Transfer of Training

from Practice to Competition

Transfer of training means working out in practice conditions that best prepare athletes for sports competition. This not only involves matching training activities with the energy demands (e.g., aerobic, strength) of a sport, it also means developing skills, techniques, and strategies that produce the best results in competition. Also see The Transfer Principle

Transfer is a critical issue in sports training. Logically, if training conditions and activities do not transfer, or transfer marginally to competition, valuable workout time is wasted.

Let's look at an example of mismatching training with the energy demands of a sport. Let's say a recreational basketball player trains in the preseason by working up to running 5 miles. League play starts and the player is exhausted after just a few times up and down the court. Why?

Because sustained running for 5 miles does not quite match the energy demands of basketball. Different energy systems are used for long distance as compared with the quick bursts of speed performed repeatedly with brief recovery periods in basketball, so the transfer effect is less than optimal.

But transfer of training is not just about the energy demands of a sport. One key aspect that coaches must consider is how the transfer of learning from athletes' previous experiences influences the learning and performance of new skills, experiences, and conditions.

Building fitness and developing precision for skilled execution in sports involves coordination, perhaps the most overlooked fitness component in sports training. Coordination of movements is key to developing skill in sports.

While licensed physical education teachers are required to understand and apply motor learning principles, coaches tend to teach skills the way their coaches did.

But taking advantage of skill acquisition techniques can boost skill development as well as fitness for sport performance. Transfer of learning even applies to weight training.

Transfer of Training: Power Clean and Vertical Jump

A practical question for a basketball player is: Does the power clean improve vertical jumping for basketball?

Let's assume that the athlete can perform the power clean correctly. In motor learning terms, the question is: "What are the common elements shared by the power clean and the vertical jump?"

These common elements include very similar movements in the pulling phase, the shift of body weight to the balls of the feet, and acceleration. Speed at take-off and at the peak of the high pull are also common elements that influence success. Dissimilarities would not transfer.

In reality in sports, who are the highest vertical jumpers? Olympic weightlifters and sprinters (who also do lots of power cleans).

The bottom line is, coaches should consider the common elements between training activities and sport performance when designing programs and strategies.

Other topics on Motor Learning:

Coaching Feedback

Mental Practice

Sports Memory

Training Variation

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