Friday, June 19, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect?

The old quote coaches used toward athletes read "Practice Makes Perfect". This notion lead athletes to believe that all they had to do to become great was practice an activity. The missing piece of the puzzle, which to coaches is now quite obvious, was the quality of the practice session. Somewhere in the meantime this clarification became widespread and different quotes were derived. The next one I heard was "Perfect Practice, makes Perfect". This gives an athlete more direction as to the quality of the practice session, however, what exactly is perfect practice? In addition, how many times can we honestly say we've had a perfect practice? I think the best alternative I've heard to this day, which I heard this year was:

"Practice Makes Permanent"

The difference in the coach's delivery here does not contain ambiguity while still conveying the importance of practice to the athlete in a precise manner. I think we should all start (or continue) using this term over the other two.

From a scientific position, the third quote has also been proven by Ericsson et. al. (1993) in a study on deliberate practice and skill acquisition. I will provide more on the study another day, but the basis is that with 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, an individual can become an expert level performer in any given skill. The "expert level" status is the permanent part.

I would be very interested to hear any other quotes you've heard as coaches or use personally to convey this message to athletes. Thank you for reading.

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