How to Optimize Your Practice with Motor Learning

Key Points

Game skills are complex
Every time you do a skill in a game, regardless of sport, you have to read, plan, and do. We call this process the “total skill

It’s all about transfer
Transfer is the word motor learning scientists use to describe real learning. When they study practice and how it impacts skill acquisition they always look at what the people can do the next day rather than the improvements they can see during the practice stage.

Transfer=How much of the improvements made in practice actually show up the next day or in the game.

Block Practice
A traditional approach to practice that involves getting a high number of reps repeating the exact same movement over and over and over again (hitting 10 putts from the same spot).

Random Practice
A practice approach that randomizes reps – you never do the exact same thing twice (hitting 10 putts from different spots on the green).

Random leads to wayyyyyy more transfer – why?
In all of the studies we see a huge difference between block and random practice during the transfer test (the one that measures real learning). This happens because during random practice (when we never do the same thing twice) we are forced to read, plan, and do before every single rep.

During block practice we simply repeat the previous movement and the reading and planning are eliminated from the equation.

Block is easier to do, obviously, and will make us look better in practice. However, if we want to prepare to perform in an actual game, random is the better option.

Post Content by Trevor Ragan and Train


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Development Irish Grassroots Football


This is the Football Association Of Ireland Plan for 2020 to 2022

Where do we want to be?


We always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say or content to share, please comment below or email me 

If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading. I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary and @LetTheKidPlay

Development International Contribution

Belgium’s Rise To the Top..

This fascinating article about Belgium’s rise to world football. What hits home the most is that we could never achieve this in Ireland with the narrow-minded people running the game. There are very few people who are really interested in developing the game in this country. Unfortunately most have their own agendas and financial benefits are much more important.

Never the less this article in the Guardian on Friday 6th June,  gives you a sample of what could be achieved with a plan and involving schools & clubs all around Ireland. We could do no worse then to at least try and implement even a fraction of this. We have to try something to improve the quality of player we are producing.  I’m also well aware that Belgium has a professional league that includes teams that have some of the best academies in the world. We also don’t have resources across the Island and many counties lack facilities; the coaches and the players aren’t getting enough contact time with the ball. A lot would need to change. Coach education would need to improve and a big sum of cash would be needed to put the right structures in place across the country. We can dream!!!

Who is Ireland’s answer to Michel Sablon?

Below is a video which shows some of the work (Cognitive Training) Michel Bruyninckx has been doing with the Anderlecht Academy. This video is not part of Stuart article but I felt it was worth adding as it’s relative to player development in Belgium.

Belgium’s blueprint that gave birth to a golden generation

By @StuartJamesGNM

The team of stars travelling to Brazil as fifth favourites are the result of a coaching revolution that started in 1998.

Not everything that Michel Sablon writes down goes to plan. At Italia 90, Sablon was part of Belgium’s coaching staff, and a couple of minutes before the end of extra time in their last-16 match against England, he compiled a list of the penalty-takers. He had just finished scribbling the names when David Platt, in one of those iconic World Cup moments, spectacularly hooked the ball past Michel Preud’homme. “A great goal by Platt. But I was so disappointed,” Sablon says. “I threw the list away.”

A little more than a decade later Sablon started with another blank piece of paper, this time with the intention of revolutionising Belgian football in his role as the federation’s new technical director. At its headquarters in Brussels, Sablon proudly hands over a copy of the original blueprint, dated September 2006 and titled “La vision de formation de l’URBSFA”. He smiles when asked whether going to this summer’s World Cup finals as fifth favourites was what he had in mind. “For sure, no”.

Go here to read the rest of the Article


Download the Belgium Vision on Youth Development

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I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary


Street Soccer Is Coming Back..

The FAI & Fingal City Council have launched a new and exciting Street Skills football program. We regularly talk about kids not playing street football anymore and how the games we played as kids were some of the most influential in terms of developing game intelligence. This new method is trying to achieve just that.

Press release 24/02/14

FAI/FCC announce new Street Skillz program in partnership with Swords Pavilions

Exciting new Football participation program is planned for a number of venues in Fingal through the FAI/Fingal County Council and its partnership with Swords Pavilions. Following on the success of “Road to Poland”, “Road to Rio” is a new program called FAI Street Skillz. It is based on street games such as heads and volleys, world cup, three and in, football tennis, futsal and it’s like. It has been devised to ensure participants can enjoy their football with an exciting twist. 10 lucky participants from each venue will then attend a Street Skillz fun day in Swords Pavilions later on in the year.

