First Thoughts on Effective Practice

Jerry and I have been talking a lot about what differentiates effective practice from ineffective. (As our goal is maximizing potential, we're taking for granted the necessity of practice. It's just not even a question.)

I don't know that I have been very effective at practicing sports. I can be pretty avid about it--even during the layoff from most activities that the separated shoulder forced on me, I was back on the tennis court practicing serves as soon as I could comfortably toss the ball in the air.

There's a tricky aspect to sports practicing, which is that often the goal gets defined around an obvious but perhaps short-sighted understanding of what "success" is. With the tennis serve, for example, on some level any serve that misses the service box, no matter how well hit, is a "bad" serve. It thus becomes easy to focus all practice around "getting the serves in." This seems to define the amateur mindset: among the amateur tennis players I see on the courts around my house, I see a lot of wonky but, in a sense, effective service motions. They get the ball in.

But from the perspective of maximizing potential, this is clearly the wrong approach. In doing that, those players are effectively putting a ceiling on their game. And TTW is all about going right through ceilings.

So then, what might more effective practice look like?

On reflection, I realized that I actually have a pretty good understanding of effective practice, but it's nothing I learned doing sports. I was trained as a classical musician. When I looked at what my practice sessions looked like when I was most active as a musician (back in college and just after), I saw habits that set a strong foundation for success.

We're working now on teasing out how to apply those practice techniques to athletics (and we hope that in the process we'll discover principles that can be applied as general life-skills). In future pieces, we'll describe what we've discovered so far.

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