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Skill Based Games vs. Technical/Tactical Training Part 2

The reason I posted yesterday’s study was two-fold. First, to give everyone another idea to think about when preparing training for their athletes; and second, to help give some coaches ideas to break up the monotony of training.

If you read the study (for those that emailed in and requested it) or even just the abstract, it is pretty easy to see what is going on. Basically, the researchers took a group of junior elite volleyball players and put them into two groups. One group performed training that was regimented and instructional. Their training had to do enhancing the technical aspects of the sport by taking rep after rep of a number of drills. The other group performed more skill based games, which allowed them to interact in athletic ways, rely on quick decision making, as they would in a game situation, and execute movements in response to what the other people in the game where doing. The volleyball players’ performance was then tested to see which group had the greatest improvements. The girls in the instructional group showed significantly greater improvements in all measurements of skill as well as spike jump and speed. The girls in the skill based game group showed improvements in vertical jump, spike jump, speed, agility, upper body muscular power, and estimated maximal aerobic power. This led the researchers to conclude that a combination of both skill based games and instructional training are needed to elicit the greatest performance benefits from junior elite volleyball players.

One-thing kids hate, is sitting there and taking rep after rep of some technical drill. While I will be the first to say that drilling technique is crucial to the development of an athlete, I will also say that at a young age, this can be overkill. Aside from the fact that athletes these days specialize in sports at way to young of an age, most kids want to have fun and being out there and getting harped on about technique sometimes can get old real fast. I think this study is excellent at showing us that there is a lot of merit to allowing kids to play games that enhance their skills. In volleyball, soccer, basketball or hockey, it can be something as simple as three-on-three. Just letting the kids play and interact in between the technical aspects of training can help them develop their skills by putting into play some of the things they have learned in their technical training, while also giving them an idea of how to think on their feet and help them get “game ready.” Other games that work really well are things like tag, or freeze tag and dodge ball. These games help teach kids athletic movements and agility, while getting them away from the things they do everyday (sometimes year round) in practice.

One way you could use this information is by having a few days of the week devoted to technical and instructional practice and then a few days of the week devoted to athletic or skill based games. These games, aside from what I have said above, are also great for conditioning as they get the kids up and moving and can be used in place of a regular conditioning practice that you may have scheduled. Another way may be to have the kids spend some of the practice doing technical training and then the other part of the practice doing skill based games, basically trying to implement what they have learned. For example, doing some skill work for basketball for half the practice and then breaking them down to play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 to try and use some of the new ideas they acquired during the technical training, while developing their ability to think on their feet in game like situations.

However you use the info in this study is up to you; but, when you are planning practice, just remember that you can have all the technique in the world, but if you don’t know how to use it in a game situation or can’t call on it when the time is right, you probably will have a hard time getting to the next level of play. So, don’t neglect the importance of allowing kids to develop sports skills (and enhance conditioning) with other types of games.