I previously wrote a review of the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. While reading the book I flagged a number of interesting quotes. Here’s one of them worth taking to heart.

The third myth states that all it takes to improve is effort. If you just try hard enough, you’ll get better. If you want to be a better manager, try harder. If you want to generate more sales, try harder. If you want to improve your teamwork, try harder. The reality is, however, that all of these things—managing, selling, teamwork—are specialized skills, and unless you are using practice techniques specifically designed to improve those particular skills, trying hard will not get you very far. The deliberate-practice mindset offers a very different view: anyone can improve, but it requires the right approach. If you are not improving, it’s not because you lack innate talent; it’s because you’re not practicing the right way. Once you understand this, improvement becomes a matter of figuring out what the “right way” is.”

Deliberate Practice

I think it’s probably worth providing a definition of deliberate practice, in particular as the author here means it. Here’s another quote from the book that I think does a good job explaining it.

The hallmark of purposeful or deliberate practice is that you try to do something you cannot do—that takes you out of your comfort zone—and that you practice it over and over again, focusing on exactly how you are doing it, where you are falling short, and how you can get better.

Note that a huge part of deliberate practice is feedback.

My question for you

Now, here’s the question for you. Are you thinking just in terms of your players right now? I can understand if you are. As teachers of skills, it’s pretty easy for us to read the above and think of its application to athlete development.

Don’t stop there, though.

There is a lot more to coaching than just teaching skills. The whole “trying harder” thing applies to you and your coaching just as much as it does to players trying to get better.

So how can we apply the concept of deliberate practice to our coaching? I’d love to hear your thoughts?

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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.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.