Drill Theory

by | April 19, 2012, 7:29am 0

I’ve been thinking about drills a lot recently.  At Oregon, we are in the process this year of implementing a new offense, so there are all sorts of little problems to be sorted out.  As the season progressed, we also felt more and more that our warm up didn’t fit what we were trying to do and wasn’t doing a very good job of preparing us.  So there has been lots of new drills, some of which work and some of which don’t.  To cap all this off, three of the ex-Fuguers went down to try out for Fury last month.  Among the many conversations we had about it, one of them commented: “It seems like someone, probably Matty, identifies a problem, comes up with a solution and a way to drill it and they drill the hell out of it.”  Here are some tips for you to develop and implement drills.

Keep it simple.  Build up only when you’ve mastered a step.  It is really tempting to make a drill “realistic” and try to account for all the what-ifs that come up.  You can’t and you will only muddy the purpose of the drill.  As an example, take working on the dump-swing out of the trap.  Imagine presenting this for the first time to your team (as will be the case with any new drill you invent).  At first, this should be a 4 person drill with two people (marker and swing) just standing.  The thrower faces the mark (who’s standing), the A-handler fakes up line and cuts for the dump, dump is thrown, swing is thrown to the B-handler (who’s standing).  Once this has all been mastered, you add in the motion of the B-handler to work on timing.  Then increase the defensive percentage of the marker to 50% or so.  Are your starters hitting this 100% of the time and the team 90%?  Add defenders on the handlers, again at 50% or so.  Throughout, the process is practice-master-add.  Be careful not to add to much.  If you get up to five or more players, you aren’t really running a drill anymore; you’ve crossed over into a scripted scrimmage, which is a different animal.

Don’t game the drill.  Always remember the purpose of the drill and be disciplined about performing your roles, particularly defenders in an offensive drill and offenders in a defensive drill.  People hate to lose and often feel that if they are shut down or beat, they have lost.  If you are running a drill to work on fronting comeback cuts, don’t let the cutters go out.  If you are working on dump-swing, don’t let the marker take away the dump entirely.

Don’t worry about rotation.  When you introduce a new drill, don’t try to figure out or teach the rotation.  In fact, don’t worry about it at all.  Just tell people to make sure they move through the drill and get to all the spots.  The rotation will develop naturally and more quickly than if you have to try to teach it.

Make small adjustments.  You want to resist the temptation to spend a lot of time talking about the drill (see below).  The purpose of a drill is to teach muscle and image memory and words are the enemy of this.  As captain or coach, you will have to stop the drill every now and again to make an adjustment, but it should only be for 30 seconds or so – one small idea, no more.

Do drills often, but not for very long.  When I was a young coach at Carleton, I did a lot of reading about the Jordan-era Bulls and Phil Jackson.  One of the things I got to see was a practice schedule and I was struck by the fact that none of their drills took longer than eight minutes!  I took two things away from that: they already knew all the drills and they used the same ones again and again.  When I became a teacher, this theory of learning was confirmed: the best learning comes from a task that is repeated often for a short period of time.

Working group.  When Fugue was working on developing a new warm up, Shannon McDowell came up with all the possible new drills and then one day after practice we ran through them with a mixed group of 8 players, captains and coaches.  This allowed us to run through them, stop and talk about difficulties and make adjustments so that when we introduced them to the team at the next practice the major problems where already ironed out.

Good luck!

Feature photo by Kyle Mcbard (UltiPhotos.com)

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