Unopposed Practice: What exactly are they learning?

I recently read an article by Ben Franks called “Unopposed Practice: What exactly are they learning?” The link to the article is below.

Unopposed Practice: What Exactly are they learning?

I felt the article was very well written by Ben and I personally agree with a lot of the sentiments that Ben mentions. He alludes to the fact that if children constantly practice in a Block Practice type method that is unopposed, they are only improving at that particular skill in that particular setting.

“…learning in non-complex, unopposed, blocked practice with limited perceptual variability- training in these environments will not afford the appropriate behaviors that the player will need the next day in their game.”

I feel this point in particular is an excellent one, if you look back at coaching manuals from the 1990’s from English football coaches, the majority of ideas published in there are very structured Block Type practice, however there are videos from around that same time period from other more successful football nations such as Germany and the Netherlands that show a more fluid Random Type practice. I think we are still a few years behind, but we are now attempting to coach sport in a more Random manner that replicates the sport.

“…if I learn in a simple way, I’ll have simple solutions limited to single linear directions with little transferable ability.”

The point above is similar to the first point I mentioned, however I really do think Ben is hitting the nail on the head with this. Sport and football in particular now has become such a multi-million pound business that we now have technology in place to properly analyse and scrutinise training and coaching methods within youth development. And as Ben mentions here, the more simple the practice, the less transferrable this is.

“They’ve Got Natural Talent, You Can’t Teach That”

I would say this is the only point where I don’t completely agree with Ben within the whole article. I appreciate the point where he says “At some point, somewhere, Messi had adapted to a problem in a game which he overcame with a certain movement solution constructed by his interactions with his environment.” Simply because what Ben is alluding to is true, however I still believe that certain individuals are born with tools at their disposal to become a better footballer or athlete than another person.

As mentioned I still think Bens point is valid, as if we use Brazilian footballers for example, they tend to have more flair and skill than most and this certainly can be a product of their environment where Futsal and Street Football is King (Moore, 2012). However if an individual is not biologically pre-disposed with a certain level of co-ordination, strength or speed they simply would be unable to learn these skills and pick up these skills to a good enough level. I think you can see perfect examples within sports of this. The 100m Sprint Final in the Olympics for example is always contested between men of African descent, and biology will back up that is due to the fact they are born with more fast twitch muscle fibres in their legs than other races (Entine, 1999). This for me is an example that some people will have pre-determined tools at their exposal to perform certain skills and techniques better than others.


Entine, J. (1999) Taboo: Why black athletes dominate sports and why we’re afraid to talk about it. New York: PublicAffairs,U.S.

Moore, R. (2012) Why are the south Americans so good at football? Available at:




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