Questioning Traditional Coaching

Altan Ramadan Toffa Leave a Comment

Introducing more game like activities is key to achieving retention, leading to better match day performance

Introducing more game like activities generates better learning retention outcomes for young athletes

Why is it that some players are excellent in training but cannot execute specific skills on match day when it really matters?

US studies have revealed the answer may be how athletes are training and learning.

Block Training

Traditionally coaches have used what is commonly referred to as Block Training as a way to develop athletes.  Block Training usually results in improved outcomes during the course of the practice session.

Simply put this type of training involves completing the same task over and over before moving on to another task.  For example, a player may complete a finishing drill by receiving a pass at the top of the penalty box, on the ground, 20 times in a row before moving on to a drill that involves right foot volleyed finishes closer to goal.

The task is repetitive – the player knows what is required as soon as the drill has started.  There is no need to read what will happen next or plan how to respond to variations.

The improvement delivered is a fallacy for both the athlete and the coach as it applies to the training session only and doesn’t carry through to when the athlete is tested days later in a game situation.

However, most coaches like to see improvements during training because they provide the impression that progress is occurring.  Unfortunately this impression is false.

Football matches are not characteristic of a standard Block Training session.

Chaos abounds in football. During a match players very rarely experience a moment that does not involve reading a situation and then quickly planning what to do before executing the skill.

While Block Training is an important building block in the young athlete’s development and is useful for learning a specific technique correctly, it must be supported with elements of chaos, or Random Training.

Random Training

Random Training forces players to read the play and then plan what is required.

For example a young golfer practicing putting through Random Training would elect to place ten balls around the hole at different distances, ideally on different angles. Block Training would involve attempting 10 putts from the same distance/angle.

With the new approach the golfer has to read the slope/break, conditions of the green surface, and possible wind factor with each shot.  In the block training example (10 putts from the same spot) the athlete does not need to do so – they are therefore not as engaged or focused on the task.  Training becomes automatic and skills get sloppy.

Random training creates an environment that requires problem solving and forces players to read and plan what they are going to do every time they attempt a specific action.  Over time, the speed of reading, planning and lastly performing the technique becomes lightening quick – the player can sum up an opportunity and then complete the required action (tackle/pass/shot) effectively.

Unfortunately Random Training is not the preference of many coaches or players.

The main reason for this is that progress is not as easy to capture in the short term.  Also, random training is difficult.  Because an athlete is not on auto-pilot the technique is not as easy to consistently complete – the putt misses, the attempted volley flies wide, the swing at the baseball is missed.

Both player and coaches need to put ego and the false progress trap aside to focus on the long-term outcomes of Random Training.


Studies at US college sport level clearly show that Random Training generates better learning retention outcomes than Block Training.  When match day comes the athlete that has more Random Training in their coaching plan will have improved at a faster rate than the athlete who has a Block Training curriculum.

The athlete is more attuned to the different challenges they will face during competitive performance and can respond accordingly.

Top Flight Football Academy Approach

Heavy use of match realistic small-sided games, changes in field size, possession variations and the addition of chaos and creativity into more traditional block type practices, help to ensure that Top Flight Football Academy sessions are weighted towards Random Training.

Block Training has its place in practicing the pure execution of a skill.  However players also need to assess and plan how to execute the skill in a game situation when under pressure.

Ensuring players experience different formations and field positions on match day is also a part of the Random Training process.  The long-term goal is to ensure that a young player is constantly learning and developing.

Does a player want to be brilliant at training or a standout performer on match day?

Top Flight Football Academy is geared towards ensuring that the ability to read, plan and then execute a specific technique on match day is the focus.  This philosophy is a powerful driver to achieving footballing excellence.


Share this Post

Leave a Reply