Distributed (Short) Versus Massed (Long) Practice

In the world of athletics or other movement skills, we are always searching for practice methods that allow for peak skill in games or performance opportunities.

The time length of practices or rehearsals can be a key factor in allowing a student-athlete to perform at peak level. Too little or too much practice can eliminate the opportunity for a “best” performance. Scheduling a practice requires the efficient use of time available for each skill and/or drill.

Consider the following:

  1. Practice cannot get boring.
  2. Time must be spent economically.
  3. Too much practice leads to fatigue and possible injury caused by overuse.
  4. Intensity is a necessity, but level of intensity cannot be maintained for long periods of time.

Consider massed practice (long) versus distributed practice (short). Take 60 minutes of time available for practice, and spend it wisely. I present that 12 x 5 minutes (distributed) is more effective than 1 x 60 minutes (massed).

The way we spend the hour can be of great significance in the development of an athletic skill. Twelve sessions of five minutes duration has many advantages over a one-hour session in perfecting any skill or drill:

  1. Athlete stays more alert.
  2. Intensity is more likely.
  3. Avoid oversaturation.
  4. Repetitions are maintained at a near-perfect level.
  5. Energy level stays constant.
  6. Fatigue less of a factor.
  7. Motivation easy to maintain.
  8. Short time blocks (five minutes) are more likely to be available than longer sessions.
  9. Attention rate is improved.
  10. Skills can be practiced on student-athlete’s personal schedule.
  11. Commitment is fostered.
  12. Opportunities for learning are increased.
  13. “Often” greater than “more.”

A normal practice session usually takes between two and three hours. Any time spent after that often proves to be counterproductive. While a session might require the teaching of many skills, they need frequent practice. Too much time spent on one skill eliminates the practicing of others.

Proper scheduling allows the economical expenditure of time. DON’T WASTE IT!

Charlie Greene was the head coach of Miami-Dade Community College from 1968 to 1997. He posted a career record of 1,047-548 and led the school to three State Championship titles (1970, 78, and 81) and one NJCAA National Championship (1981), for which he received the National Coach of the Year Award.Greene was the first junior college coach to serve as President of the American Baseball Coaches Association and he was inducted into the ABCA’s Hall of Fame in 1994. He has published several books on pitching and spent eleven seasons as a pitching coach for several Major League organizations, including the Chicago Cubs. Greene’s other accomplishments include serving as head coach for Team USA in 1989 and spending many of his summers as a coach in the Cape Cod League.

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