Here’s something for those interested in skill acquisition and performance research.

Dan Abrahams did a podcast interview with a pair of researchers who authored the paper An extended challenge-based framework for practice design in sports coaching. A key visual from that paper is the following, which links specificity of training with the challenge level of the task:

I think it’s worth taking particular note of the three green dots. Each represents a different use case we may have as a coach for what we’re doing in practice. Let me address each.

  • Transfer (T) – When you’re in this space you’re training for performance (use in competition). That means making things highly specific to the game and highly challenging (relative to the level of the players/team).
  • Learning (L) – This is where you’re working on things (skills, tactics). Because you’re not in the performance space you’ve got scope to not be quite as specific to allow for conceptual development. You’re also not as challenging to avoid excess frustration and de-motivation.
  • Maintain (M) – This is basically match preparation space. The focus is on confidence and being in a good head space, not development. You don’t want to challenge the players very much as the idea is for them to experience a lot of success.

Notice for these three that while task difficulty varies across basically the full spectrum, specificity is only in the upper half of the range. At no point is there low specificity.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

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