Commenting on the program Paul Keogh FAI/Fingal County Council Development officer added,

“This new FAI/FCC Street Skillz program has the potential to be hugely successful. The format is for kids to turn up and play, recreating the street games us adults would have played in our youth. We often say let the game be the teacher and this program certainly allows for that. It is open to boys and girls born 2002, 2003, 2004 & 2005 and is starting firstly in Skerries Community Centre all weather on the 3rd March from 430pm-6pm. The support from Swords Pavilions has to be acknowledged and their continued support will mean we can deliver our programs in more area’s in Fingal”

Ian Hunter, Centre Director of Swords Pavilions added,

“We are delighted to continue our support of FAI/FCC with the development of the new Street Skillz program in Fingal. It is a fantastic opportunity for the younger kids of the area to learn new skills in an environment that encourages them to give it a go no matter their current skill level. We are also delighted that the program will hold a fun day in at the centre latter in the year to celebrate the skills learnt”

All you have to do, is turn up and play!


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Development Irish Grassroots Football

We need your IDEAS!

I’m planning to send out a survey on the ‘Future of Youth Football’ in Ireland and need your help. I want to know any ideas you have and based on these ideas, we will send out a questionnaire to see what people really want. This is what will happen:

  • If you had a blank canvas, what would you do?
  • Tell me about your vision and ideas?
  • We want to narrow down 4/5 ideas and then use these ideas in a questionnaire.
  • A questionnaire will be sent to everyone involved in Grassroots football.

Here are some I wrote in a previous post.

  1. Abolish the SFAI or at least reform and rename it. Select a committee that is not appointed by the FAI and SFAI or maybe voted in by the leagues. For instance if I wanted to put my name forward, I would be representing my local league.
  2. Create a new name for the organisation call it ‘Youth FAI’, branching from the FAI, under control of the FAI. Each League would have a presentative working with them make sure they are adopting all the proper development procedures. Those who do it well, will get extra financial funding.
  3. Implement a ten year NATIONAL plan, look at what Germany, Belgium and Spain have done.
  4. We need to value the SSG and make it much more flexible. More and better players through child-friendly football.
  5. Introduce non competition football from u9 to u12s. Start with 3v3 for u8s, 4v4 for u9s, 5v5 for u10s, 7v7 for u11 and u12s, 8v8 or 9v9 (transition stage to 11v11) for u13s and 11v11 at u14s. Leave an option open to continue with 8v8 or 9v9v in areas that may not have access to pitches and/or players. This is proven in many parts of Europe, = More TOUCHES of the Ball, More FUN, More Goals.
  6. National guidelines for competition structures for all age groups, making sure everyone is working from the same programme with the same goal. Player first mindset.
  7. Clubs must have academies, must have proper facilities and qualified coaches. Introduce a licensing and rewarding system. Some suggestions to start with leagues first and reward the League Academies if they meet the required standards.
  8. To coach a kids football team their must be at least one adult with the required qualifications specific to his/her age group.
  9. Introduce a club licence with minimum criteria needed to set-up for kids football, i.e Qualified coaches, Facilities, Equipment, Child Welfare officer, Mission statement, Vision, Goals. Again start with leagues first.
  10. Use the best volunteer coaches in ETC (not friends), reward them with free further education. Get RDO’s to work weekends, so they can monitor the game on the ground.
  11. Begin ETC at age 10-21 years. The leagues should start their academies early with the ETP starting after the Kennedy cup, so u14s. After this the league centre should be the regional centre keeping the national philosophy within the leagues. Introduce a progressive and phased player pathway.
  12. Begin a player retention programme and a programme for players returning from the abroad.
  13. Include girls soccer in this plan.
  14. Implement Futsal into all leagues. More teams entered into community games and extend the age range, bring back the coaching curriculum.
  15. Promotion of Futsal in schools programme, promoting the game nationally. How many people are aware of the Emerald League?
  16. Change the course content of the K1 and K2 making them more player focused, with emphasis on ball mastery and how to structure a session. Mindset to change from ‘Winning at all costs, to player centred coaching’. 
  17. Introduce a ‘intro to coaching’ specific course for anyone looking to get involved. Looking at what is expected of you and reasons for getting involved. This course would be the door to further education. Anyone doing their K1 or K2 should start coaching in their academies and if they are good enough only then should they be allowed to the Youth Cert. Everyone should pass the course but introduce a grading system,  grade, A= you are able to go on and do the UEFA B provided you are coaching with a team. B= You need more work, nearly there but you will need to be assessed if you want to do your UEFA B. C= Your will need to come back and do a final assessment in two months in order to receive your cert. Everyone wishing to do the UEFA B should be pre-assessed and again a pass grading system should be applied.
  18. Parent Behaviour course, mandatory for all clubs and all parents.
  19. More access to courses, make them more relevant to the needs of kids today. Look to other European nations and bring in parts of their course into ours. We can’t keep coaching the same content with the same style.
  20. Encourage coaches to develop, introduce incentives to obtain further qualifications. We will need more qualified coaches for a plan to work.
  21. Market the LOI better – More funding for LOI Academies. National broadcaster have a responsibility to promote the national league over the English league.
  22. Focus on keeping kids playing in their communities, no travelling until u13s. If they are good enough then the regional centres will be able to look after them. However we would need to be catering for more numbers then the standard. There is no point in the best regional players going to Dublin to sit on the bench. Year on year regional leagues lose tens of players to Dublin clubs, who go up and never kick a ball.
  23. The transfer window closes 15th October and some players will be in squads of over 18 players and rarely play. If you’re not playing you’re not learning. That is why we need a transfer window in December to January to help these players to play.
  24. Let’s share our ideas, we need to be open with each other.

I have listed a lot of ideas. I’m more interested in the ones we can control. We can’t really control the ET programme that’s up to the FAI to develop but we can give ideas.

If anyone has ideas from other country; maybe things that have worked well, please let us know.

We need your ideas, please share them! 


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Development Irish Grassroots Football

Is the SFAI Chairman going it alone…..

or has he come up with the future blueprint for Irish football? An email has been doing the rounds; now, you probably haven’t received it because it was only sent to press. A press release about ‘vision for future of Irish Football’, apparently even members of the SFAI didn’t receive it, not sure they were meant to… I find this strange and I’ll tell you way in a sec.


INVITATION: Vision for future of Irish football

Former Ireland international and Manchester United coach John Devine is hosting a media event to launch his “Vision for future of Irish football programme” next Wednesday, October 2nd at 11am.

The event will be held at the South Dublin Football League headquarters, Balgaddy Road, Lucan, Co Dublin. John will be joined at fellow ex-internationals John Giles and Eamon Dunphy for the launch of a scheme which the trio believe is essential for producing future generations of Irish footballers.

Several other figureheads in Irish football, including Liam Brady, Niall Quinn and Paul McGrath have endorsed the programme, particularly in the aftermath of Ireland’s poor performance on the international stage over the past 18 months.

Michael O’Brien, Chairman of the Schoolboys FAI (SFAI), will also be in attendance to support the initiative.

WHAT: Launch of John Devine’s “Vision for future of Irish football programme.”

WHEN: Wednesday, October 2 at 11am.

WHERE: South Dublin FL headquarters, Balgaddy Road, Lucan, Co Dublin. 

Free car parking is available and refreshments will be served.

There will be interview opportunities will all guests.

For any media planning to attend, please confirm by email to John

by 3pm on Tuesday.

Although I think having a vision is great and the fact that it’s using Horst Wein 3v3 methods, (see them here, makes this even more attractive.  I’m just surprised this vision is being pushed by the Chairman of the SFAI and he is not even contacting any of his members, nor is there anything visual on their website. Michael O’Brien is also the CEO of the SDFL.

This would be a great opportunity to get everyone together and start throwing out some IDEAS.

So, why is the head of the Schoolboy Football Association of Ireland going it alone and why he is only inviting the press? Why haven’t the most important people in kids football ‘the coaches’ not been invited. Surely he should be inviting them?!

This is a man that has done very little in terms of changing the mindset and structures of schoolboy football, he is in a very powerful position but we have yet to see this used in an constructive way. You only have to look at his own league to see how far behind they are in relation to Player Development. Their pathway goes against everything Horst Wein believes in, certainly everything listed below is way off Horst Wein’s teaching and nowhere near the changes this country so desperately requires.

Currently the SDFL pathway looks like this:

  • They are introducing 3v3 to u8s
  • 5v5 at u9s
  • Play 9v9 at u10s. (DDSL play 7v7 at u10s)
  • They still have league tables at u10s.
  • Play with size 4 ball at u9s.
  • They move to 11v11 at u12s

In saying this, I’m sure this pilot is about all the changes they are going to make. It’s just a shame no coaches, no other leagues have been invited and it’s scheduled for 11am on a Wednesday, when most people are at work. Also, The two people who notified me reside outside of this country.

I’m not so sure I’ll be able to get down, but I will try my best, too.

What do you think of this and will you be going?


I always like to hear your opinions. Please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. Thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary

Development Irish Grassroots Football

Non Competition is the way to Success

Just got back from pilot exercise put on by Jason Carey, Director of Coaching at Peamount United FC on behalf of the DDSL. It seems that after all these years of getting it so wrong, the DDSL have now turned to the Grassroots Coaches of some of Dublins biggest community clubs, to come up with a pathway that will enhance the development of kids across Dublin.

The plan is that all young people playing recreational football will now follow the new DDSL player pathway which starts with small-sided (to be confirmed) 3v3 at u8s and into 4v4s & 5v5s for u9s;  7v7 for u9s & u10s and 9v9 for u11s & u12s.

The focus is on player development and getting away from the winning at all costs attitude from coaches and parents.  Over the next few years we will see the above rolled out all across Dublin and finally we can say that the DDSL are on the right path when it comes to assisting with the development of young footballers across Dublin.

I have researched best practice in Scotland, England, Wales and across the world (Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Holland and Germany amongst others) and this player pathway will fit into an Irish context and help young players to reach their potential.


Last Saturday Malahide United along with St. Malachys FC put on a pilot were the kids played various 4v4 and 5v5 games and tonight Jason showed the true potential of Irish kids, who were allowed to play with the freedom in age appropriate games and pitch dimensions. Tonight 3v3 demo with four goals, 4v4 demo with gk, 4v4 without gk and 5v5s with two goals proved that this is the way Ireland needs to go for part of the SSG pathway.

Peamount decided not to enter their u8s into the league last season and you could notice the difference between the kids who have had a full year developing in their academy versus the kids who played competition football. Peamount players were Technically better and certainly had developed game intelligence.

Research has shown the undoubted advantages of small sided games (more goals, more 1 v 1s, more successful passes, more touches) and the benefits of moving through small-sided games formats to the adult version of the game, step by step through age appropriate games, which is the only way to develop the full potential of kids.

“Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults…If we try to alter this natural order, they will reach adulthood prematurely but with neither substance nor strength.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The Problems in development of young players

  • Too much pressure on young players
  • A severe lack of age-appropriate coaching
  • No obvious system to accommodate for late developing players
  • Too much emphasis on results in all age groups
  • A lack of ability to develop talent early and placing them in the correct environment

(Allen 2008)

Why Small Sided Games

  • More touches of the ball.
  • Simpler decisions to make.
  • Better game-related fitness, short duration of high-intensity vs laps of a pitch.
  • More time with coach per player.
  • More opportunities to solve game problems.
  • More attacking opportunities (dribbling, shooting, passing )
  • More defending opportunities.
  • More shooting and more goals = more fun!
  • No hiding place, players don’t get lost in these games, improves competitiveness & healthy agression.
  • More opportunities for the full range of skills.
  • Encourages better shape and awareness of team-mates.
  • Encourages faster play, fast transition from defence to attack.
  • ITS FUN!!

Player Development

We have to develop a football culture in Ireland where young players are developed positively, learn to win through effort and develop skills for life through football. This should be our number one focus.  Are aim as Coaches and the Cubs providing football is to create a more enjoyable football experience for all involved, football is also about the teaching of life lessons and character development, is it not just about teaching the game. Taught in the right manner football can develop vital character-building life skills a child, skills that will help them in every walk of life.

These changes, (which I state, have yet to be passed) will keep young people in football longer and enhance the development of KIDS all across Ireland.

Let’s hope it happens…soon!

“The amount of space in 11-a-side is not good for young kids. You spend too much time running around without the ball…I think the best way to improve your skills is to play football on a smaller pitch. I didn’t play 11-a-side football until I was 13. In Brazil, most kids play futebol de salao, which is similar to five-a-side. In futebol de salao, you are always involved.” Juninho, World Cup Winner 2002 with Brazil