Here’s a quote from the book The Science of Volleyball Practice Development and Drill Design that does a good job nailing the meaning of deliberate practice.

“Although thousands of correct repetitions are required if motor learning is to be stabilized, refined, perfected and made automatic, mere repetitive drills without the correct mental attitude, internal motivation, feedback, reinforcement and a knowledge of performance and results will lead to limited success.”

Let me break this out into its components

Correct mental attitude & Internal motivation

These two things have a lot of overlap, so I’m going to tackle them together. Basically, it’s about being in a good mental space at the time of the training and being motivated to improve. Without the latter, you probably don’t have the former very much. And without the former, the latter hardly matters at all.

While there are aspects of this we have little control over as coaches, we can certainly influence things in ways. I wrote about that from the negative perspective in this post. What it comes down to in that regard is de-motivation. Coaches sometimes do things that cause players to lose the desire to learn and get better.

Here are a few posts that look at it from a more positive perspective.

Those are discussions of some bigger picture ideas, but we have to also consider the more narrow view. By that I mean the specific exercise the player is in now. It is sufficiently challenging, for example? Does it have elements which link to the player’s motivations? These are things we have to consider. Otherwise, we run the risk of loosing player focus and motivation. Once that happens, learning essentially stops.

Feedback and Reinforcement

I see reinforcement as a form of feedback, so I’m lumping these two together. Regular readers of this blog know feedback comes up often. Here are some examples.

The topic also features in the Understanding verbal communication for coaching Conversation.

Knowledge of performance and results

This is where the player knows the expectation for whatever it is they’re doing and can judge the outcome accordingly. For example, passing a good ball to target. The player knows the objective is a good, settable pass. They can also see whether they’ve accomplished that with each repetition.

I go into this subject in the Knowledge of performance and feedback post.

Are you thinking about all this stuff when you plan a practice in the immediate view, and when you work on your team culture in the larger perspective?


John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Men's & Women's Head Volleyball Coach at Medaille College, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy (formerly Charleston Academy). His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

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