Daily Archives: November 7, 2012

Practice time v game time

In the past few years, fastpitch softball teams seem to have become more and more obsessed with seeing how many games they can possibly jam into a season. The belief is that the more games you play, the better you get.

Yet if you actually look at what the professionals say, more games doesn’t necessarily equal better performance. In fact, it’s the opposite, at least as far as developing skills goes.

The current thinking across different sports is that you should have anywhere from three to five hours of practice for every hour of game time. Yes, you read that right.

In this article on the USA Hockey website, they recommend a 3 to 1 practice to game ratio. They’ve done a lot of studies about the amount of stick time players get in games, and it’s not nearly enough to develop skills. You get far more in practice.

World class soccer programs go even more. They follow a 5:1 ratio, i.e. five hours of practice to one hour of games. Dan Coyle in his Little Book of Talent and The Talent Code recommends the same ratio based on his study of talent hotbeds around the world.

Finally, closer to home there’s this document from Softball Canada. While they don’t give a specific recommendation on what the ratio should be, they do recommend against a 1:1 or even a 2:1 ratio. They essentially advocate many more hours of practice time than game time.
Check out pages 10 and 11 for more specifics.

So there you have it. If you want your player to develop her skills, look for a team that emphasizes quality practice time and instruction over an endless series of games. It may not be as much fun to watch, but it’ll pay off better in the end.

So what do you think? Is practice time more valuable than game time? Or do you believe the only way to learn the game is playing the game?

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