Tuesday, 28 May 2024

False Fundamentals

The concept of false fundamentals and irrelevant training is often overlooked by coaches, parents, and players in the world of sports. Dr. Richard Schmidt, a renowned sports scientist, once said to our US Olympic coaches, “You are practicing for practice, and not performance.” Many coaches believe that teaching fundamentals through drills and gameplay, rather than traditional blocked training, goes against the principles of coaching. However, this mindset may not fare well in individual sports or any sport that requires a blend of skilled individuals into team tactics.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend of prioritizing game-like training over traditional methods. This approach allows athletes to learn from the actual game itself, developing their understanding of game flow, anticipation, and increasing their real-world sports IQ. While it may be tempting to stick to old traditions and spend weeks or months honing false fundamentals through blocked training, the science behind motor learning principles suggests otherwise.

Motor learning expert, Mark Upton, emphasizes the importance of integrating the realities of a sport into training rather than relying solely on drills. He notes that learning a task entails learning to perceive the information specific to that task and using it to select and control appropriate actions. This means that learning in a controlled environment may not transfer effectively to the real game. Instead, a more random approach to training, where players learn to adapt, anticipate, and apply their skills in various contexts, can lead to better long-term learning and retention.

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The success of programs like Gold Medal Squared and USA Volleyball’s CAP program further reinforces the superiority of game-like training. These programs prioritize the science of motor learning principles, emphasizing the importance of random and “ugly” training over blocked training for skill development. Coaches who have adopted these philosophies have witnessed significant improvements in their teams’ performance, with players demonstrating better decision-making abilities and an improved understanding of the game.

In conclusion, it is time to rethink traditional training methods and embrace a more game-like approach. By focusing on real-world application and integrating the realities of the sport into training sessions, athletes can develop the necessary skills, adaptability, and anticipation required for success. The national teams have already adopted this approach, and their results speak for themselves. So, let’s take a leap of faith and trust in the power of game-like training to unlock our athletes’ full potential.


Q: What is the difference between game-like training and traditional blocked training?

Game-like training involves replicating the conditions and challenges of an actual game during practice sessions. It focuses on developing skills, decision-making abilities, adaptability, and anticipation in a realistic context. On the other hand, traditional blocked training involves isolated drills aimed at perfecting specific skills without considering the complexities of the game. Game-like training promotes better long-term learning and retention by mirroring the actual game experience.

Q: Can beginners benefit from game-like training?

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Yes, beginners can benefit greatly from game-like training. While a certain level of technical instruction is necessary to introduce skills, incorporating game-like situations early on helps beginners understand how to apply those skills in a real-game context. By learning to adapt, anticipate, and perform in game-like scenarios, beginners can improve more quickly and develop a deeper understanding of the sport.


In sports training, the notion of false fundamentals and irrelevant training is often disregarded. Many coaches and players prioritize blocked training, which involves isolated drills, over game-like training. However, recent scientific research suggests that game-like training is more effective in developing skills, decision-making abilities, adaptability, and anticipation.

Game-like training replicates the conditions and challenges of real games, allowing players to learn and apply skills in a realistic context. This approach emphasizes the importance of long-term learning and retention, as players develop a deeper understanding of the game. Programs like Gold Medal Squared and USA Volleyball’s CAP program have successfully implemented game-like training principles, resulting in improved player performance.

It is time to shift our focus from false fundamentals to game-like training. By embracing this approach, coaches, parents, and players can unlock their full potential and achieve greater success in their respective sports. Let’s take a leap of faith and trust in the power of game-like training.