How Long Should You Practice?

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“If player focus is high, you don’t need to practice for a long time. If player focus is low, it doesn’t matter how long you practice.”

I sometimes half jokingly tell journalists that playing a lot of matches in a short time is great for players and bad for coaches, because more games means less practice.  There are lots of kinds of coaches in the world, with many different philosophies and methods.  But whatever the philosophies and methods, these coaches have one thing in common: they all want to practice more.  Practicing more is the solution to all performance problems.

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Many coaches see the amount of practice they do as a badge of honour.  More practice means they are doing more work.  More practice means they are doing everything they can to make the team better.  I will never forget coming to a big playoff series and reading an article about our opponent who publicised that they were practicing 5 hours per day to prepare. At the same time we were literally off the court withint 90 minutes each. The sample size is one, but in thise case practicing more did not result in victory.

The length of practice is (more or less) irrelevant.  What is important is the focus and attention of the players on the practice task.  If focus and attention is high, then the players have a chance to get better.  If focus and attention is low, then (at best) it is just specific conditioning training.  At worst, the coach is creating the perfect conditions for injuries to occur.  Unfocused athletes running around after a single ball in a confined space is when most acute injuries in volleyball occur, and overtraining is the cause of overuse and muscle injuries.

So the solution is clear. If you want to get better, don’t practice more, practice less (better).  That is the key.


Check out the Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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