There are three types of practice. Each type is helpful for effective skill development. It’s important to know each type, what they are designed to accomplish, and how to use each one to achieve your goals. The three types of practice are: Block, Random, and Competitive.
Block Practice: Block practice is designed to “acquire” new or increased skill. This practice will typically focus on a single skill using multiple repetitions and involve some source of feedback specific to the skill being acquired. An example of Block practice is the Yardstick drill. In the Yardstick drill the player repeatedly rolls putts on the yardstick, trying to keep the ball on the entire length of the yardstick. This drill is designed to develop the skill of face angle control. If the ball falls off the yardstick’s right edge, then the feedback reveals that the face was open (for a righthand player). If the ball falls off the left edge, then the feedback reveals that the face was closed. The player continues the drill without varying the task and the drill is completed after a fixed amount of time or number of repetitions – a “block” of time.
Random Practice: Random practice is designed to “transfer” skill so that the player can access it in a more game-like context. The theme of random practice is: “One ball, different target every repetition, no mulligans”. Two examples of how to “transfer” the face angle skill discussed above would be:
- The Twister Drill is an extension of the Yardstick Drill above where the player intentionally forces the ball to fall off the right edge, then the left edge, and then keep the ball on the full length.
- The player putts down a chalk line on different holes, uphill, downhill, 3 feet long, 6 feet long, etc., randomly moving between the different chalk line locations, trying to start the ball on the line. The player is allowed one ball, one attempt for each location.
Random practice increases the challenge of the task (over Block practice), requires the player to apply the skill differently each repetition, and keeps the source of feedback in place during the repetitions.
Actually, no. Not this time. Competitive Practice: Competitive practice IS a game. The objective of competitive practice is to “test” the player’s new skill under the heat of competition. It is more effective to include a second or third player, as it increases the stress and better simulates competitive play. Guidelines for creating competitive practice are probably obvious: Keep score, someone wins, someone loses, design a game around a specific skill. You can add other elements such as a wager to increase the heat of the competition. If you do not have access to a second player, you can create competitive practice in different ways such as:
- Physical consequences to failure such as having to do pushups
- Require a certain score on the game before going home, or calling a significant other
- Bet yourself – If you lose, you pay your caddy, coach, or donate to charity
Competitive practice is a good way to prepare for the real thing. It’s like doing your homework and studying before a test in school. If you don’t do it, the real test is probably going to be a bad experience.
In summary, use Block practice to “acquire” skill, Random practice to “transfer” skill, and Competitive practice to “test” skill. If you would like any help with determining what and how to practice, I would welcome the chance to work with you. Please text, call, or email me and we can set up a time to begin your improvement.