There I said it! And I believe it! There is however a big IF…it’s never that straightforward…IF it is in the best interest and what an individual or group of players need.
It feels wrong to say it is ok to use constant practices…in this era of modern-day player centred coaching philosophies constant practices have been banished, banned from the grass around the country.
Before we get into the details of WHY I think it is ok, let’s firstly explore what a constant practice is and how it differs from variable and random practices (important to use practice rather than drill…had this drilled into me by my Level 2 tutor!).
A constant practice is one which exhibits high levels of repetition, involves minimal or no decision-making opportunities for the players and is unopposed. Repetition is key in this type of practice.
A variable practice requires the players to think a little more. There is likely to be more movement, some decision making and interference. Often still unopposed.
A random practice mirrors the match as closely as possible. It will be random in nature with many decision-making opportunities. There will be interference and it is opposed. Constrained small sided games fall into this coaching category.
So why is it ok to use constant practices, IF IT IS WHAT YOUR PLAYERS NEED. Developing that ball/foot/eye co-ordination, first touch, ability to manipulate the ball, practice with non-dominant foot is a critical part of the game. This is needed before more advanced levels of training or conditioned small sided games can be successfully undertaken. Constant practices provide high levels of repetition (technical grooving as the experts call it), this helps develop those critical elements needed to play football and one can argue is the most effective type of practice to achieve this.
Would I use constant practices for the whole training session? Almost certainly NO! Training should be fun, engaging for the players, offer lots of decision-making opportunities, match based wherever possible and leave the young players desperately wanting to come back for more. Constant practices can be mundane and boring, they are not match based, and ultimately what do our young players want…matches!
However, there are things you can do to make your constant practices more interesting. Add in some challenges and competition, deliver with verve and positivity, use player led demonstrations, engage the players as to how the practice can progress. This will help but it will never replicate the enjoyment of a match.
I joined a FA CPD event last week. During the event we were asked the question as to how much time would you allocate to constant practices. The responses around the room were wide ranging. As a group we quickly determined it should be driven by your player requirements, however, I would say if you have more than 15-20% of the training session using a constant practice then this is too much. They can still be used though!
It is critical that constant practices are used alongside variable and preferably random practices. Offer the player varied learning experiences to support their development needs.
Ultimately, one asks the question as to what the foundation phase coach is there to do. To put it simply, in my view, develop players and not win football matches and to keep the young players coming back week after week with a smile on their face. A constant practice will certainly help to develop players and if done right can be enjoyable too!