Setting Up The Practice Session
The practice session should include all the goals considered in a Practice Philosophy. Practice format should be goal oriented, brief, direct, and each drill should build off the previous drill. A good example of organizing your token hour and a half session starting at 3:oo p.m. might look like this:
3:00 team meeting/discuss conduct of drills
3:10 rig boats/attach team flags
3:20 3-boat practice drill
3:30 first 3 on 3 drill from the leeward mark
3:55 first 3 on 3 drill from the weather mark
4:10 unrig boats
4:20 team meeting/discuss lessons learned/next practice
Effective practice includes three component parts:
1. SHORE ——-pre-practice discussion
2. SAILING —drills
3. SHORE ——-post practice discussion
The crucial points to be addressed in your pre practice discussion should be: GOALS, CONDUCT OF DRILL, ROTATION OF TEAM MEMBERS/DRILLS, WHAT TO EXPECT, WHAT TO EXPERIMENT WITH, AND ANY QUESTIONS THAT MAY ARISE. The practice leader/coach should prepare by posting who will compose each team and what color team flags they will fly from their shrouds. Next, the drill must be discussed. The best way to do this is to have magnetic sailboat cutouts on a metallic chalkboard. The practice leader can quickly and clearly discuss what the goal is, what might happen, and what to look for with a visual presentation on a magnetic chalkboard. Questions by team members can quickly be addressed on the chalkboard as well. If there is a rotation for each drill or a timeline for the conduct of your practice, it should be posted on the chalkboard as well. The key to the pre-practice discussion is for all involved to understand the outline of the practice session and the concepts to be learned.
Here is where the chaos begins! You thought you prepared well. You discussed everything that would happen on the chalkboard prior to getting out on the water. Everybody nodded their head in agreement. No worries! Right?... When you get out there, the wind is blowing 15 knots, boats are not staying close enough for you to start the first drill, and nobody can even hear you yelling to them. Lesson number one: carry a whistle and develop a communication plan so that everyone knows when to gather around the practice leader, start the drill, and stop the drill to regroup.
Obviously, there are many variables which can throw a monkey wrench into your organized practice session. But you will certainly overcome these obstacles with time and experience. The key is to minimize variables that will detract from the learning process. Another important tip is to communicate learned concepts in between drills. If the practice leader/coach sees something in one drill, it is crucial to address the point in a timely manner so that the team may benefit from the knowledge and experiment immediately after in the next drill. Thus far, a great deal has been said about practice and drills. Yet, we have not even begun to discuss specific drills. All necessary drills originate from the illustrations within the text of ‘Contemporary Team Racing’. Hopefully, it becomes obvious that the execution of the tactics and strategy described in the manual are exactly the goals of the practice session. Understanding and handling these situations on the race course by a winning combination strategy is the ultimate Team Racing challenge. The means to this end is practice.