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  • Josh Gray

Time Oriented vs. Goal Oriented practices

By Josh Gray

In most high school and college sports, practice durations revolve around the available time the coach has to use the facilities, or the time mandated by the governing sports body. If the coach has the court or field for 2.5 hours, they will plan their practice to last that amount of time and may even go over. If the coach only has an hour and a half, then the practice will last 90 minutes. The coach believes that they must spend all the time given, because more time will equal greater improvement, and better performance on the field. This thought process has some merit, as the more time an athlete spends in intentional or quality practice the more progress that athlete will make.

The problem with this approach, is that practice is planned to fill time or based off the time allowed, instead of being goal oriented. When coaches plan a time-oriented practice, they will include a bunch of drills and activities to fill the time. Whether or not these drills have any transfer to performance or any logic behind them is unknown, but the players are active, it gives the appearance the improvements are being made. This is similar to teachers giving worksheets to their students to keep them busy.


A lot of times these extra drills just add on to the weekly miles an athlete logs and aids in the wearing down of their body and the burnout of their central nervous system.

A more effective approach to practice (and workouts) is to plan around a certain goal. Pick an overall goal that you want to improve on and plan your drills around that one goal.

For example, let's say that the goal is transition from offense to defense or defense to offense after a turnover. The practice would consist of a variety of different scenarios that would lead to a transition. Different constraints can be used (number of players, size of playing space, time durations) in order to give the athletes exposure to as many different situations as possible. Once that goal (or smaller goals) is reached, that period or part of practice is over.

A goal-oriented practice will be more intentional with little to no cookie cutter drills that do nothing more than waste time. Players will give more effort since they know once they are successful, they will move to the next drill or practice will be over. Practice times will also be shorter which will make the coaching staff, the athletes, and their families happier, and lead to higher morale within the team.

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