We live in a ‘results now’ society. So,
when teaching your athletes new skills,
it is tempting to blast through the
fundamentals and start doing the complicated
multidirectional drills, fly runs,
bounding and jumping exercises that are
fun to watch and fun to do.
But you can’t do it. You must discipline
yourself and your athletes to stick to
the basic fundamentals until they’ve
acquired the technical proficiency and
consistency of execution to move on to
the next level.
Acquiring athletic/movement skill is a
process and that takes time with your
In fact, I wrote a couple of articles on
the 4 stages of skill acquisition that
I recommend you read:
It even takes time when you’re a more
advanced athlete. For example, I take
Muay Thai and Krav Maga. When we’re
learning a new combination or defense,
we learn it in sections.
For the first month of a rotation, we
practice everything at a slower pace
so that we can ingrain the movement patterns
into our head/body to the point of being
In month two, we get to practice at a
faster pace in order to get the feel for
the technique in a competitive situation.
This allows us to see where our technique
Month 3 is ‘performance month’ where we
deliberately practice the techniques,
particularly the parts we can’t do well
so that when we test, it all comes
It seems like a laborious and slow process,
but after a few months we can react without
proper technique and without thinking,
which is what you’re trying to teach your
athletes to do.
Sure it’s more fun to run fly 30s than
it is to do 20m accelerations.
And setting up cones to do plyo step to
acceleration to lateral shuffle to
backwards run to acceleration to hockey
stop is a fun drill for athletes to do.
Every athlete would rather do alternate
leg bounds for distance than stabilization
But putting the cart before the horse is
never the answer. If you want to ensure
a safe training situation *and* facilitate
an optimal acquisition of technique and
efficiency, athletes should progress only
when they can demonstrate a movement
pattern to your satisfaction.
It’s commonly called a ‘skill based
progression’ and in my opinion it’s the
best way to teach new skills, drills,
exercises, plays and patterns.
Some athletes are going to progress faster
than others. So you’ll have different kids
doing different things.
But one thing is for sure: No one likes
to be in the remedial group.
The easiest way to get young athletes to
practice on their own is to prevent them
from ‘graduating’ to the more advanced
drills. Especially when their friends
and teammates are doing them.
They’ll stay late. They’ll come to practice
early. They ask if they can show you the
drill or movement before practice starts
so they can join their friends. I call
it ‘tricking kids into training’ and
it’s a highly effective technique.
But it still boils down to the fact that
you have to walk before you can run. So
only let your athletes go as fast as they
can, not as fast as they can’t.