You Gotta Do The Reps! – Postscript

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A comment on my most recent blog post appeared (briefly) on the Volleyball Coaches and Trainers Facebook page, that I thought we worthy of a detailed reply.

My post was about the value of repetitions and used the example of Kyle Korver and Steve Kerr doing less total repetitions but more effective repetitions.

The commenter made the point that those particular players have previously done a high volume of repetitions and that what they are doing now is not a good example of how to practice.

I have a couple of thoughts.  Firstly, the point of the post is provoke discussion and consider about what an actual ‘repetition’ is.  We do a lot of things in practice, all of which we count as ‘repetitions’.  But not all of these repetitions can possibly have equal value in the learning process.  I would propose that many drills that we consider repetition drills, play only a small part in the learning process, and then at the beginner level.  They have only an aesthetic relationship to the skill that we are trying to learn or improve and as coaches we can be lured into thinking that the aesthetics IS the skill.

Secondly, by focussing on the individual examples, we can too easily lose sight of the bigger picture.  The point of the examples is not about the drills themselves, or the people involved.  It is about performers looking critically at what they are really trying to achieve and searching for ways they can gain more value from their training.

I will add that none of these ideas are originally own, but they are supported by my experience and by research.  You can see the same things at John Kessel’s blog, for example this post about ball control.

The point is always about finding better ways to do things.


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  1. Wish that nice phrase occured to me first, but I took it from a presentation by biologist Randy Moore (who refered to and has some evidence regarding teaching writing skills in science courses): “Practice does NOT make perfect.” What he meant was this: Doing something over and over again (e.g. players doing reps in training, students writing pages over pages of text) in itself doesn’t make you any better in what you are doing. Sometimes it might be even harmful, because you are stabilizing bad habits. What you have to practice, though, are good habits. All in all, I think repetitions are a necessary, but not sufficient part of practice in the venture of becoming more effective in your performance. In other words: It’s quality first, and reps second.


  2. Gday Mark,

    My name is Danny O’Toole and I am a teacher at St Laurence’s College in South Brisbane.

    A few years ago I was in contact with you and you helped me in my preparation for my school volleyball tour I was planning to Paris, Krakow and Rome. The contact in Krakow you passed onto me was fantastic and our visit to this club was one of several memorable experiences for my boys on that tour.

    After visiting South America (Rio and Buenos Aires) in 2013 we are now heading back to Europe this September, Paris, Berlin and Istanbul. Knowing your involvement in a major club in Berlin and the strength of volleyball in Germany was a major reason in deciding to include Berlin, as well as it being one of my favourite cities in the world to visit in my travel experience. I have no doubt the boys will have a great time in Berlin.

    I have enjoyed following Berlin Recycling these past couple of seasons especially now that Fox Sports Australia showcases a game of the round of the CEV Champions League which is fantastic. To also see an Australian involved on court in Paul Carroll and off court in yourself is wonderful so they have become my adopted team, as well as many of the boys at my school. I congratulate you, Paul and the team on the success of your 3rd placing in this prestigious competition.

    I have also enjoyed reading your regular blog At Home On The Court. For an aspiring young coach it certainly gives me a great perspective on what it to takes to succeed on court and off court.

    I am hoping that during our tour and visit to Berlin that we would be able to visit your club to either watch a training session/warm up game for your upcoming season, tour your facilities and perhaps meet yourself, Paul and some of the other players. This would be the ultimate experience for the boys and the tour highlight without doubt.

    We are in Berlin from the 22nd-27th September. I am aware that you will be in preparation for your upcoming season but my fingers are crossed that we may get lucky and you and the team will be in town during this time.

    Also I was wondering if you had any junior club/school contacts. I have emailed a few schools already but I am yet to hear back from them. The emails I sent are in English but I was hoping someone would be able to read them. Any information you have in terms of contacts would be greatly appreciated as I know the school year is coming to a close and I am hoping to lock in 3 games before then as when they return from holidays it will be too close to when we depart and that will cause great stress.

    In particular I have made contact with School and Sports Centre Berlin (Schul- und Leistungssportzentrum
    Berlin ) and they have your club Berlin Recycling advertised on their school home page as a partner of the school. Is there anyone there you would suggest I email to see about organising the chance to play a game?

    I apologise for the length of the email but I do appreciate you taking the time to read it and hopefully hearing back from you with some good news.


    Danny O’Toole


  3. I often think that the problem with discussions about repetitions is mainly a theoretical one. There is always anecdotal, or even scientific, evidence that one drill or style has been successful in some situation with some team. The main difference between theoretical benefit and practical benefit is actually time.

    There is very little (if any) doubt that many different things can be successful in improving a player’s ability to compete. The challenge is that you are not just trying to improve the player, you are trying to improve them more than anyone else, in the same time period. That is, your player/athlete has not only to improve but to improve at the best possible rate.

    As soon you factor this into your training plans and competition goals, the entire way you plan will most likely change.


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