Maximizing Player Retention in Coaching: The Ebbinghaus Theory

Maximizing Player Retention in Coaching: The Ebbinghaus Theory

Ever wondered why sometimes what you teach as a coach goes “in one ear and out the other” for the players? Every coach emphasizes teaching crucial game techniques, but how much of it genuinely sticks with the players?

Read more: Maximizing Player Retention in Coaching: The Ebbinghaus Theory

The Real Challenge in Game Coaching

During a match, a coach always identifies myriad areas for improvement. They dedicate the entire week to refining nuances, but come next match, it seems all that effort might have been in vain. While the opposing team plays its part by forcing errors through its prowess, the pertinent question remains: How much do players retain from a coach’s instructions? And subsequently, how much is forgotten?

The Science of Forgetting: Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

Herman Ebbinghaus, a renowned psychologist, dedicated significant research to human learning patterns. He introduced the widely recognized ‘forgetting curve’. His findings suggest that the most significant memory loss happens within the first 20 minutes and drastically so in the first hour. The retention of information decreases exponentially over time. For instance, ponder over a match you played about six weeks ago. Can you recall the opponent or even the final score? You might remember general highlights after a little prompting, but the intricate details often fade.

Graph depicting Ebbinghaus' Forgetting Curve related to player retention in coaching.

Factors Influencing Memory Retention

It’s important to note that the speed of forgetting isn’t uniform for everyone or every piece of information. Several factors influence it. Was the skill complex? Were you mentally and physically alert when learning? Was the teaching method solely auditory or visual as well? Some players absorb information quicker than their peers; retention rates vary from person to person. For a deeper dive into Ebbinghaus’ theory, check out this explanatory video: Ebbinghaus Theory Video.

Making Instructions Stick: The Power of Repetition

So, how do you ensure your coaching doesn’t go unnoticed? The answer lies in repetition, which Ebbinghaus termed as ‘Spaced Practice’. By repeatedly accessing specific information, you strengthen the neural pathways in the brain, making it easier to retrieve the knowledge or skill. Ebbinghaus’s research indicates that learning experiences exponential growth when information is revisited. Watch this enlightening video on Spaced Practice: Spaced Practice Video.

Innovative Coaching Approaches: Julian Nagelsmann’s Perspective

Julian Nagelsmann, head coach of Bayern Munich, believes in keeping training sessions fresh and engaging. In an interview with the Correspondent, he mentioned that every training session under him differs. One reason is to prevent over-relying on automatisms; another crucial reason is to combat boredom. Nagelsmann stresses, “Boredom hinders learning. If you train out of routine, the learning outcome is minimal.” Numerous books discuss the right training regimen with optimal repetition frequency. This article aims to emphasize the importance of understanding that even the most lucid instructions might not always be retained efficiently.


Ebbinghaus, H. (1885). Über das Gedächtnis. Untersuchungen zur experimentellen Psychologie. Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot. 

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