Themed Practices

In order to improve any skill, you need to emphasize it in practice. This is common sense, of course. Every coach and athlete knows the importance of emphasizing certain skills in practice. However, this is easier said than done. As a coach, you have to know which skills need to be emphasized the most, when they should be emphasized, and how much they should be emphasized. You can't emphasize something in practice too much or you won't have time to focus on other important skills. And if you emphasize too many things in practice, then you're not really emphasizing anything. I've written about this before in my blog post, blocked vs random practice.

But now I want to talk about a similar topic called themed practices. Themed practices are when you have a specific theme or emphasis on each day of the week. Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, is perhaps most famous for using themed practice. Here is what Carroll labels his practices for four days of the week:
Tell the Truth Monday: On Mondays, Pete Carroll wants his team to "tell the truth" about their performance in their previous game. After objectively evaluating his team's performance and highlighting both the good and the bad, he knows what exactly his team needs to work on during the week leading up to the next game. Monday is when they get started fixing their mistakes and building on their strengths.
Competition Wednesday: Carroll knows that competition brings out the best in his players, so that's why he emphasizes competitive drills on Wednesdays. This helps everyone give their best effort to improve. It also gives backup players a chance to prove themselves in practice and earn playing time.
Turnover Thursday: Carroll uses Thursday to focus on what he believes is one of the most important parts of football: controlling possession of the ball. By focusing on some of the most important skills in football such as protecting the ball and causing turnovers, his team can accelerate their improvement.
No Repeat Friday: On Fridays, Carroll emphasizing playing mistake-free football. He thinks of Friday as the final rehearsal before their game on Sunday, so he wants to make sure his team's skills and gameplan are set and polished.

Pete Carroll didn't just randomly put together these themed practices. He carefully thought about how his team should practice throughout the week to maximize his team's chances of winning on Sunday. His themed practices have been so helpful that many other coaches have copied them, including Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers.

There's nothing wrong with copying the practice themes of successful coaches. Sports are known for copycats. If something is proven to work, others will copy it. However, as a coach, you need to determine which kinds of themes are best for your specific sport and team. You don't need to have the exact same themes as Pete Carroll. If you think you have better ideas for themes, then trust yourself. You can have broad themes such as competition Wednesday or you can emphasize more specific skills such as three-point shooting in basketball. Also, remember that you don't need to spend an entire practice focused only on the theme of the day. You just have to emphasize a certain theme more than you normally do.

I recommend you experiment with themed practices. They might help make your practices more organized and focused. They might even add more excitement and energy to your practices.