Upgrade your game with these decision making drills

Upgrade your game with these decision making drills

Nearly every sport that is played requires an element of decision making and reactions. We make thousands of decisions every minute to ensure we are in sync with our teammates, are tracking our opponent's movements, spotting changes to our environment and reacting accordingly. This blog will outline how you can train to supercharge your reactions and agility.


Women Basketball Players


Here are the 7 stages to decision making split into milliseconds. This is the process for every decision we make, number 7 is the most important when looking to improve over time, you must reflect on what you did and continually try other approaches to gain an elite understanding of the best decision to make.


1. Seeing there is a problem - a defender in your way, your teammate needs you to be in the right place to make the pass to you.

2. Analysing the problem - where can you move too to solve the problem

3. Knowing the outcome to achieve - beat the defender and maintain possession or successfully receive the pass

4. Exploring the options - where is the space, which direction do I run, at which speed do I run etc

5. Choosing the best option

6. Taking action  and responsibility - complete the move you've decided had the biggest chance of a positive outcome

7. Review the outcome and assess what (if anything) you'd adapt for next time


Agility is the ability to change direction in response to a stimulus, simply training to run at a cone and cut to another cone is training your ability to change direction but not improving agility. Agility is often used to describe any change of direction, however, a person can be good at cutting between cones in a training drill, but that does not make them agile on game day. This is an important differentiation to make and is where decision-making training alongside speed work comes in.


The position of cornerback in American Football is one that demands a significant amount of agility, this player's role is to follow the movements of the wide receiver and prevent the opposite team making a successful pass. All of his movements are in response to what his opponent does. They need to keep in touching distance of their opponent whilst also looking at the quarterback to try and predict if and when the ball will be coming his way. In the video below the cornerback is wearing the white jersey.



How can we add decision making to our training?


As decisions need to be made at speed during games therefore it's important after a few familiarisation sessions that the decisions mimic those in a game and feature changes of speed and direction.


Often we see coaches set out an orange cone and a blue cone, as the players run towards a marker the coach shouts "blue" and then the players cut and accelerate towards the cones. Although beneficial for true beginners where the importance of cutting and moving is greater than the need for complex decision making it has two major faults.


1. It is only suited to defending, as a defender you are looking to 'block' and move towards a defender or close space down. As an attacker you are hunting for space, therefore, this drill only develops defending skills.

2. The drill involves cones on the floor, as such our athletes are programming their brains to look down where their opponent's feet are. People use their feet fr deception, making stutter steps and fakes. We want our athletes looking at their hips. The hips are the true give away of opponents movements.


To add an attacking focus to these drills you can place a teammate in the way and ask them to step to the left or right, cueing the athlete to cut towards the open space.


To improve on point two we can have a coach or teammate point either left or right so their eyes are up. Secondly, not all cues in sport are visual, adding the shout of left or right or any code words of choice to add some complexity. Thirdly, providing a visual cue with a sound cue stating the opposite is the next level of complexity (e.g. Pointing left and shouting right), it is up to you whether the athletes should follow the visual or audio cue.


Rugby can use tackle bags and ask players to be the attacker and avoid the direction the coach moves them in or be the defender and tackle the moving bag.


Follow the link below for a training drill courtesy of The U of Strength which showcases hip height objects, an audio cue describing the colour to follow (defender focused section), a teammate closing a gap and encouraging the athlete to cut into space (attacking focused) and finally a quick chaotic decision to make at the end to evade the ball.


The U of Strength training drill


Increasing complexity


There are a few simple approaches to increase complexity:


1. Increase the speed of the running. This put more physical demand on the body to make the turn but in turn, reduces the time you have to make the decision.

2. Increase the number of decisions to be made. You might have 4 different colours on display and you mention one, you could have more than one teammate moving around and the athlete needs to evade both.

3. Add distractions. You can add in additional cues that athletes might need to ignore, a random player walking around, a stutter before the cue is properly delivered and more.


Training in Sport


Take a look at this video and see how many skills from above are on display.



In goalkeeper training including the object to block the view and having multiple decisions to make in a short space of time are great drills. Increasing the distance you have to cover can also increase the difficulty (touch the post then make the save in the opposite corner).


In all settings variety is essential! You must train to expose yourself to as many possible scenarios as possible, that way you can always reflect on that action and when it happens in the sport you'll be prepared.


In addition to improving agility with decision making this approach is a must for sporting skills too. Follow the link below and put your audio on and listen to the coach encourage the athlete to 'find a way to solve the problem'. Coaches must put the onus on the athlete to solve the problem and commit the solution to memory, this is much more difficult if the coach gives the answer to the athlete!




I will leave the blog with Dennis Rodman explaining how he conducted some sport-specific training to improve his rebounding ability in basketball. Through repeated exposure to variety, assessing what happened and how he can adapt the next time.



Get out there, make some decisions, reflect, improve!


If you need any advice or guidance with your training then get in touch via email - hello@projectmvp.co.uk or you can check out our training app where we customise your training to suit your ability, needs and goals that you have!


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