While setting up a plan for Southern Revival's 2014 season there were a few restrictions I had to keep in mind. We were incorporating a bunch of new players and we didn't have a ton of practices (3 practices before the series) so the efficiency of practice became really important. Traditionally I tried to break the game down into the simplest level possible then gradually build up complexity. So maybe we'd start with footwork while pivoting and then add in a disc (without throwing), then throwing, throwing with a mark, throwing to a moving cutter and eventually scrimmaging. The idea being you focus on the individual pieces then put them together.
However, I'd read recently that this 'common sense' approach to learning was flawed. Instead of focusing on individual skills, you should work on multiple things at once. That way your overall skill increases more, even if an individual skill may not reach the level it would if you focused solely on it. Also, working on multiple skills together you improve the coordination of the skills together.
So, I ditched drills (almost) completely in favor of scrimmaging. Practice consists of a brief warmup which may include a drill or two, then scrimmaging broken up with throwing drills (no running) and/or whiteboarding time to allow for recovery between games. The games themselves have different rules to try and focus on different skill sets we want to work on. I'll stop the scrimmage occasionally to point out what we should do in particular situations, and frequently pull individual players aside for some one on one coaching. Players also keep track of how many games they win throughout the day and when we run sprints at the end of practice they can subtract their games won from the total sprints.
Here are some of the games I pull from when planning practice:
- 3 on 3
- 5 on 5
- 7 on 7 with shorter stall counts
- 7 on 8 (man or zone d)
- 10 (or 5) pull
- extra points for specific tactics (breaking the mark, dump/swing, etc.)
- double score
- redzone scrimmage
- start with the disc trapped, start from deep in own goal, etc.
It's worked out fairly well so far. My biggest concern was having enough bodies to scrimmage but we've had fair attendance so far so it hasn't really been an issue. Number of touches was also a concern. Some players are naturally going to be less involved in full 7 on 7 games whether because they are less skilled or new to the team, and I was worried that this might slow development for those players. To help combat this, we run a fair amount of 3 on 3, particularly early in practice to get everyone involved. I also keep an eye on involvement as practice goes along.
I do think drills have a place and we'll occasionally have voluntary skills/drills practices where we typically don't have enough to scrimmage and we focus more on individual skill development. However, I think it's still important to try and make those drills as game-like as possible and try to incorporate multiple skills into each drill.