by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
Ever feel like you don’t have enough time at practice?
You’ve crafted a great plan, only to run out of time just when you really need it.
Just a few more minutes and your team would be so much better. What has stolen your time?
Last year I made the decision to introduce a paperless workflow into my coaching.
After 33 years it finally dawned on me that my current system of using paper was not working. In fact, my system was so broken I was wasting very valuable time at each practice. Several times per week athletes, fellow coaches, and myself were getting annoyed with the problems I was making by how I was preparing for practice, searching for a result/record I really needed, and communicating my practice plans with my other coaches.
I was drowning in an ocean of paper. At times I certainly felt guilty about that waste of resources. That, and the frustration I was constantly having prompted me to try something different.
It’s been an interesting journey, going the paperless route. Some things have worked very well and I thought I’d share a few with you.
HIGH TECH TO THE RESCUE?
I live in an Apple computer world so it might seem that paperless was a logical step. However, I had never really considered it, that is until I read a book by David Sparks, titled, strangely enough, Paperless. Although David is not a coach (he’s an attorney) his workflow demands are very similar in many ways to a coach’s. Specifically, he needs to find the things he needs when he needs them.
The same with me.
That’s the thing about coaching … I used paper to create things, such as a practice plan, but as soon as it was created, I needed access to what’s on the paper but the paper itself was not the best medium for me. My sport, rowing, is a water sport, and when paper meets water it just creates a mess. And so often the clipboard that held the paper was not in my hand when it needed to be.
And valuable practice time just slipped away.
PREPPING FOR PRACTICE
A lot of planning goes into my practices. I’ve never been one to wing-it very well. Some of my peers can, but when I wing-it the results are usually disastrous.
Practice prep for me starts months before the actual day of practice. There are several phases. Specifically:
- Macro-plan: which has the year divided into several segments
- Micro-plan: where I detail the specifics of each segment
- Weekly-plan: the overall plan for the week
- Daily-plan: the specific flow for that day including the workouts, instructional points, athlete’s schedules (we have a significant amount of academic conflicts), my notes during practices, testing numbers we might need, and recording of any testing during practices
- Testing records: results recorded over time
There are certainly others bits and pieces that I need to track like if something significant happens during practice, such as an injury or a noteworthy performance. However, the ones listed above are the most important, especially since I might need any of that info at practice at a moments notice.
In the past, I used a system of notebooks and clipboards, but that just didn’t work. Too often I lost my clipboard, or my notes dropped in the drink. In my brain I knew if I could have a quick-access system, which would allow seamless sharing, my coaching would improve. But I couldn’t figure out how to do it, until I read Sparks’s book.
My motivation came one day when I forgot my practice clipboard, and was lost. That is until I remembered I had taken a picture of my practice plan. I pulled up the image on my phone, and practice was saved. A light bulb went off over my head and that night I bought Sparks’s book, read it, and made the leap.
Evernote is an application that’s been around for quite a while. It is a Cloud app, which means that information is stored on distant servers (i.e., The Cloud), somewhere in the huge void of “out there.” I know that bothers some people, having their information housed in the Cloud, however, since none of my information is “privileged” (such as social security numbers, etc) I don’t have concerns about using Cloud storage.
I selected Evernote since it had a record of high performance, stability, and I could connect with it across devices. This means that over my phone, or laptop, or iPad I could have quick and dependable access to the info. Also, I didn’t need a “constant” internet connection to work with, or access, my info. Additionally, the price was right. I started with a free account, but within two weeks I liked it so much I upgraded to a premium account ($45 per year).
Although I had been messing around with Evernote for a few years prior, I decided to commit to using it in earnest last January. Things have been improving ever since then.
Today, my workflow for preparing and recording practices is fairly straight forward. Here’s an example of a macro-plan, created on a whiteboard and uploaded to Evernote:
1. At the beginning of the season, I create a notebook in Evernote. The one for this year is *13-14 Rowing.* I make sure that I share this notebook so my assistant coaches can view it.
2. I create my macro-plan, by sketching it out on paper or a whiteboard. Then I take a picture of the plan and upload it to a note in the *13-14 Rowing* notebook. I label it *13-14 macro-plan*.
3. I create a micro-plan, which is typically 3 to 4 weeks segments in which we focus on specific items (such as technique, racing, team culture … to name a few). Again, that is uploaded to a new note, this one might be *13-14 micro-plan: Feb 3 to March 3*.
4. Once the student-athletes have given us their schedules, we create a *conflict list* and upload it to a note in the notebook, usually called *this semester’s conflicts*.
5. A weekly-plan, based on the micro-plan, is created and uploaded, before each week.
6. Then, before each practice, I generate a daily-plan, usually on a whiteboard or scrap paper, which I will upload before practice. During and after practice I will make entries on the note.
7. Testing scores can be added as separate notes also, as they happen.
That may seem like a lot of front-loading (and uploading), however the time Evernote has saved me is significant. Here’s how:
- When I am at practice I have all of the above information as handy as my cell phone. Super simple, it’s right in my pocket. Prior to using my phone, I remember spending minutes, almost every day, looking for my clipboard. Since I’ve changed over, I have not misplaced my phone but once.
- I share my practice notebooks with my assistant coaches. They can view each note immediately, make changes, add images as they see fit. This saves time in that they can review the plan before coming to practice.
- I can find any information I have added, wicked fast. Evernote has OCR (optical character recognition) which means it will search all notes, images, and other files for any instances of a term I enter. I use that feature several times each day. We do testing (which typically generates a lot of data), and I can search that info quickly, right on my phone.
I think it is a fair estimate that I save at least 10 minutes each day by using Evernote, and my phone. Yes, there are downsides, such as when a battery is drained, or fat fingers on a small-ish phone buttons. But honestly, those pale in comparison to the issues I was having before. And now, with my phone in hand, I am only seconds away from any data or records I have entered.
This post might seem like an advertisement for Evernote or an iPhone. It’s not meant to be. They are both, in my mind, great products, but there are other great ones in the market also.
However, this post IS meant to prompt you to look at your current workflow, and see if there are bottlenecks that you could reduce/remove. Honestly, a few minutes here or there might just take your coaching up a notch. Sometimes technology can help, it did with me. Might be worth a shot.
So, thanks for being here. And let me know what’s on your mind about coaching.
Dr. Mike Davenport is a longtime college coach and the man behind the popular website CoachingSportsToday.com. He is a regular contributor to College Recruiting Weekly.