for two balls and the third ball they go for a clean kill. We believe this drill begins to create a flow amongst the players who are covering their attackers. We take an element of the game and control the success by breaking down the skills into layers.
Planning successful practices takes a lot of preparation depending on your teams needs. It is very important to plan practices that get your players to “THINK”. Remember the four areas of focus: Educational, Positional, Small Group and Team Competition. I feel these are four important areas that can help lead to a successful practice.