Repetition, Repetition, Repetition! Is doing more always better? My question as a coach is…how do we keep the passion in our sport and prevent burnout at the older ages? How can we train kids the most efficiently and effectively without overtraining our kids’ bodies as well as their minds? The Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) model is worth considering if you would like more in depth information on this topic. Maybe you have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become world class in a field (Malcolm Gladwell). When I hear this I automatically think I need to do more. Perhaps an athlete will begin to believe they need more hours on the field. They need more touches, need to go to more practices, play in more games, play on more teams, to invest more money to become great. I think this picture becomes skewed as often more, more, more leads to burnout and high dropout rates. So, what is the answer? Hopefully in reading this article the picture will be a bit clearer.
Malcolm Gladwell not only professes that it takes 10,000 hours to be great in your field but that 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” makes one world class in their field. Deliberate practice is a repetitive, concentrated practice. Daniel Coyle author of Talent Code writes about deep practice. Deep practice is quality not quantity as more is not always better. Therefore, if we want to get better at a pattern or movement we must do it correctly to produce the best results. For example, let’s say a soccer player wants to improve his/her finishing abilities. They go out and hit 100 shots on each foot each day. After a couple of weeks, they come home with a pulled hip flexor muscle. Was more better? Yes, they are getting 200 shots (repetition, repetition, repetition) but are they paying attention to details and proper technique with each shot? How affective was that training? Would it have been better to take 30 shots with great technique or just hit 200 shots?
It is very important to perform quality movements. Around each neuron in our body is a substance called myelin. With every movement pattern we perform, myelin wraps around our nerves. This sort of imprints the pattern or movement so we don’t have to think every time we do it. This happens with the millions of things we do each day. If our patterns are bad (poor technique) we will develop bad patterns. If our patterns are good, we will develop good patterns. One way to look at this is; our bodies do what we train it to do. If we train slow we will be slow, if we train fast we will be fast. If we train quality movement, we will have quality movement. So yes, some of training is clearly about repetition but what is the quality of the repetition?
Some believe that talent is about natural God given talent. However, if the above is true, good quality patterns can be learned with proper practice. Here are some tips on how one can learn good quality Deep Practice.
Chunk it! When you perform a skill just do it… Find out what is not working. Take that small part of the movement and slow it down. Then speed it up. Do it correctly. Do it wrong.
Repeat it! Repetition demands your full attention
Feel it! Explain how it feels both right and wrong. This helps you self-correct. You must have complete awareness.
If this practice is difficult because you cannot figure out where the weakness is, hire a private coach for a few lessons. Once aware of the area that needs attention follow the above guidelines. Repetition is so important in the learning process however; the quality of the repetition is what makes one great. How great do you want to be?