PGAs of Europe

Block v Random Practice: Read, Plan, Do – How to Optimise Your Practice with Motor Learning

Expert Interviews

For this V-Essay we interviewed two incredible coaches:

John Kessel

Director of Sport Development for USA Volleyball.

He’s one of the smartest cats around and an expert in motor learning.

Tom Black

Head Volleyball Coach at Loyola Marymount University • Assistant for Coach USA Volleyball

We were having a discussion with Tom about mindset and he dropped some key insights dealing with the whole block v random argument. Tom is the man.

Shortcuts:

Kessel – (1:03-1:33), (2:44-3:27), (12:53-13:58)

Black – (9:40-10:51)

Research Studies

Summaries about a number of block v random practice research. Fancy animated graphs + explanations.

Shortcuts:

Block v random practice: effects on skill acquisition – (8:01-8:40)

Block v random practice: baseball study – (8:41-9:06)

Block v random practice: basketball study – (9:07-9:16)

Key Points

Game skills are complex

Every time you do a skill in a game, regardless of sport, you have to read, plan, and do. We call this process the “total skill.”

It’s all about transfer

Transfer is the word motor learning scientists use to describe real learning. When they study practice and how it impacts skill acquisition they always look at what the people can do the next day rather than the improvements they can see during the practice stage.

Transfer = How much of the improvements made in practice actually show up the next day or in the game.

Block Practice

A traditional approach to practice that involves getting a high number of reps repeating the exact same movement over and over and over again (hitting 10 putts from the same spot).

Random Practice

A practice approach that randomizes reps – you never do the exact same thing twice (hitting 10 putts from different spots on the green).

Random leads to wayyyyyy more transfer – why?

In all of the studies we see a huge difference between block and random practice during the transfer test (the one that measures real learning). This happens because during random practice (when we never do the same thing twice) we are forced to read, plan, and do before every single rep.

During block practice we simply repeat the previous movement and the reading and planning are eliminated from the equation.

Block is easier to do, obviously, and will make us look better in practice. However, if we want to prepare to perform in an actual game, random is the better option.