This article was written by Scott Heitland, Head Football Coach at Dallas Center-Grimes High School (IA). Scott has been a football coach for 20+ years with 15 years as a head coach. In this article, Coach Heitland breaks down the overlooked, yet important aspect of coaching: The Practice Plan. It can originally be found on igfootballcoach.com
What Do You Value? Check Your Practice Plan
How many times have you looked at it? Because we all have them and we all look at them before the season. What am I talking about? That sheet you put into your coach’s handbook that lists the items that you place as the guiding principles of your football program.
Things like: PHYSICAL – EFFORT – FUNDAMENTALS – and PRIDE.
We all develop these to show to our kids and coaches what we believe are things that will lead us to success. But the question I ask today is, how well do you follow through on those in your practice plan, games, and points of emphasis?
Do you work these into your actions throughout the week or do they just look really nice on the paper? What we are talking about here are “stated values” and “operational values “.
Stated values are what we say we value and the level of importance that we attach to each value. Operational values are what we actually value by our actions, how we make decisions, and how we resolve conflict.
During the off-season, when we all review and reflect on what is important, it is easy to sit back and say certain things are important to us. We dive into them, maybe read a book or two, and then talk with our coaching staff about them. We work them into our handbooks and player communications.
But as the season starts, and as our time and attention gets pulled in various directions, do we follow through on them? I know that over the past 15 seasons, I have had values that I feel are important stated in our communication that have not been worked into my practice plan, player discussions, and staff meetings like they should have.
We have operated in a way that didn’t connect to those things that we determined to be important. So how can we become better at making sure that stated values are also our operational values?
One way that you can easily check is to dive into your practice plan. All of us put great time and effort into planning each week.
As we enter the off-season, it is a great time to go back and look to see if we are following through. The bottom line is that where we spend our time throughout the week reflects what we place value in as coaches, or in other words, our operational values.
At DC-G, I place a big emphasis on fundamentals. For me, this is reflected in our individual time where we develop and drill the things that help make each player a solid performer.
One of my biggest mentors in coaching was Ed Thomas, the former head coach at Aplington-Parkersburg. Coach Thomas and I had many conversations as I began as a head coach and he would always remind me that if you placed an emphasis on the fundamentals that you always have a chance to win. He felt that too many coaches get caught up in what you do being more important than how you were doing it.
At the end of each season, I go back and look at our practice plans to see what kind of time we are giving this part of practice. If I am saying that it is important (stated value), then we better be committing a specific time each day to it (operational value).
Furthermore, when I look at the practice plan, I need to evaluate what we are doing to be sure that it is beneficial to our players. I want to make sure that the drills and techniques are ones that relate to play on the field.
When I find someone on the game field doing something that connects to a drill at practice, I make sure to point it out in our team meeting to show them that this time and drill is valuable and paying off. These things show support of the stated values and reinforce with coaches and kids that what we are doing is important. (Operational values)
At DC-G, I encourage my assistant coaches to find the 6-8 drills that they feel are vital to their kids developing at their position. Once they find those, we drill them each week all season long.
I believe that if we get distracted by too many drills or get caught up in a “cool” drill that doesn’t connect to the field, we are wasting our time. We don’t have enough time each week to get caught wasting it.
By choosing the 6-8 drills you can rotate through, you can show the kids that how you do something is of the utmost importance. You can coach the details and little things that will allow them to find success against their opponents.
As I look at this past season’s plans, I found that we committed time to individual drills every day for at least 15-20 minutes. That adds up to an hour of practice time each week spent on becoming better athletes at our positions.
I now have to evaluate if it was adequate. Are the drills being focused upon ones that help kids translate to the field? What I did notice in my evaluation this year was that we got away from this a bit late in the year. When I discovered this, I had to ask myself what pulled us away?
Was it something that I let us slip on or was there a reason that it happened? I need to talk with my assistants and ask them for their opinion on what we did and the impact that it had on us. I like having these conversations with them as I feel it gives them more ownership in what is happening and when they feel like they have ownership, they invest more. (See Coach, You Make the Difference)
So where do you spend your time? Do you spend it on things during the week that you value and that helps you win games?
Take a week this off-season and evaluate your practice plans closely and see if your stated values reflect your operational values. I promise it will be time well spent and will also result in you making better decisions that will help you win football games.
If you would like to follow up with any questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to email me at: