Last night I had practice and thought it went.... great! Going into it though, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. See, I had run a practice with this team last week, and my plan didn't go as I expected. I was expecting a group of players who didn't know each other very well, and that was NOT what I got. Here's what caught me off guard:
All loud and friendly (except two quiet players),
Already established friend group (again, except for the two),
Fundamental skills were decent, but in a game setting, everything went out the window, and
A lack of understanding of how to use all three hits. It was like watching tennis!
I think this is something you'll see in a school setting more often than a club setting, just because in a school they all see each other every day, and in club, they usually come from different schools.
This particular group is a mixture of 5th and 6th grade, but I would have no problem running it with beginner 7th and 8th-grade teams as well!
After meeting the group last week, I knew I needed to make a few tweaks to my regular planning:
Add more movement to practice (this helps them focus more, even though they're still going to be chatty).
Run simple games that maybe have one or two rules. This makes it easy to follow and allows you to coach more on technique rather than enforce rules all night.
Give as many jobs as possible. This means limiting waiting in line. Assign groups where there's one tosser, one hander, one shagger, one counter, etc... This way, it's harder for someone to slack off (when you have two shaggers, one might latch onto the ball cart and just stand there while the other player shags. But not if there's only one!)
Run something that lets them be loud and silly. I love downball progressions for this (I'll get a video up soon, since the beginning of summer, every time I do these progressions. the girls have a BLAST).
Use something they like to bribe them. I'm all for tricking them into being better players, it's entertaining for me and they usually have more fun this way. For example, in this plan, the girls loved to hit a downball. So in the downball game, you don't get to rotate until your team hits a downball. This encourages 3 hits better than most drills I've ever run.
Now, I ended up making a few adjustments as I went, and you'll probably skip over some stuff too! Don't be afraid to abandon something if it's not working for your team, or run a drill a little longer if you've almost got it but you're not quite there yet.
OK, enough chatting. Here's the link to download my practice plan: Pre-Made Practice Plan: Serve Receive and Using Three Hits
Want to hear more about WHY I love the downball game?
Check out this video from my YouTube channel:
Good luck! Remember, with this group the goal is to keep them busy at all times and moving! Don't be afraid to make adjustments, trust your gut! You know your team better anyone, so if you want to change how long you spend on a drill, or remove a drill entirely and replace it with another, have at it!
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to find @getthepancake on social media! (Insta, FB, YouTube and Pinterest!)