What Are You Practicing?

My most recent post on service reception brought up some interesting responses.  One from Alexis (in the comments section) brought up the concept of describing different types of practice that fit in neatly with the ideas of technique and skill and the methods of training each of them.  Under this nomenclature, open practice is with full perceptual demands and is analagous to practicing skill.  On the other hand, closed practice reduces the perceptual demands and practices technique.  The suggestion made was that open practice is best used for learning, while closed practice is best used for confidence.  This is directly a very interesting idea that fits neatly in with my experience.  Players often like and want to do drills that clearly have no relation to the actual game or to learning.

In a broader sense, the point for the coach is to be understand, really understand, and be aware of  what he is practicing at any time.  I’ve written and spoken along the lines of this concept before.  In the example in my post was a very unspecific drill the goal of which was to teach a behaviour that I wanted, specifically so I would have a reference point to which I could later refer.  In that case, the drill was ‘bad’ in a learning sense but I was not actually trying to teach a technique (or a skill).  The other simple case is that of two man pepper.  Two man pepper has its place within a practice concept, but that place is not to learn defence.  As long as the coach understands he isn’t teaching or practicing defence he will not waste his time nor be disappointed by his team’s lack of progress.

To summarise, techniques and skills are not the only things we are teaching and practicing at our trainings.  We are also teaching (among other things) behaviours and confidence.  Just be sure you are actually practicing what you think you are.  And make sure you are always going back to the skills.


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3 thoughts on “What Are You Practicing?

  1. Bee Chan

    Its funny, but my boys this year are one of the first teams I’ve had that truly FULLY embraced the “open” type of training. Every time I ask what they want to do, its always Ruckus, Bloody Knuckles, KOC, Chaos or some other of that nature. They don’t mind that I stop the “drill” for a minute to offer some guidance that may help them improve their mindset or tweak how they employ a technique, because I often otherwise just stay on the sidelines and either cheer or jeer in fun.

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