Throughout the year, I think its important to constantly assess how well your practices are being executed. Making adjustments along the way, and finding out what your players can do well, what they need to continue working on, and in which ways do they respond best to. Mostly obvious stuff, but sometimes coaching, teaching, family, etc... can get in the way of reflection. Here are some essential questions based on some notes I dug up by Mike Dunlap on practice planning and assessment:

Time Allotment and Tempo

Do you have a practice schedule worked out for the year?

It's important for your players, parents, other teachers, and administration to know when practices are taking place. In the 24/7 world we live in now, this is a must. Do your players respond better to morning, afterschool, or evening practices? Be prepared to adjust to your team's needs.

How efficient are your practices?

As coaches, we often complain about the lack of practice time, but have you asked yourself exactly how you are utilizing the practice time you have? How many times are players standing around waiting in line? How much time are players simulating the tempo of real game situations? Lastly, but most importantly are you setting aside enough time for teaching?

Process and Emphasis

What is your process for teaching?

Dunlap's 5 laws of learning: 1) Tell them 2) Show them 3) Have them show you 4) Correct the demonstration 5) Repetition. What is your methodology, whole or part? Whole at the beginning of the season, part at the end, according to Dunlap. Is your process the best way to reach your players, could there be a better way?

What do you emphasize?

You can't be everything, you are what you emphasize, simplicity with detail. You should develop your own vocabulary with your players to help with the key concepts you want them to grasp. Test your players every day, do they get what you are trying to emphasize and why?

Why are you doing what you are doing?

As a coach, you need to have a vision, a credo, a mission statement. Know where you are going as a team, then ask yourself "where are we at currently, and how do we get to where we want to go?"

Assessment and Evaluation

What are your expectations?

Assume nothing, make sure everything you are asking your players to do is exactly what you require them to do. Peer pressure is your friend, the player voice is more powerful than yours -- "higher order of teaching". Have individual, small, and big group expectations.

How do you evaluate your players?

Everything you do in practice should be competitive, time/score, reward/punishment. Have a briefing before practices and a debrief after practices. KWL, what they know, what they want to know, what they learned.

How do you know your players are improving?

Skill will most likely not improve significantly over the course of the season, but you can measure their effort. Know the physical capabilities of your players (heart rates, recovery rates). The toughness test, contact drills to build up physical and mental toughness.

For more great practice insights, check out Geno Auriemma's new All Access Practice DVD. Coach Auriemma is of course the longtime head coach of the UConn women's team.