Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Train Ugly

About a decade ago, a volleyball camp took place in Lander, Wyoming, at the base of the scenic Wind River Range. It was organized by the Ragan family, with mom Janet as the head coach. The camp aimed to train high school students in the sport. Fast forward a few years, and Trevor, one of the camp participants, began exploring motor learning science and how it could be applied to basketball. This led him to create the “Championship Basketball School,” a camp that focuses on competitive and game-based training methods. Inspired by his experiences, Trevor started a website called “Train Ugly” to share his knowledge and extend the impact of motor learning science across different sports.

One of the key concepts explored in Train Ugly is the idea of “training ugly.” This concept was introduced to Trevor when he visited the USA National Team training site in Anaheim. The idea behind training ugly is to embrace the imperfections and challenges of practice in order to develop better performance in games. It encourages athletes to step out of their comfort zones and engage in varied and unpredictable training methods.

Embracing the Science of Training

Dr. Richard Schmidt, a renowned motor learning science professor and author, has been a valuable resource for Trevor in his journey. Dr. Schmidt emphasizes the importance of practicing for performance rather than simply going through the motions. This mindset shift has resonated with many Olympic coaches and has had a profound impact on their training methods. By focusing on game-like drills and incorporating randomness into practice, athletes can better prepare themselves for real-game scenarios.

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These principles extend beyond basketball and can be applied to various sports, including volleyball. Many volleyball coaches rely on drills that may not directly translate to the actual game. These drills can be classified as “irrelevant training,” as they fail to develop the necessary skills for game action. Train Ugly aims to challenge these traditional training methods and encourage coaches to adopt more game-like and dynamic approaches.

Embracing Change for Better Results

The resistance to change in coaching methods is a common challenge faced by growth mindset coaches like Trevor. The misconception that controlled and blocked practice is more effective often leads to resistance towards adopting variable and game-like training. However, as coaches gain a better understanding of the science behind motor learning, they realize that random and variable practices are crucial for developing perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills.

To facilitate the transition towards variable practice, Train Ugly provides resources and insights from experts in the field. Dr. Peter Vint, the US Olympic Committee’s Director of Competitive Analysis, Research, and Innovation, emphasizes the importance of introducing variability and randomness into practice. While it may seem chaotic and messy, this type of training better prepares athletes for the unpredictable nature of competition.

Train Ugly encourages coaches to challenge their preconceptions and embrace the “ugly” aspects of training. By incorporating game-like drills, player-run practices, and guided discovery, coaches can create a more engaging and effective learning environment for their athletes.


Q: What is the concept of “training ugly”?
A: “Training ugly” is the idea of embracing the imperfections and challenges of practice to improve performance in games. It encourages athletes to step out of their comfort zones and engage in varied and unpredictable training methods.

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Q: How can coaches implement game-like training methods?
A: Coaches can implement game-like training methods by incorporating random and variable practices. This involves creating drills and exercises that mimic the unpredictable nature of competition.

Q: Why is variable practice more effective than blocked practice?
A: Variable practice is more effective because it develops perceptual, cognitive, and motor skills required in real-game scenarios. By introducing randomness and variability into training, athletes become better equipped to handle the unpredictability of competition.


Train Ugly is a website dedicated to revolutionizing training methods in various sports, including basketball and volleyball. It promotes the concept of “training ugly,” which emphasizes the importance of embracing imperfections and challenges during practice. By incorporating game-like drills, variable practice, and guided discovery, coaches can create a more effective learning environment for their athletes. Train Ugly provides valuable resources and insights from experts in the field, encouraging coaches to challenge traditional training methods and embrace the science behind motor learning. To learn more about Train Ugly and its impact on sports training, visit their website at www.trainugly.com.