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Using Google Sheets for session activities

For several years, I’ve used Excel for laying out session activities. In mid-2022, I converted all our session activities to Google Sheets. In this article, I’ll describe how and why we use Sheets, an example of our template, and a summary of the workflow we use to create session plans.

Here are links to the two spreadsheets described in this article:

The most important benefit of using Sheets (and prior, Excel) is the ability to organize session activities into a manageable library. Before using spreadsheets, it was often the case that I sketched out an idea in one of my notebooks – then subsequently was unable to find an activity later if I decided to reuse it. The next step was to have a “meta-notebook,” which provided the outlines and references for sessions in other notebooks. The use of spreadsheets solved both problems – the ability to search for activities was simplified and creating a meta-spreadsheet allowed for an efficient workflow.

The definition of a standard activity template provides the basis for developing workflows and management tools. Here is an image of the template that we use:

The cells have the following meanings:

Table Header
The amount of space recommended for the activity. Often, these are age/ability-specific and are left blank in our posted session plans. For example, a 4v2 rondo for younger players might use a 10x10 yard grid, whereas the same rondo for older players might be 6x6 yards.
The section can indicate the amount of time allocated to the activity. If the activity is designed for "conditioning," it is essential that the coach manage the time of the activity closely. The number of sets, repetitions per set, work times, and rest times can be listed.
This section contains the basic instructions for the activity.
Any functional progressions are listed here.
Coaching points
A list of coaching points suitable for players in the activity can be provided.
Here is an image of an activity with the various fields filled in:

Note that we use ASCCloud for creating the activity schematics. There are other drawing tools – or one could sketch out the activity freehand and incorporate the image into the Sheets cell.

Because I typically program 1-3 sessions per week, it is crucial that the process of creating session plans is relatively efficient. A meta-spreadsheet containing each week’s session plan activities by category is used to describe the session. The meta-spreadsheet can be referred back to as a reference for periodization – managing themes, ensuring consistency of activities, and as a place to hold reflections on the session’s success.

Before migrating to Sheets, the next step – once the session contents were determined – was to cut and paste the activity cells into a session plan template. Sheets provides a variety of programming capabilities. The new workflow takes the content of the meta-spreadsheet and directly builds session plans. The final result looks like this: