Monday, 15 April 2013

Blocked v Variable v Random practice

Blocked practice - All the trails of a given task must be completed before moving on to the next task. This can make for acquisition performances, but hinder long term development.


Variable practice This is very much similar to blocked practice with a few additions of the coachs choice. In our session we decided to use kicking the ball with the weaker foot for our variation. Once the players were comfortable, we then game the freedom of choice to kick with either foot!


Random practice - Practice in random order can lead to better learning (two possible mechanisms). Athletes have to use more elaborate processing strategies to keep the task distinct. There may be some forgetting of the solution to the task. Thus athlete must go through more solution generations with random practice.


For our session we chose to look at developing passing in football. The aim of the session was to develop passing, by using all 3 types of practice, in any order we preferred. The order would depend on a number of things; skill or technique being developed, age, level/ability of participants. For example, we wouldn't use blocked practice with elite footballers, however we would with young children (e.g. age 5-8). The same reason we would start with variable/blocked practice with younger children.


Our blocked practice was passing the ball into a marked zone against a wall. We gave coaching points which are vital when starting so basic. The coaching points were;


  Non-kicking foot position (plated and pointing in the desired direction to pass -standing foot)

  Part of foot used to pass the ball (Inside of the foot - kicking foot)

  Which part of the ball is kicked (centre - to avoid scuffing or chipping the pass)

  Weight of the pass (Not too little - Not too much)

For the variable practice we looked paired up the participants and put them over a distance of 10 yards. The objectives was to simply pass the ball between them. We also made the introduction if using the weaker foot. Again we enforced coaching points, with it being very much similar to the blocked practice except this time your passing to a player, the coaching points very much the same with a few additions which were;


  Control of the ball (Using the should of the foot "trap" the ball or the inside of the foot to "coushin" the ball)


The final part was the random practice, for this we introduced a defender into the equation. The defender wasn't to tackle the player or intercept the pass but the defender was there to apply a little bit of pressure and make the player making the pass think about it a little more. They had to think how to get the ball to his team mate with a defender in the way. This meant that the way in which they passed would changed significantly.


The key coaching point for this was where they passed and they way they passed it. Again looking at another coaching point from the first practice, "weight of pass", was going to be vital here. Even though the defender couldn't intercept, in a game situation, a pass with not enough weight will be intercept, the same goes for an overhit pass will be harder to control, so it was important in this practice they focused on that coaching point more than anything.


The reason for using Varied/Random practices as opposed to repetitive Blocked practice, is that it allows players to challenge themselves by throwing little challenges/obstacles into the session. You could even get a players input, asking them ways they think it could be harder and more challenging, and then introducing those ideas in the session.

When is it appropriate to use them? This is a question I thought about when the session was over. As I have said earlier in the post we wouldnt use a random practice with young children, the same way we wouldnt use blocked practice to start coaching with Elite performers. I think it depends a lot on the skill you are using and the age group and ability of the group you are coaching

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