Transfer, Transfer, Transfer

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I think all coaches agree that the goal of practice is to create environment in which the activities taught therein are transferred to the game situation. How transfer occurs is naturally a topic that occupies the specialists in the field and there are many considerations.  Topics we hear about include blocked and distributed practice, game like practice, repetitions, drills, games, ‘the game teaches the game’, etc etc.  It seems that distributed practice, closely resembling the game is the type of activity that produces the most transfer.

However as with so many other things, the ‘discussions’ that begin on various coaching forums often take an all or nothing view. One way is right and all other ways are wrong.  As I was following a particularly aggressive version of this discussion I was reminded of a comment made by (I think*) Joe Trinsey.  To paraphrase:

“All training activities (within reason) produce transfer.  The question is only how much transfer, and would a different activity produce more transfer.”

There you have it in nutshell.  All activities produce some level of transfer.  No (or hardly any) activities are ‘wrong’.  Or ‘right’.  Only ‘better’ or ‘worse’, for today.  The art of coaching is finding the activity that produces the optimal amount of transfer under the current conditions of the learner. The answer to this question can change from week to week or even day to day, as conditions** change and the individual develops.

* I am more than happy to be corrected and attribute it correctly, or to include the exact quote.

** Conditions including, but not limited too, the age of the learner, the experience of the learner, the number of players at practice, the proximity to a match, the time of the season.

Check out my collection of Coaching Tips here.

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  1. Certainly you’re right – it’s not all-or-none, and furthermore, it varies from player to player. Some will transfer more from one type of practice, others from another type of practice.


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