The big discussion in practice design is transfer. What transfers from practice to games? In making practices game-like, do coaches create sufficient repetitions for skill development? If NBA players practice in isolation, should children do the same drills?
One of the primary misunderstandings tends to be that it has to be all or nothing. Practice is either all games, or all technique. Instead, as expressed in this tweet, the games in practice inform the next activities in practice, and practice can be simplified as necessary.
— Andy Driscoll (@driscollpt) February 10, 2015
The more common approach is to start with isolation and end with a scrimmage. However, when do you know to advance from isolation? When do you add complexity? In isolation, are you exposing errors? When you wait until the end to scrimmage, and the scrimmage exposes errors, do you have time to fix those errors?
For instance, when practice starts with two-line passing drills (a Fake Fundamental), what error does the coach correct? Based on my experience, the focus is either on the thumbs at the end of the follow-through or the spot where the ball hits the ground on a bounce pass. In a game, how often is the mistake caused by the spot where the ball hits the ground or the direction that the thumbs point after a pass? In games, players tend to throw the ball too high or too low because they are passing on the move, passing to a moving target, and/or dealing with time-stress caused by defensive pressure. Passes are often too late or too early because of the movement and the defense. However, which problem is it?
If practice starts with the game, and one of these problems occurs, the coach can simplify the practice with the subsequent activity to focus on the specific error. However, none of these errors is exposed by a two-line passing drill. Players complete pass after pass, and we assume that they know how to pass the ball. Then, they play in a game, and make mistakes. Why not start with the practice that induces the mistakes to learn what needs to be practiced?