How Much Is One Repetition Worth?

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The first day I studied coaching at university we were introduced to the Principles of Training.  The most important of these for learning were, and are, repetition and specificity.  The importance of these principles is self evident.  To get good at something you need to do it over and over again.  You need many repetitions.  You get good at something, you need to do it over and over again.  You need to do specifically want you want to get better at.  Shortly after noting that principles were self evidently important, it occurred to me that they were also mutually exclusive.  The most specific practice you can do is to simply play a game.  But then you have the minimum number of repetitions.  Maximum speficity = minimum repetitions.  Conversely, if you do the most number of repetitions, you have to take them a long way from the game.  Maximum repetitions = minimum specificity.  It continues to strike me that the art of coaching is finding the balance between those two competing goals.

It is relatively easy to raise the number of (more or less) specific repetitions during practice through various 6 v 6 practice forms, although that number of repetitions is never particularly high for any individual player.  Certainly not as high as it could be by reducing specificity through using more drill forms.  The question arises how much are any of these repetitions worth in comparison to each other. Is a game repetition worth twice as much a drill repetition.  That is, does it create twice the learning effect.  Or three times, or ten times? Is an individual spike against a full court defence the same as a spike in a 6 v 6 form, or only nearly as good, or even half as good?  Is four service receptions in a 6 v 6 form better, worse or the same as 20 service receptions in an individual drill form? Or are the margins much smaller? Is a specific repetition only small margins better than a non specific one?

My personal feeling, based on experience, is that the specific repetition is several times more effective.

Click for more Specificity of TrainingVolleyball PracticePractice Philosophy, Principles of Training

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  1. I don’t think you can rationalise the effectiveness of the two methods without considering attitude and motivation. In the training situation is the athlete motivated to be completely at his best under all circumstances. For example what are the consequences for hitting a ball out during a down the line drill compared to hitting out in a 6 on 6 training drill? Perhaps the personal disappointment would be less than hitting the ball out in the Bundes league final when you are down 14 to 13 in the 5th. I agree with your last sentence regarding specific repetition but instilling the same attitude in that athlete as if he were executing that drill in the game condition is the true mark of the effectiveness of the coach.


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