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Your culture is important and will determine your success and failure. We discussed the first part of culture in part 1 here
The second aspect of the culture I needed to change at Capistrano Valley Christian in 2006 upon inheriting a winless 2005 squad was the way that practices were conducted. Without a doubt, through years of research of the best programs in the nation, practice is one of the top determining factors of success. Teams that practice hard will play hard - period.
Here are three changes we made in the practice routine to better prepare our players:1. Game-like situations
There was a very bad patch of grass on that field in 2006, and the players told me they basically did everything right there in that one spot all year. They never moved the ball around, never moved the hash around. And I've seen that happen in a lot of programs.
Coaches have to put their players in game-like situations during the practice week. Failure to put your kids in game-like situations will mean that your kids are not prepared on Friday night for the demands of the situations they will inevitably face.
Putting together a script for practice is so important. Spend time on the weekend trying to figure out how your opponent will line up against the look that you give them. The unsuccessful programs fail to do this. They just line up a scout defense that looks "kind of" like what they will see on Friday night. But there is nobody responsible for teaching those kids to play the exact same way as the opponent does. This is part of your practice culture that must be addressed.
For instance, a few years ago we were playing an opponent that blitzed a certain formation a high percentage of time. When the offense had the ball on the right hash, and ran jet motion to the boundary out of dubs, they brought their outside linebacker 90 percent of the time. We found this through proper scouting, and then had a coach mimic that all week in practice. Not many programs will take the time to be this exact in putting players into game-like situations Monday through Thursday, but goo coaches have to do it in order to develop a great practice culture.2. Tempo
The second part of our practice routine that we changed in order to improve the practice culture was the tempo. The kids just were not used to playing or practicing fast, and their record showed it.
Think about this: in a game, you never know how you're going to start the first two plays. Sure, you are either going to kick off or receive the kick. Then you're either going to be on offense or defense. You might kick off and then start on O, or kick return, and end up starting on D. But football games are so unpredictable - so we made practice unpredictable. This came from just thinking about how to get the kids going in practice, because it was not good.
We would start one day with a special team, one day with a 7-on-7 passing period, maybe the next day with an inside run period, and the next day with a goal line period. This was crucial to getting our kids to play hard in practice. They simply never knew what we were starting with.
This helped to improve the tempo of practice. Starting practice with a 9-on-7 inside run drill on the goal line is a tremendous way to start practice. The energy that it brings is so much better than starting with stretching. Chris Fore is a veteran Head Football Coach and Athletic Director from Southern California. He consults coaches and programs nationwide through his business Eight Laces Consulting.