Considerations for Practice & Player Development

Keys: Efficient Practice & Maximizing Potential

1) Collaborative Emphasis of the Day – Goal Setting

2) Provide Balance of Skill Variety Within the Context of the Daily Training Window

3) Respect the Hands of Time

4) Structure with Random Sequencing

5) Variability in Single Skill Development

6) Contextual Interference

7) “Familiar with Chaos”

8) Feedback – Positive & Prescriptive

9) Develop Parameters for Feedback

10) Pause to Correct

Collaborative Emphasis of the day

a) Goal setting with team (performance based with process goals) Ex: Performance goal – each person is to make more free throws then yesterday. Process goal is to utilize personal “cue” mantra (i.e. “Freeze your finish.”).

b) Opportunity to improve confidence & increase motivation levels.

Provide Balance of Skill Variety Within the Context of the Daily Training Window

a) Develop a well rounded player with a varied tool box.

b) Potential for skill transference, great potential for learning & likelihood of greater chance of success on game day.  Ex: At basketball practice, drill all aspects of the game in practice (ball handling, shooting, passing, rebounding, defense, team schematics, etc.).

Respect the Hands of Time

a) Plan and stay within allocated time segments for balance & variety.

b) Adhere to the predetermined practice time slot.

c) Student-athletes will appreciate it and respond accordingly.

Structure with Random Sequencing

a) Organize a practice that has random sequencing of skill execution as opposed to “blocked practices” (repeatedly rehearsing the same skill).

b) Improves player interest & sparks motivation and arousal levels.

c) Greater retention of skill set.  Ex: At basketball practice, incorporate ft’s throughout practice within the structure of certain drills. Versus having the entire team shoot ft’s as a one-and-the bonus or 10 in arrow bunches for a given period time.

Variability in Single Skill Development

a) Vary the distance of the target goal and its basic movement.

b) Develops competence in a changing setting similar to competition.  Ex: Shooting from beyond the arc. Vary the distance and movement required for the shot. Have the shooter vary the distance and ways to get shot (off bounce, pass, or screen read).

Contextual Interference

a) Several skills/tasks are learned and practiced together.  Ex: At basketball practice, two players will play one-on-one live as means to incorporate several skills at once in a game like setting.

b) Improved retention and greater transfer of motor learning.

Familiar with Chaos” – Bob Bowman

a) Intentionally creating challenging conditions for the elite learner.  Ex: Basketball player finishing around the rim w/ intentional contact (“blocking dummy”).

b) Improved reactions to adverse performance conditions.  Ex: Michael Phelps trainer, Bob Bowman intentionally created a crack in Michael’s goggles prior to a competition. In the 2008 Bejing Olympics, Phelps’ goggles filled with water. His training of memorizing the number of strokes needed coupled with a familiar experience, helped propel him to gold.

Feedback should be Positive & Prescriptive

a) Provide the learner with encouragement coupled with an attentional cue to hone in on the corrective measure.  Ex: At basketball practice, when correcting a shooter’s arc an effective form of feedback would be “elbow to your ear.”

Pause to Correct

a) Pause and then be prescriptive. This affords the learner the time to internally process their movement and make their own judgment about the appropriate corrective measure.  Ex: At basketball practice, after a player misses a lay-up allow them to attempt again on their own without comment.  If the necessary adjustment has not been made, then it would be appropriate to comment, “high & soft off the glass.”

Develop Parameters for Feedback

a) Allow the athlete to experience setbacks within a pre-determined margin window.  Ex: At basketball practice, commenting after every turnover is not necessary. After the third consecutive turnover, provide the player with the appropriate feedback, “fake a pass to make a pass.

b) Decreases dependency levels & “strengthens their permanent memory of the action.” (Schmidt & Wrisberg 2008, p. 311).

Fade the Feedback

a) In the learning stages, provide consistent feedback. But as a player becomes more competent or advanced in skill, reduce the amount & frequency of feedback.  Ex: At the elite level of training, allow the athlete to perform the task or activity in a game like setting for a period of time like 5 minutes without feedback. After the drill, ask the performer: what went well? Why? What setbacks did he/she experienced and why? What do they think is the appropriate corrective measure?

b) Reduces the dependency level for feedback and provides the bridge to become more self-sufficient on performance levels in a competition setting.

player dialogue
Player-coach dialogue critical to developing rapport and maximizing potential.
Archbishop Mitty & San Jose Cagers alum Kelli Hayes (who currently plays for the UCLA Bruins) mastered the art of being comfortable with chaos (photo courtesy of

Happy planning!


Chan, L. Three Lessons from Olympian Michael Phelps – Familiar with Chaos. Tofurious (2012). Retrieved from:

Cronin, K. (1999). Coaching Well-Rounded Athletes with Multi-Lateral Skill Development. National Strength & Conditioning Association. Retrieved from:

Schmidt, R. & Wrisberg, C. (2008). Motor Learning and Performance, 4th edition. Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL.

Sekiya, H., Magill, R., Sidaway, B., Anderson, D. The Contextual Interference Effect for Skill Variations from the Same and Different Motor Programs. Quarterly for Exercise & Sport 65.4 (Dec 1994): 330-8 Retrieved from:

Wilson & Pritchard (2005). Comparing Sources of Stress in College Student Athletes and Non-Athletes. Athletic Insight: The Online Journal of Sport Psychology. March 2005. Volume 7, Issue 1. Retrieved from: