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The Coach as a Practice Designer

We attended the Skills Acquisition Summit this past weekend at the Florida Baseball Ranch. It was a great experience and there were well over 150 participants including representatives from several major league organizations in attendance. Over the coming weeks we will create some new blog entries regarding our experience and reflections on what we heard at the summit from the speakers at the event.


One of the keynote speakers, was Rob Gray, Professor of Human Systems Engineering at Arizona University. As he took to the floor, one of the first things he said was that, for him, a coach should see themselves more as a “practice designer” rather than as an instructor. That really caught our attention. Gray then went on to say that “a large proportion of current practice time in baseball involves non-representative, low variability drills that are likely to have little if any transfer of training to actual game performance.” He pointed out the traditional teaching paradigm among most instructors has been the belief that in order for an athlete to get to an end point, they must do the same drills over and over again. And, while it is true that the athlete will most likely improve a skill through repetition, the key question is “Will performance of the drill actually carry-over to game performance?” The Summit addressed many of the shortcomings of traditional methods and we will use future blogs to address some of them.

As long time secondary educators with over 50 years experience in the classroom, the Coach as “practice designer” rather than instructor, reflects the paradigm shift in education in recent years. Away from an instructor-centered learning environment to one that is predominately student-centered. In which the student is encouraged to lead the problem solving process, be creative, handle adversity and be accountable. As learners, this is always an evolving process to create the best training environment possible for our players. The first blog post, introduced a common problem for instructors. We tend to talk too much. Be the focal point of the instruction. And trust us, learning not to say something takes practice in itself. But at MPH101, we are finding that moving toward the student-centered learning environment is helping our pitchers improve faster. In essence, we are continually trying to design the practice to help our players achieve their goals.

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