Thursday, March 11, 2021

Desirable difficulty - 3.11 #sol21 Story Challenge

On this cool, gray afternoon, I'm on a sports field with 15 masked-up teenagers getting better at -- among other things -- playing Ultimate Frisbee. Another coach and I have arranged a drill involving a sequence of cutting, throwing, and catching, aiming to get the players coordinating their actions. We two coaches have taken positions simulating defense. Our players are beginning to understand the patterns of movement, how the timing of one action triggers another. They are going through the motions, literally.

So, I alert them that I'm going to change my placement, reflecting a shift in defensive strategy. Their careful orchestrations of a moment ago prove fragile, crumbling into disorder. Auto pilot, rather than automaticity. They hadn't understood what they were doing; rather, they'd been mindlessly repeating the steps we coaches had taught. We paused the drill to unpack why better. We encouraged players to pay close attention to my defensive tactic and counter it with purpose. Within a degree of agreed-upon structure, read and respond. If-then. After a few more repetitions, no matter how I stationed myself, they were executing the scheme with more decisiveness and consistency. Not perfect, but better, and that was excellent.


  1. Great description of their progression of getting the gist of the drills!

  2. Developing this kind of tactical understanding in players and students *is* truly the long game and how we do it matters. The fact that you took time to have them notice the differences and unpack the why of their actions builds confidence over time. At the next practice it may take some time for players to remember how and when they worked on this but the repetition and stream of variations over a season can make the game a knowable experience for developing players. (I teach PE so I know this overlap intimately. :-))