Coach Development

Constant, variable and random – when, where and why?

Having looked at trends around behavioural, cognitive and philosophical approaches to coaching, the one that stands out to me as most intriguing is cognitive, with Abraham, Collins & Martindale (2006) suggesting that coaching is a decision making process, something of which I am hugely in support of.

In terms of coaching, there are many ways in which coaches can get their point across and just as many ways of how players can receive said message, and it is important to recognise a players preferred learning style – the preferred way of using one’s abilities. (Sternberg 1994).

The effectiveness of training can be maximised by the type of training the players are engaged with (Schmidt, 1975). In regards to football coaching, we can look at the constant, variable and random approaches in sessions.

Starting with constant (or blocked), this type of practice ‘is typical of some drills in which a skill is repeated over and over, with minimal interruption by other activities’ (Lee and Schmidt, 2014). In a training context, it is repetition of a skill, passing and receiving the same pass with a teammate, for example. The idea behind it is to build confidence in trying the skill without external factors to put the player off – could it be good for beginner players due to the opportunity to practice without too many decisions to make? Could it be used in a tactical sense for elite players, maybe with pattern plays?

When we look at variable, this is the change of either the technique itself between repetitions or the introduction of an external factor creating more factors to think about, putting the technique under pressure to be performed in decision making situations – when, how and why to use this technique. Volleyball Canada (2016) suggest that this type of training isn’t suitable for players in the initial stages of skill development. Personally, I can see both negatives and positives of this for all ability levels as it is realistic to game situations which can benefit players technically and psychologically, however, on the opposing side, it could potentially be too much, too soon for some players.

Random practice is the game setting.  It is the decision making process for everyone involved, especially the player in possession.  Who do they pass to? What type of pass? Why that type of pass? If they don’t play the pass quickly, or at all, what may happen? This is the stage in which random practice created initially sloppy appearing sessions with less improvements immediately but with more self sufficient players who performed at a more consistent level eventually (Breakthrough Basketball, 2017).

What are your thoughts on constant/blocked, variable, random practices for beginner players? And elite players?

What is the best approach for tactical detail, rather than technical detail? When and why would this approach change?


Breakthrough Basketball (2017) 20/2/17 – accessed on 27/10/20

Abraham, A and Collins, D and Martindale, R (2006) The coaching schematic: validation through expert coach consensus. Journal of sports sciences, 24 (6). 549 – 564

Schmidt, R. A. (1975). A schema theory of discrete motor skill learning. Psychological Review, 82(4), 225–260

Sternberg R. J . 1994. ‘Allowing for thinking styles’. Educational Leadership. 52/3: 36–4

Volleyball Canada (2016) published 2016 – accessed on 27/10/20

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top