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    You can’t train a skill to fatigue


    “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” – Vince Lombardi

    Whether you’re practicing a sport-specific skill or performing speed and agility drills, fatigue will adversely affect your performance. Adequate rest and recovery are necessary to perform at 100% effort (or close to it) and with optimal technique. My friend and colleague, Megan Osysko, recently addressed this issue in her blog post, The Importance of Exercise Rest and Recovery.

    In short, optimal performance requires adequate rest.

    “Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” – Unknown

    Success results from the ability to repeat maximum effort many times. In order to perform with maximum effort and technically correct form and mechanics, you must allow adequate rest intervals between repetitions and/or sets. As a general rule, there should be a correlation between the intensity level of the activity and the associated rest interval, with higher intensity exercises and drills followed by longer rest intervals.

    I’ve seen drills at basketball practices where players run high-intensity sprints or shuttles followed by free-throw shooting, to simulate game conditions, when they must be able to make foul shots when fatigued late in games. While there is merit to these drills, players must master the skill — in this case, free-throw shooting — and develop appropriate muscle-memory before progressing to game-like situations. Same goes for any other sport-specific skill.

    Please note that this strategy does not apply to conditioning, which is another activity, altogether. If you are performing high-intensity exercises and drills without allowing adequate rest between repetitions and sets, you are not doing skill development or speed and agility training. There’s nothing wrong with conditioning, as long as conditioning is your goal.

    Remember, fatigue prevents skill development. Learn the skill. Practice the skill with technically correct form and mechanics. Develop the appropriate muscle-memory. Master the skill. Once you’ve accomplished this, then it’s time to progress to game-like simulations and situations.


    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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