The question I am asking myself is how much practice is enough so that a player can reach their technical potential.
I am a strong believer in games based training but I cannot deny that when I try to re-examine my beliefs I always have a little doubt in the back of my mind about do I give the players enough repetitions at all the techniques required to have a strong technical base.
I do have large concerns over techniques that happen less regularly in small sided games such as longer passing or controlling the ball in the air for example but that isn’t the focus of this blog. The blog’s focus is on what is the right number of repetitions of a technique for a player to reach their technical potential.
If a drill based session is coached properly then a player will get more practice at the technique they are working on how to do than a player who is involved with a games based session. There may be little or no perception or decision making but there will be more repetitions. The fact there is more repetitions is the basis of the argument of most Coaches I have met who prefer drill based sessions.
The argument is simple and appears to be common sense. The player did it more times therefore they have gotten better than if they did it less times. Argument over.
This leads me back to the question I keep asking myself is how many repetitions at how to do a technique is enough. Am I giving the players I train the ability to transfer the techniques they practice to a competitive game more easily because it is learnt with Perception- Action coupling but not giving them enough repetitions at the technique for them to have the best possible technical level.
Should I be doing a blend of drills and games based training to increase the number of repetitions. If so what number of repetitions should I increase it to so that they have done enough.
Many years ago, I used to be a Coach who aimed for 1,000 touches per player per session. Where did that number come from and has it been proven to be a number of any significance or was it as I came to believe simply a nice round number that meant players touched the ball a lot.
To further add to my confusion, I have had a new player trying out a training program I do. He has done 3 sessions with me now in a very good standard group. He is 11 years old. The first two sessions he barely touched the ball and when he did he regularly lost it before he could complete an action. In the 2nd session he got the ball in space and simply smashed it at goal immediately completely ignoring the conditions on the game. He said he had forgotten but I was pretty sure he was just frustrated at his lack of involvement.
Now I’m sure you expect me to say in the 3rd session he started to touch the ball more and he played really well but there was no perceivable increase in touches. He still had the lowest number of touches out of anyone in the group by a margin but the thing was he kept possession. Whereas in his first sessions he attempted to simply control the ball and so would have it taken off him regularly. Now the few times he got the ball he managed to keep possession probably because he was scanning noticeably more so knew where the defenders where and controlled it in a deliberate direction away from them.
I understand that the level of his 1st Touch may have not improved significantly simply his ability to apply his 1st Touch in a game situation has. The problem this has set me is that he has done this with so few repetitions. I was going to say to him that perhaps he needs to look for another training program but now I am interested to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks.
I am now pondering perhaps can this be applied to improving technical level. Does a player require a lower number of repetitions of a technique if all the repetitions are in a game situation compared to being done in isolation?
Perhaps the hours I spent as a kid controlling the ball with my chest off our back wall was equal to the, I guessing here, 7/8 times I would do it in some sort of game each week.
Just my thoughts but I would be interested to hear from other Coaches especially those who may have any articles or studies that could make my thinking clearer.
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Till next time