Being Deliberate, Part 1 — Getting to the Next Level with Deliberate Practice

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers then you know that success is more a product of opportunity and timing than it is a set of innate gifts and talents. And if you have read Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin or The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle, you see that success is also very much a product of deliberate practice done over many years.

And as you read about deliberate practice you realize that, sadly, most of us will not realize our full potential. We will not do so because we will not put in the quantity of hours needed nor receive the quality of training necessary to fit the specific requirements of deliberate practice. While educational research icon Benjamin Bloom states that learning is a function of time spent divided by time needed, he also says that time spent is a product of opportunity and — wait for it — perseverance.

Okay, back the truck up for a second. What’s deliberate practice anyway?

According to Kathleen Cushman, author of the book Fires in the Mind, what deliberate practice is includes the following:

  • practice has an express purpose
  • practice demands attention and focus
  • practice involves conscious repetition or rehearsal
  • practice is geared to the individual
  • practice takes careful timing
  • practice is not inherently enjoyable
  • practice develops new skills and knowledge
  • practice applies to new endeavours

Not inherently enjoyable? Ouch! That sticks out doesn’t it? The Eliot River Ramblers Soccer Club has three core values — safety, fun and learning. Nobody debates safety but I am seeing that there is struggle internally and externally within the Club with finding the balance between the values of fun and learning. As I’ve said many times before, if the environment is only safe and fun then we have become the Eliot River Ramblers Babysitting Club. Instead, we also prize learning and want every player, regardless of ability level, to learn and improve. After all, the game is just so much more fun when you are better at playing it.

Cushman’s book, which is focused around the context of school, at one point asks the question: is homework really practice? Moreover, is it deliberate practice? When Cushman compared what deliberate practice looks like and what homework looks like, she ended up with:

  • deliberate practice has an express purpose while students often didn’t know the point of doing homework
  • deliberate practice is geared to the individual student while everyone gets the same homework tasks regardless of what each student needs to work on
  • deliberate practice involves attention and focus while students often can do homework without thinking
  • deliberate practice requires repetition and rehearsal while homework is repeated just to get it over with, not to perfect or remember it
  • deliberate practice requires careful timing while homework often takes more time than students have to do it
  • deliberate practice leads to new skills while homework doesn’t always get used for anything after its done

So, as far as soccer goes, there’s two important takeaways there:

  1. The practice our kids currently do is NOT deliberate practice
  2. Deliberate practice is important for our kids if their goal is to excel

That’s fine. That doesn’t impact or change our core values. Learning still happens with non-deliberate practice. Those that want to truly excel at soccer can engage in deliberate practice. And even though deliberate practice is not really fun, players that use it define fun in a larger variety of ways than the average player. For example, fun could be seeing themselves being challenged and being pushed really hard, whereas the average player just sees that as work and no fun.

In our Club we have a brand of programming called Stretch Soccer. The purpose of Stretch Soccer programming is to introduce players who may be interested in excelling in soccer with the opportunity to experience a training environment that is more demanding of them and introduces them to the concepts of deliberate practice. The Stretch Soccer motto is ‘become more’ and as it implies, the goal is to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone.

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Technical Ramblings

Technical Ramblings

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Posts dedicated to informing and educating the members of the Eliot River Ramblers Soccer Club about player, coach, official and program development.