Use the labels of Red, Yellow, & Green to signify the level of depth and coaching intervention that will be used in that session.
One practice design idea that I recently came across was the concept of labeling your practices as Red, Yellow, or Green. Coach Burton Uwarow of Bob Jones University explained this concept in a conversation on Twitter, and I was instantly intrigued to hear how it worked. The way that the system works is that each color label would describe a practice that differed in the level of coach intervention, the amount of free play, and the number of concepts that were worked on in that particular session. As Coach Uwarow explained, he used this system as a way to ensure that there is an appropriate amount of uninterrupted play, coaching intervention, and depth provided throughout the week. On Sunday nights he would plan out the week, designating the color of each particular day.
Here is a loose definition of what the structure of a Red, Yellow, or Green practice would look like:
Red - 1/2 Topics Max, Deep Dive into those Concepts, More Coach Intervention, possible Walk-Throughs, less uninterrupted Live Play.
Yellow - Work of Multiple Phases of the Game, includes moments for Coach Intervention, also provides moments of uninterrupted Live Play.
Green - We are going to provide lots of opportunity for Live Play, minimal Coaching Intervention, these sessions can be examined like game film.
Sample Practice Plans
There are a number of reasons that could determine why you might use a specific practice model. Where in the season we are, proximity to our next game, fatigue level, and recent performances would all be things that factor in for me. There is no exact science to planning practices, but finding a good balance between teaching and free play tends to be where I want to be.
To add some context to the post I thought I would create a sample red, yellow, & green practice plan that fit with Coach Uwarow's model. Here's what I came up with:
The Red Practice Plan
As you can see in the Red Plan there is a really narrow focus on Half Court Offense. I can picture this as a practice plan geared towards the day after a game. Perhaps there was an element of our half-court offense that we struggled with the previous night. In this practice, we want to really shore up that aspect of our attack. After putting in some skill work we get right into our Half Court Offense focus. I would typically use a progression in a practice like this:
5/0 Option Work to Build Habits
4/4 Breakdown Work against Defense
One thing I did not include in the plan but could be extremely useful would be to replay possessions from the previous game.
The Yellow Practice Plan
I would guess that majority of my practice plans probably fall into the yellow category. In this practice plan, I wanted to touch on a number of game phases and make sure there were teaching moments along with free play opportunities. I used a 5/5 Here, There, & Back session in our Transition portion so that I would have the chance to teach in between repetitions. In the defense portion of the practice, I included a 23 Shell Drill which would allow me to really teach aspects of defensive rotation. Following that we got into 5/5 Live Play sessions which would allow the guys to play freely as I took notes on things to address later.
The Green Practice Plan
My guess is that most coaches (myself included) probably don't have enough truly Green Practice Plans in their season. Perhaps during a stretch of the season where the games have slowed down, you could incorporate this type of practice. In this plan, I wanted to incorporate multiple game phases even though the focus was on live play. In this plan I included:
5/5 Here, There, & Back Session to Address Transition and Specials
5/5 Half Court Session to work on Neutral Scenarios
5/5 23 Zone & Press Session to work on Defense
In these types of practice, I would do most of my teaching when players would have subbed out of the scrimmage or when dead balls occurred.
Concluding Thoughts -
The main takeaway from this concept is that with a more thoughtful approach we could make sure that we are balancing the teaching and free play moments of our practices. Over the course of a long season, it is easy to see how we could fall into monotonous practice routines. Because of the higher emphasis on teaching, there is probably a tendency for coaches to organize most of their practices in the Red & Yellow format. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, by mixing in Green Practice Plans we are ensuring that players are getting the opportunities to learn by playing and that we have the chance to properly evaluate all players on our roster.
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