Increase Variability in your Next Practice by Using “Four Card Triggers”

This week’s practice idea was inspired by an Instagram post by Coach Paul Kelleher.

The point of practice is to create an environment that best allows the skills being taught to be replicated on gameday. Research tells us that random and variable practices are better for long-term retention and transfer when compared to the more traditional blocked and constant practice methods.

Randomised practices create the unpredictable environments that players experience on gamedays. This means that during practice, players are working on separating the signal from the noise and applying the movement patterns under those conditions. By working on the conceptual, perception and movement patterns simultaneously, players are learning to apply the entire skill and not just isolated aspects of it.

There are several different ways to create these variable conditions in practice. Coach Paul Kelleher shared one such idea on his Instagram account a few days ago that we just loved.

We’ve dubbed the idea – Four Card Triggers

Bring a couple of cards into your next practice. Assign an action or play to each card. During 4/4 or 5/5 play, allow the team on offense to pick a card. The card they pick is the play or the action that they have to execute.


  • Ace = Dribble Hand Off
  • King = Post Entry
  • Queen = Flare Screen
  • Jester = Slot Ball Screen

White team is on offense, so they head over to the coach and pick a card. They pick the King, which means that they have to run a post entry action. If they score from this action, then they get the points.

This adds a level of variability into the game as the defense needs to stay honest and figure out what the offense is doing. The offense will get creative over time and mask their actions to keep the defense off-balance.

As the game goes on, and the players get comfortable, they will also start communicating more to each other, so as to solve their problems on the court.

Coach Kelleher has some more ideas on applying this in practice, including how to emphasise defense during play. Head over to his Instagram Account and check out the post.

Try this out in your next practice and let us know how it worked out for you.

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