Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

There is a saying that says: “Practice is where champions are made, competition is where you pick up the trophy.”  This is true only if you know how to practice.  A good practice is well organized so that the athletes and coach do not waste time. 

Goals should be set each day, week, month and season.  Start with the biggest goal and break it down to the month, week and day.  Assess your team early on to find its strengths and weaknesses as a whole and on an individual level.  Make sure that practices are geared toward improvement and not just going through the motions.

I always start practice with a short discussion about our goals for the day.  Letting the team know what to expect make it easier to keep them focus for the whole time.  It may even help if you take a large piece of paper and write out the objectives so that you can mark them off as you go. 

Start the physical part of your practice with a warm-up.  There are many choices for warming up.  What ever you choose, make sure that you are getting the blood flowing heart rate elevated and starting to engage muscles.  Some coaches choose to have their team jog or do a dynamic warm-up and some dance.  I prefer to use the UCA warm-up.  It good choice because it warms up the body, does some light stretching, and allows me to have 6 minutes of time to process paperwork or finish preparing for practice.

There are certain skills that need to be addressed everyday.  Work on basic skills to help with memory of motion and timing as a team.  I have a few motion drills that we use to keep up on sharpness.  Then we do kicks and jumps.  I don’t worry about conditioning at this point because I want them to save their energy for the heart of the workout.  We condition at the end.

Tumbling is an important daily activity.  Have everyone start the same, forward rolls, handstands, cartwheels, round-offs, etc. and then work into standing and running tumbling.  Everyone starts together and when they reach their highest skill level have them step out to a skill group and work on drills that allow them to advance their skills. 

Then I transition into stunts.  Just like tumbling, warm up stunts the same.  Start with the basics and work up to the elite level stunts.  As a stunt groups hits their skill level have them work on skills and drills that allow them to work towards harder stunts.  Divide your time so that you can work on group, partner stunting, and some time for pyramids.  Set time limits to keep the kids on task.

At this point your team may be running out of energy.  Transition into working on dancing and learning cheers and chants.  Always take a little time to review what has been learned.  You don’t have to review everything, but keep their memories fresh.  Spend some time learning new material.  There should always be upcoming performances, halftimes and events that could use new material.  If you dont have an upcoming event... brainstorm things you can participate in.  Does the ROTC need cheerleaders at an upcoming event?  Is there a community event that you can perform at?

At the end of the physical part of practice have the team start conditioning.  I make sure that I do this when they are tired so that they can work on building stamina. There are hundreds of ways to integrate conditioning.  I don’t use the same one each day.  I mix it up and target different parts of the body each day.  There are games you can play that allow the team to run around and climb on each other.  You can utilize circuit training, workout videos; the schools weight room, etc.  If your not sure what to do you can always ask.  Check with the Track coach for plyometric drills, The Soccer coach for stamina, the Football coach for strength training.  Check to see if the P.E. department has workout videos that they use in class.  You are also welcome to ask me, I have MANY ideas that I can share… perhaps a topic for another day.

At the very end of practice, I save some time for team bonding activities and discussions.  Always review what you did that day and get the team input on their workout and performance.  See what they fell they excelled at and where the weaknesses were.  What they feel and what you see may not always be the same.  If they are not comfortable, they wont perform well.

When setting up your practice know your team and work on building them up as a whole.  A team that has a good understanding of the goal and what needs worked on focus’s better and works together well.  Find what unifies and motivates them. 

Practice doest not make perfect… Perfect Practice makes Perfect.


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