What are the most important elements of your session plan?
When we open up our season plan and look at what we have planned for this weeks sessions, we are opening up a world of possibilities. These possibilities can range from the best session we have ever coached through to the worst, and everything in between.
A great session plan can help create a great learning and development environment because the quality of your session has to start somewhere. I believe that 'somewhere' is in the session plan.
A great session plan needs to have several key elements, and even though this is not an exhaustive list, I believe if you have these elements, then you are well on your way to that great session.
Whether we are a coach who times our sessions to the second or whether we coach by feel and use what time we need, we still have to be aware of time. From a club rugby point of view the players have a fair bit going on in their lives and many will become frustrated if the 6:30pm to 8:00pm session goes until 9:00pm. From a professional point of view our Athletic Performance Manager will be having a conniption trying to work out 'load' and 'time on feet' if the players are out there for an extra hour. Either way being aware of time and trying to maximise the input into your time will benefit the players.
By allocating a specific amount of time to a component of our game, we can then challenge ourselves to fit in as much in that time as possible, and maximise the players learning and development. For example, if we allocate eight minutes for track to tackle, in preparing for that activity we can search for and develop the best drill to maximise the number of repetitions for each player. In this way we create an activity that provides intensity because we minimise down time, we provide for plenty of opportunities to problem solve and we preserve time for other components of the game in the session.
This is super important! Having clear session and drill objectives really makes the quality of the session.
Without a clear indication of what we want to achieve in the session and in each of the drills, we are susceptible to missing the point, confusing the players, and wasting time. At the start of a drill explain the objective. During the drill refer back to the objective to see how the players are going. At the end review and gauge whether the objective was achieved. If not, then let's examine why? This then allows us as coaches to problem solve that component of the game.
Key points are an essential part of the session plan and are closely linked to the objectives. By ensuring we are clear on our key points, over time, as players understand the team language better, we can minimise our instruction and feedback to simple key points. The players will be able to react immediately and clearly to the key points, or be able to answer open ended questions about performance using the key points themselves. For example, in a tackle drill we might ask a player why they were able to lock up the ball carriers legs and get them to ground easily? They can reply using a key point such as "hit and lock". Both of us then know that they understand the technique and can recognise when they do it well. That lends itself to effective quality coaching.
Context is not one I have seen often, but it has become an important element to many of my drills in session plans. To be able to provide the context in the game for a particular skill or tactical execution allows, the players to visualise and understand why they are doing it. They can relate it directly to playing the game in an scenario they have experienced. Context underpins our objectives beautifully.
For example, during the transition from a counter ruck drill to a defensive sideline drill we can create a vision of a tackler low wrapping on the edge of the field, a defensive support player contesting that tackle zone hard, the tackler reloading to counter ruck. Why? To slow ball down because we want to create the opportunity for the rest of our defensive line to get set and be ready to get linespeed on the next phase.
With this clear picture in their heads the players can then execute with a greater understanding of why they are doing it.
This is another essential part of the plan and it can take many forms. We could leave space on the session plan for a written review, or we could sit down with the other coaches and or players and chat through the session highlighting what went well and what needs attention. We could use a voice recorder on our phone or I have used a dictaphone in session previously to make notes. This detail can then be put in the season plan ready for the next session.
Obviously there are other elements to a session plan such as venue, date, equipment, drill names and detail etc and these are important but the above list will be the deal breakers on whether we provide a quality session or not.
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