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Plan For A Skill Practice

When planning a skill practice there are a number of practical considerations for the coach.

The Training Environment

Consider the number of players you have, the amount of space available, what equipment there is, and any possible safety hazards. Ensure that there is enough equipment for all the players to practise with. Keeping the equipment well maintained will save both time and money - there is nothing worse than arriving at training and finding all the balls are flat or a piece of essential equipment is broken. Adapt the activities and equipment to meet the players' developmental needs and to suit the skill practice. For example, try using less time and space for the more skilled and more time and space for the less skilled players.

Managing Time

The amount of time devoted to training is an issue when planning a skill. To reach a high level of skill ability, the player needs to perform the skill thousands, perhaps millions, of times during their sporting life. It is important to give the players many opportunities to practise, and where possible, minimize the time that players are not on task. Establishing organisational routines for your training sessions at the beginning of the season can maximise use of time. For example, a signal for players to come in, routines for dividing into groups and for getting equipment out. Other factors that increase time practising a skill include providing activities with high participation rates, decreasing instruction time (focus on the key factors) and decreasing the time it takes to move from one activity to another (transition).

Organising Groups and Formations

Organising the players into groups so there is maximum opportunity to practise can be a challenge when planning to teach a skill. There are a multitude of ways to organise players into groups. One of the quickest ways to organise groups is to say "get a partner" of "get into groups of four". To organise teams, use the numbering-off system or have your teams preorganised in your session plan. A coach should be aware of the players' self-esteem when organising groups. For example, when players choose teams themselves it is often the same person who is chosen last. They may be a player who either has low skill level or has a behavioural problem. The coach should consider the appropriate ways to deal with these individuals so that they are included.

Training Grids

Planning activities to practise the skill that involves all players in the space and time allocated can be a challenge. The grid system has evolved as a means of achieving this. A grid is an area of playing space that has been sub-divided using lines or cones. The number and size of each grid depends on the number of players and type of activities, and the players are divided accordingly. The principal advantage of using grids is that large groups can be organised efficiently. The coach can observe the activities from outside each grid or as they walk through and is easily able to monitor player skill acquisition, correct individual faults and acknowledge correct skill performance. Grids can be used for a variety of different games and drills. You can have players practising the same skills in grids or you may have different skills in each grid that the players rotate around. The grid system can also be used to develop fitness, particularly if space is limited.

Progression Of Skill

When finalising the plans about how to teach the skills or tasks of the training session, it is important to consider the steps involved for learning the skill. If the steps for learning are too large, the players can experience failure and lose their enthusiasm and motivation. If the steps are too small, the players can become bored. For the appropriate progression of a skill coaches should be able to draw on their own knowledge and break down each skill they plan to teach into smaller components.

Practice for Competition

While basic skill training and practice is essential to skill development, it is one thing to master these skills at practice but another thing entirely to perform those same skills under the pressure of competition. Therefore, it is important to include opportunities for the players to practise their skills in conditions that resemble as closely as possible the actual competitive situation. This can be achieved by dividing your players into teams opposing one another at practice or by arranging friendly preseason games with other teams in the club or competition. Equal Opportunity to Practise and Improve. The more opportunities players have to practise, the more likely there will be an improvement in skill. As a coach you should endeavour to provide all players with the maximum opportunity to improve and practise their skills. Coaches often give more time to either the higher skilled players, to ensure that their players reach their highest level of ability, or to the lower skilled players, because they need the most help. By focusing on either of these skill levels, the other players in the middle tend to be ignored.