The Difference Between Training, Practice, and Rehearsal

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It may seem strange, even silly, to define practice, training and rehearsal down to the “nth” degree. Always remember, “Education is key!”

Note: there are JROTC units that do not have the luxury of an experienced drill coach. Many JROTC instructors have never marched much past their Basic Training or Boot Camp days and that’s OK. Our military jobs came first and for many, marching was a thing of the past. Even with some JROTC instructors having marching experience, we now come into the competitive marching world which is a whole new ball of wax for just about everyone and defining our terms helps everyone learn.

“We train to learn a new skill and then we practice that skill over and over.”

The Phases of Training Through to Performance. I used for definitions.


Training is learning from the very beginning. Brand new trainees must have training and seasoned veterans of any given skill set must also go back to the beginning to ensure they are maintaining standards. The visit to the Training part of the job does not have to be extensive nor elementary, but it should cover all areas to ensure required procedures and techniques.


DrillMaster note: some people equate this with either training or practicing. Verb: Military. To instruct and exercise in formation marching and movement, in the carrying of arms during formal marching, and in the formal handling of arms for ceremonies and guard work.

But we do know that there is a difference for us in the military drill world:

  • Armed Drill
  • Unarmed (Foot) Drill

So not all drilling is for “the carrying of arms during formal marching.” We can then conclude that some drill is practice and some is training. It just depends on the need.

drillteam practicePractice

Noun: The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. Verb: Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. A method of learning by repetition. Everyone needs to practice their skills, those in the military and the civilian workforce practice all of the time and when it comes to a sport or a hobby than one is passionate about, practice can make all of the difference.

Our job or hobby is military drill: exhibition, regulation and/or ceremonial and when we practice the skills learned in training, we cement those new or relearned actions, through the use of muscle memory, into our routine actions so that we can perform that skill (a flag fold or a certain segment in an exhibition routine, for instance) almost exactly the same each time.

Let’s look at an exhibition drill routine. During practice, we can maybe feel that something is not quite or that if the rifle rotates another half-spin and it is then caught while the body is rotated to face this direction, then we can… I think you get the point. Practice helps us refine our skills that we learned during training and also helps us explore new options that we may not have considered before when we were just beginning to learn that skill. Practice and training can be interrupted again and again until the manual’s or our level of perfection is achieved, depending on the skill.

“Practice Makes Perfect
No, it doesn’t. Please reread the paragraphs above.

“Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
There is no “Perfect Practice.” This is a fluffy statement reworded from the first statement that does not have a solid foundation. We learn in the training and practice phases.

“Practice Makes Permanent”
Now you’ve got it. What you are trained to do and what you repeatedly do in practice, is what you will do in performance.


drillteam practice1It is not just for dancers or musicians. If it isn’t already, this term needs to be incorporated into your preparations for a performance. You may already be doing this, but you are just not aware of how different this term is from the others previously mentioned.

A rehearsal is when, after training and much practice you run through your performance (posting the colors, a regulation sequence, etc.) from start to finish without stopping. Here, you can look at timing and boundary issues, if there are any, uniform issues, procedures, etc. Practicing over and over is very necessary to create both muscle and visual memory and it helps to ensure that the team knows exactly what happens before, during and after the performance and rehearsing, usually in full uniform, is the means to ensure proper training and avoiding any pitfalls that may arise. Conditions for a rehearsal must be as close to the same as the performance as possible.


The moment has come and you have trained, practiced and rehearsed until you are able to perform in your sleep! Go do your job, and do it well!

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