Although the off-season has just started, you can’t begin early enough to think about the next season. Teams players and organizations are made in the off-season, so don’t waste any time and get to it as soon as possible.

Always think about the bigger picture
It is important that all practices have a different purpose. For example, pre-season practices should have a different outcome than the in-season practices. For this to be possible, you must ensure that each practice has specific details, such as adequate field space, proper equipment and a set time of year.

The pre-season practice is the best time to get the team into shape, so try and work on high-intensity drills during in this period. Why? Well, during the gaming season a team is busy with games, so practice time is often limited. If you use the pre-season time effectively and focus on developing strategies, you will notice an improvement in the team’s overall game. Try watching previous game films and work on correcting any mistakes seen in past games.

During the off-season practices may be regulated by specific rules dependent on your area, so it is recommended you check whether this is the case. If so, you will not be able to hold off-season practices and team members should be encouraged to use their ‘off time’ productively without attending group meetings.

Setting goals
When planning practices, it is highly recommended that you set achievable goals. So, when looking at these goals, you should ask yourself what your team needs to succeed. Do you need more defense from the players or is rebounding an issue? It is important to understand where the team’s strengths and weaknesses lie so you can focus on the aspects that can and must be improved.

Always remember to avoid being concerned with every aspect that must be looked at. Remember, no team is perfect! The most productive drills are short, focused and of high intensity. This is important, so players don’t get bored and continue to perform at their best. Ideally, the drills will be 15 minutes or less.

Explaining the drill
Often players will find it difficult to translate drills to reality, for example, they may ask, how the weaving through orange cones will help gameplay? To make a drill meaningful it is necessary to explain the purpose of the drill and the small things the players must focus on. Always try and translate the drill to gameplay and give examples to make it more ‘real’. This keeps players more interested, engaged and gets them thinking about why the drill is important.

Evaluating the drill
While you may think that the drill you have created is the ideal drill, and it will lead you to victory with your team becoming state champions … in most cases the reality looks different. The defenders may head in the wrong direction, and/or the offensive player could be passing to the wrong person. Don’t worry, it’s okay! In fact, it’s completely normal.

To overcome this difficulty, be flexible in your planning and make sure you pay attention to the smaller things you wanted to emphasize in your drill. Tweak your design and make some alterations. Move the line perhaps and tell your players what they should be focusing on. This flexibility will more than likely have the game play working in your favor, but don’t be worried if it doesn’t.

Show some creativity
Practicing drills every day can be very boring for players, so I advise that you have some alternatives now and then – unless you are coaching ‘newbies’ who are still learning the basics. Introduce some creative drills to motivate and inspire the team, but irrespective of the drill it is essential that the significance of game speed is emphasized.