The purpose of this article is to identify the purpose of doing drills. Just about in any sport you ever engaged to, you did some drills. You may not call them drills but rather calling them warm-ups. Have you participated in any sports other than gymnastics? If so, I'm sure you have done drills! Example, when I was in the sixth grade I played soccer for my school. I had to do drills for passing, striking, and dribbling. Why the drills? To develop proper skills to increase performance, build confidence, and minimized injuries!
Deconstructing the skills:
No matter what sport you may be engaged to, there are always drills involved to help us learn sport skills to increase performance and confidence. In gymnastics, the purpose of doing drills is to learn the breakdown of the skill before putting it all together. While our brain controls the body movement, we learn by organizing information to understand what it is that you are learning to do. Since gymnastics skills require a high concentration of technical movements, I deconstruct the skill. I break the skills into parts and make them drills to allow the athletes to organize the process of learning parts of the skill. In the course of time, the athlete will begin to put things together to achieve their goals.
Drills to control the intensity of the workout and motivation:
Other reason for doing drills is to control the intensity of the workout. I tend to do drills on an easy day or challenge day. Not to say that I don’t do drills on a hard day. On an easy day, I use drills step back to work on improving the overall skill without having to do the entire skill. Challenge day is a fun day for athletes since it’s motivating them be excited to come to practice. I tend to take a day to introduce upper level skills using fundamental drills that lead up to the skill. They really love that day! So put the FUN in fundamentals!
Importance of drills for skill development:
Over the years, I have heard from coaches and athletes themselves hate doing drills and some actually love doing drills.
It is common for those who don't like doing drills since they don't have the time to learn or simply impatient that they go right at the skill. They are more than likely have no plan of action for the season or lack of knowledge for skill development preparation. This belief leads to poor performances, injuries, and lack of confidence. In most cases, athletes that are not properly trained leads to the lack of quality movements in which result of poor performance. This brings a lot of doubt in the athletes' minds that may results lack of confidence in themselves and their coach. I have seen athletes get injured due to the lack of physical preparation of the skill. So these athletes are out for 4-8 weeks and do rehab for another 4 weeks or so depending on the injury. That is about 3 months out of their training for skill development! In some cases athletes are out longer since they are rebuilding their trust of the coach and themselves. This can be very frustrating to athletes and coaches so they won't last long in the sport. So what is your choice, train healthy for three months working toward the skill or be out for 3 months or more due to an injury (physically and mentally)? While injuries can happen drills can help brings the athletes back while they are doing rehab. Be careful not to have them work thru the injury. Only do what doesn’t interfere with the injury.
As one of my favorite saying: “If you don't have time to train, then you don't have time to be injured.”
For those who loves doing drills, it is common that coaches makes a program for the season (off season, pre-season, season, and post season (championships)) to make time for drills to properly train the athletes. This belief leads to increase performance, minimize injuries, and increase confidence. This helps build the coach/ athlete relationship through trust and confidence. Athletes tend to stay in the sport much longer not having to deal with many injuries due to improper physical development. These athletes are also capable to learn more advance skills in the future quicker due to the nature of the fundamentals from the previous drills they learned in their program. Thus, increase of performance!
While some coaches makes mistakes using drills just to keep the athletes busy, drills could be treated as such to be productive (using proper mechanics of the skill) to allow the athletes to learn the skill more effectively and safely. Take the time to go back to analyzed your program and make changes to make time for drills. It’s the matter of being very creative. This can only help to develop safer and healthier athletes in the long run in their developmental training stage.
Best of Luck!