Deliberate Practice

Practice can be defined as the repeated exercise of an activity or skill to acquire or maintain proficiency in it. The purpose of practice is to improve your skills. More scientifically, athletic practice adds myelin to your neurons, which helps you execute your motor skills with more precision and consistency and with less effort. So if practice improves skills, is there a certain way to practice that maximizes improvement? Yes. It’s called deliberate practice. You can’t just mindlessly practice however you want to and expect great results. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. The closest thing to “perfect practice” is called deliberate practice. The best athletes are very skilled because they have mastered deliberate practice.

Here are the characteristics of deliberate practice:
  1. The practice/drill/exercise is designed to push you just beyond your comfort level or current ability level. If you only practice 90 MPH serves, don’t expect to be able to serve 100 MPH well in matches. Practicing at one level for an extended amount of time just makes you really consistent at that level. It doesn’t help you perform well on the next level. When you learn a skill, it is time to raise the bar, and practice at a higher skill level. Always practice just beyond your comfort level so you are continuously improving and don’t get stuck at one level. It is not always comfortable and you may make a lot of mistakes at first, but this is how you improve.
  2. Do a high number of repetitions. They say repetition is the father of learning. The more repetitions you do, the more your muscle memory will increase. This is common sense. 1000 repetitions will improve a skill more than 10 repetitions. However, the trick is to maintain quality repetitions. Sloppy repetitions with bad technique won’t be as beneficial and may even create bad habits.
  3. It is mentally highly demanding. This complements characteristic #2. You need both quality and quantity.  Mentally focusing 100% gives more quality to your reps. This is hard and exhausting but improving is not supposed to be easy. If it was, everyone would do it.
  4. Feedback. Another contributor to the quality of your reps is feedback. Even if you are giving 100% concentration, you may be making a technical or strategic mistake unknowingly. It is very helpful if you have a coach to provide good feedback and instructions.

In summary, deliberate practice is practicing the right skill at the right level, with a lot of quality reps. If you do this, while still making practice fun, you will have a bright future. I suggest you incorporate the 4 characteristics of deliberate practice into your training so you can train both hard and smart and improve at a faster rate.