Enhancing Motor Skills Training through the Interleaving Effect

Visualization of varied practice using the Interleaving Effect for motor skills training.

Ever wondered about the most efficient way to teach motor skills in sports training? Dive into the compelling world of the Interleaving Effect and unlock the potential of varied practice.

Read more: Enhancing Motor Skills Training through the Interleaving Effect

Understanding Motor Skills Training

In sports training, mastering motor skills is paramount. Numerous books delve into teaching techniques for skills like ball reception or blocking a ball. While some coaches prefer isolated repetition—constantly practicing a move until it becomes second nature—others favor varied techniques. Repetition, as advocated by researcher Ebbinghaus in Spaced Practice, is essential. However, the manner of repetition can differ, leading us to the Interleaving Effect.

Origins of the Interleaving Effect

The Interleaving Effect theory, proposed by Sinah Goode and Richard A. Margill in 1986, stems from their in-depth research on motor learning during the 90s. Their study involved observing 30 badminton players practicing exercises in set sequences, partial sequences, or random sequences. Intriguingly, players who practiced randomly outperformed their counterparts, particularly in serving. To visualize this more clearly, check out this video which provides an in-depth explanation using tennis as an example.

The Power of Varied Practice

Rather than just practicing forehand, then backhand, and finally serve, the video illustrates how mixing these techniques yields better long-term results. However, a foundation of basic knowledge is crucial before implementing the Interleaving Effect. It’s vital that practiced skills are interconnected; otherwise, cognitive overload can occur, undermining the learning process.

Is the Interleaving Effect the Ultimate Solution?

While the title might suggest a newfound “magic bullet” for training, it’s clear that the Interleaving Effect is one of many valuable methodologies. Experts advise revisiting previous trainings and integrating those skills into current exercises. For instance, consider principles learned during side-defense drills. How can they be incorporated into a broader 4v4 game on a wide field? By oscillating focus and instructions, rather than isolating skills, trainers achieve varied yet consistent practice. Principles like “closing the axis” can be alternated in various game scenarios, such as 4v2, 5v3, or 5v5, while maintaining core coaching focus. Many coaches might already be implementing this theory, knowingly or unknowingly. Hopefully, this article provides an insightful introduction to the Interleaving Effect.


Goode, Sinah & Magill, Richard. (2013). Contextual Interference Effects in Learning Three Badminton Serves. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 57. 308-314. 10.1080/02701367.1986.10608091.

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