What’s your approach when it comes to practice planning? Do you favor consistency? Or do you prefer variety?

For me both are involved.

Consistency

The area where I am most consistent is in the general structure of my practices. I have a way of going about planning each session that I go over in my practice planning course. The result is a pretty similar design concept for each session. In other words, the practices have a consistent flow to them. This has benefits both in terms of the progressions I’m after as well as players knowing generally what to expect.

Another area where I absolutely want to be consistent is in the language and tone I’m using. The cues and feedback I give the players needs to carry over so we’re all on the same page. At the same time, I expect the players to demonstrate a consistent energy and effort in each session.

Variety

Because I almost always start from scratch to plan my next practice based on my specific priorities for it, they are rarely the same from one session to the next. Every once in a while I’ll repeat a session if I want to keep working on the same thing(s) in the same way. Even then, though, I usually make a tweak or two based on how things went the previous practice.

From a more exercise oriented perspective, I also look to make everything I do as game-like and random as I can. This inherently creates variety in terms of the stimuli and situations the player’s face, albeit sometimes only in small ways.

Variety within consistency

An important aspect to all this is the fact that I like to use a consistent set of activity structures. This is especially true when it comes to game exercises – be that small-sided or 6 v 6 – which I use a lot. I do this because it saves explanation time.

A very basic example of this is simple 6 v 6 play. By using bonus points or process related scoring you can adapt that basic structure to serve a lot of different purposes without having to create – and explain – a whole new activity. You can simply say something like, “We’re playing 6 v 6 with a bonus point for a first ball kill.” Or, “We’re playing 22 v 22, but if you get a first ball kill on the serve you automatically get the big point.” Changing how you initiate each rally is another way to mix things up.

So I’m not a 1000 drill coach. I’m more like a 10 drill coach with 1000 variations.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.