Blocked/Varied/Random

Coming into contact with children aged 3-18 on a daily basis really does challenge when to use these three types of practices. Personally I believe there is a place for all three of these types of practices and each practice enables you as a coach to challenge and aim to develop children, each practice has its time and place but finding when that is, is the most difficult part as a coach.

Firstly, I will start with blocked practice, When I first started coaching I used blocked practices on a number of occasions however, as I have developed more as a coach gaining more experience I generally decided to stay away from this type of practice no matter the age I am working with. Yet both blocked and random practice can be effective in developed skills with blocked practice usually providing quicker improvement in results compared to random practice (L,Rad. F,Babolhavaeji, E,Babolhavaeji,2012).The reason for me choosing random over blocked is simple, even though blocked practice is a good place to start when introducing a new skill or technique I believe varied practices are more beneficial for a players learning. Yes standing in a line passing a ball back and forth with the inside of your foot will no doubt developed your technique to pass with the inside of your foot but what are the chances of you being passed the ball the same way each time, very slim. Which is the reason why I generally decide to sway towards varied practice where players are made to think for themselves and problem solve, for example if the ball isn’t quite right to return a pass with the inside of the foot how can they adapt to find a different solution to get the ball back without claiming they are unable to pass with the inside of their foot because the feed wasn’t quite right.

Don’t get me wrong I am not saying blocked practice doesn’t have its place because it does. Blocked practice is a good type of practice to use when working with beginners that may have never played the sport before, this gives you as a coach to see the ability you are working with and gives the player a chance to become comfortable within the environment and get a feel for the sport which hopefully helps to build the players confidence and interest to continue playing the sport. Another place where blocked practice could be used is when regressing a session, say you move into a varied practice where players are forced to think when in situations they may not be used to and are struggling to find solutions to problems then blocked practice is a good place to go back to, to refine the skills they have done previously and provide them with the confidence that they are able to do it when taking part in a varied practice.

As a coach I predominantly deliver sessions using varied and random practice, the reason for this is these practices are more game specific compared to blocked practice, varied and random practice takes players out of there comfort zone and introduces them to new challenges where they may have to make different decisions depending on the situation. I understand that sometimes players may be uncomfortable or may not be able to perform at first during these practices but children are not stupid, each individual has a brain for themselves and therefore, after time will be able to provide solutions to problems and enhance their development sometimes without the coaches input.

During a game coaches are not there to make decisions for the children, they make them decisions for themselves, providing players with random practices will enable each individual to develop cognitive abilities (Hawkins, Kramer, & Capaldi, 1992). During blocked practice the coaches has already made the decisions for the player ‘this is how you will pass the ball’ rather than ‘this is what you could do in this situation’. As I discussed earlier there is no chance of you being passed the same ball 10 times out of 10 so what happens when the 9 out of the 10 balls you are passed come to you differently, how would a child react then?. Whereas, if a child is put into a varied and random practice then they are forced to make decisions for themselves and try different things in order to get a positive outcome.
Again I am not saying there isn’t a place for blocked practice because I believe there is. I am simply attempting to identify the best way to develop children and for me that comes with using varied and random practices.

References:

L,Rad. F,Babolhavaeji, E,Babolhavaeji (2012) A comparison of blocked and random practice on acquisition of swimming skills. Euro. J. Exp. Bio., 2012, 2 (6):2073-2076

Hawkins, Kramer, & Capaldi, (1992) Age related-effects of blocked and random practice schedules on learning a new technology.

Out with the old, In with the new

So it’s time for a well overdue blog post, after an extremely busy festive period and the joy’s of christmas and new year it’s time to get back to business.

2015 was an amazing year for myself and during christmas I managed to find time to sit back and reflect on my coaching journey throughout the year, replaying my coaching adventure and analysing goals I set myself and whether they were achieved.

During 2015 I was fortunate enough to have some amazing opportunities and come into contact with some fantastic coaches who have had a real impact on my development as a coach, I gained my first full time u16’s coaching role with a grassroots club, spent two 1/2 months in the heart of America coaching, seeing sights I never thought I would see, coming into contact with two professional footballers and supporting them with my coaching within there academy, expanding my knowledge by undertaking Futsal and Goalkeeping courses and most recently gaining myself a job at Fleetwood FC as a full time coach. All which were extremely exciting opportunities which I believe were created by myself through hard work and dedication to coaching which have only supported me in my development as a coach.

2015 was a year that helped me to understand myself as a coach, where I am currently and where I want to be in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and even 5 years. My coaching has developed from turning up and putting on a session to fill the hour to something that I put my all into, the enjoyment, challenge, emotions and learning that goes on during my coaching journey now highlights how much of a privilege coaching is to me. Over the last year I have taken every opportunity given to me in order to develop myself. My session focus has changed from ‘filling the hour’ to focusing on my players, how can I make the best difference to them in the time I have? What do they need? What does he need compared to what she needs? Will they find that fun? What will challenge them?. I could go on forever with questions I ask myself before sessions in order to ensure the players get the most out of the sessions, they are the reason I love coaching.

After a highly successful 2015 I have decided to raise the bar and set myself new goals for the new year and hopefully exceed what was achieved in 2015, this year I have chosen to follow the EPP model.

Step1: Process
Step2: Performance goal
Step3: End goal

So, my 2016 goals:

1. Continue to develop my learning my attending more CPD events. Being open to attending events from different sports and see how other coaches work within them sports.

2. Work hard and make time to get out and watch elite coaches and pick their brains on how they work. Pick ideas from them and implement them into the way I work by developing their ideas into my own.

3. Completing a reflection on each coaching session. Jotting down what I thought went well with the session and why, what could be improved, why. Gain feedback from players and their opinions on the session which will help me to create different ideas on how to meet the players need more often.

4. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the national coaching conference at St Georges Park during December so a big goal of mine is to attend in December 2016. A great experience for myself to develop my coaching knowledge and meet other coaches in the same position as myself.

5. Finally, continue to enjoy my coaching. Not being one dimensional – being open to change and different ideas, embrace learning and continue to work hard.

Climbing is not about getting to the top, it’s about enjoying the journey and making it more interesting.

Time to test myself and my players, bring on 2016.

Reference list:

Brause. J (2016). Effective goal setting in coaching. [Available at]www.janbrause.co.uk/user/custom/downloads/GoalSettinginCoaching.pdf [Accessed 8th January 2016]