Methods of Practice – Types of Practice

Methods of Practice - Types of Practice. Part Practice, Whole Practice, Progressive Part Practice, Whole Part Whole Practice.

In this post, we will explain four different methods of practice in sport. You will also learn about our experience of them and the advantages and disadvantages to you when planning your coaching sessions.

This post on the Methods of Practice is also included as part of our free guide to sports coaching. Here, you can find all of our articles we believe are essential knowledge for sports coaches. You may also be interested in our articles on sports leadership styles and what makes a good coach.

We also have downloadable sports session planning templates as well as our sports coaching checklists.

What are the methods of practice used by sports coaches?

The four methods of practice methods are:

  • Part Practice
  • Whole Practice
  • Progressive Part Practice
  • Whole Part Whole Practice
Methods of Practice - Types of Practice. Part Practice, Whole Practice, Progressive Part Practice, Whole Part Whole Practice.

We feel it is important for all sports coaches to be aware of the different types of practice methods as this is an essential tool for all coaches. Sports coaches need to be able to provide appropriate practices when planning a sports session.

Our free guide to sports coaching aims to provide coaches with the tools to begin their coaching career. We also believe the book Every Moment Matters by John O’Sullivan is a great read if you are looking to improve your coaching. You can view this on Amazon here.

What are the different methods of practice?

Part Practice

Part practice is when a sports coach breaks down a skill and coaches/teaches a separate part of this skill before bringing the whole skill back together again.

An example of this would be a tennis coach teaching a tennis serve. The tennis serve can be broken down into several different sections to coach, such as grip, stance, toss, backswing, impact, follow-through plus additional areas such as spin and speed. A sports coach can then teach different areas of a tennis serve to gradually improve their performance.

Part practice is good for helping athletes who are new to a skill and are not yet autonomous learners (see our stages of learning article for more information). We have found this method useful to boost motivation when somebody is struggling to complete the skill.

Using the part practice method allows athletes to focus on one part of the skill before moving onto the next part. Another advantage is that part practice is useful for dangerous skills.

A negative of part practice is that it can take longer for learners to learn the skill compared with other practice methods.

Whole Practice

Whole practice is when a sports coach teaches a skill together without breaking this apart. Whole practice is sometimes used by a sports coach because some skills are very difficult to break down (Sprinting, cycling, rowing).

This method is useful because it allows learners to experience the feel for a skill and can be quicker to learn than part practice. However, whole practice could potentially lower the quality of the performance as part practice enables coaches to break down the skill to provide more detailed feedback.

Progressive Part Practice

The progressive part practice method is when a sports coach would coach/teach different parts of a skill and then bring these all together to create a complete skill.

The example of a progressive part practice method would be when coaching/teaching the triple jump technique. A coach would begin with the run up, then take off, then flight and followed by the landing. Each skill would link to one another.

Progressive part practice helps to develop a skill that needs a lot of information. Coaches can also break the skill into useful chunks and then slowly build the whole skill together.

One disadvantage that we have experienced with the progressive part practice method is that if an athlete finds one step difficult it can have an impact on the entire skill. For example, if an athlete struggles with the run up in long jump this has a negative impact on the rest of the jump.

Success in Sport

Whole Part Whole Practice

The whole part whole practice method is when a coach observes the whole skill before identifying areas to improve. The sports coach would then develop and improve an area within their performance before bringing the whole skill back together.

An example of this would be a football coach observing a small sided passing game and noticing their athletes were making errors when receiving the ball. The coach would then provide some support on how to receive a pass through different practice/drills and then bring it all back again into the same small sided passing game.

The whole part whole method is useful for athletes new to a sport as they can get a feel for the skill if they have never performed it before. It can also be quicker than the part practice method.

Over our years in sports coaching, we have used the whole part whole practice method and have found this to be very effective due to its speed and ability to be used within the context of a game.

How can understanding the different methods of practice help you?

Each method of practice comes with its purpose, advantages and disadvantages. Being aware of the different methods will enable you to plan your sports coaching sessions for effectively and should also enable you to understand why it is useful to sometime break down a skill and sometimes useful not to.

Each sport also has its own unique fitness requirements. Our post of the components of fitness discusses the link between fitness, performance and the methods of components.

If you want to learn more about practice methods within sports coaching. We recommend reading Matthew Syed’s book Bounce.

Our free downloadable fitness testing record sheet enables you to monitor fitness levels over time. You can view this here.


To summarise, the four methods of practice are:

  • Part Practice
  • Whole Practice
  • Progressive Part Practice
  • Whole Part Whole Practice

Want more:

We feel all sports coaches should be aware of the four different types of practice and this is why we have included this in our guide to sports coaching. You can read more about our guide to sports coaching here.

Learn how to identify development opportunities and implement strategies with our training newsletters to help you improve even further. All you need to do to sign up is to enter your email address below.

Get every new post delivered to your inbox.

New to sports coaching? Then you may want to check out our guide to sports coaching. Here you will be able to learn techniques and strategies that will excel your coaching career.

You may also be interested in the following articles:

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

5 thoughts on “Methods of Practice – Types of Practice”

      1. Hi, I would love to use a quote of this article in my university assignment and I need to cite it in harvard style

        1. LeadershipandSport


          I am not sure about the formatting as I used APA referencing. Author would be LeadershipandSport and the article was published in 2019. The publisher is also LeadershipandSport. Hope this helps? I am sure you can search for the formatting online. Don’t forget to also sign up to our newsletter to receive our latest articles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *