I recently read a blog post by Ben Franks which was published in 2015. There he had given his opinion of blocked vs random practice. He makes the point that random practice is certainly the better way for coaches to teach participants, not only in sport but in other aspects of live whilst providing examples of them. My previous blog post talks about the difference between blocked and random practice with advantages and disadvantages for both of them. Here I will discuss the reasons given by the author on his opinions of the two coaching approaches.
The first opinion about blocked practice given is that whilst participants are able to learn a skill, being able to use that skill in a challenging scenario will prove to be incredibly difficult. An example he uses is a part of football, when passing the ball to a teammate. Whilst the participant would be able to pass the ball successfully, using that in a game with opposition trying to intercept. Whilst this is true, it must be noted that blocked practice has been proven to be more efficient for novices who have not been able to perform the specific skill. A study undertaken by Sabbaghian Rad et al. (2012) was done to show how effective these two approaches were when compared to each other using a variety of swimming techniques on novices. The results had shown that blocked practice was able to produce higher quality skill acquisition for the participants. This backs up my view that blocked practice would be more successful when coaching participants new skills.
On the other hand, the blog post goes on to discuss how blocked practice can slow down improvement due to its lack of problem solving and variety of techniques used. An example used in the blog is how Lionel Messi was coached throughout his youth. Messi is known to have been made to change his playing style due to his height deficiency when he was young. If placed under blocked practice scenarios when being coached, the player would not have been able to adapt the way that he played to make up for his weaknesses. He credits his skills to playing a lot of ‘street football’, which had almost forced him into having to create other ways to beat opponents due his lack of size and strength. Research done by Shea and Morgan (1979) has shown that random practice produces more learning when trying to learn new movement patterns. Since there are studies to back up both approaches, its success could heavily rely on the current ability levels of the participant, for them to be able to take on the increased variables during training which random practice would require.
In conclusion, I feel that the author was biased to one side of the argument. Whilst he had made some good points with examples, analysing the opposite approach may have shown how the different approaches would need to be used at different times when coaching.
Franks, B. (2015). Unopposed Practice: What Exactly Are They Learning. [Blog] SportIQ. Available at: http://www.getsportiq.com/2016/01/unopposed-practice-what-exactly-are-they-learning/ [Accessed 1 Mar. 2017].
Sabbaghian Rad, L., Babolhavaeji, F. and Babolhavaeji, E. (2012). A comparison of blocked and random practice on acquisition of swimming skills. European Journal of Experimenting Biology, 2(6).
Shea, J. and Morgan, R. (1979). Contextual interference effects on the acquisition, retention, and transfer of a motor skill. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory, 5(2), pp.179-187.