Practice makes perfect. If you’re an athlete, you’ve probably heard this a few thousand times throughout your life. Practice is necessary to improve health, build confidence, gain a better understanding of rules and regulations, and also try out new techniques. But how can practice really bring out peak performance? When athletes partake in “deliberate practice,” they are more in tune with their bodies and see results.
Deliberate practice relates to the quality of the practice time. It focuses on specific goals of improving performance by participating in highly structured activities relating to that sport (Barr, 2016). It may be easy to just “go through the motions” of practice, but if your goal is to gain skills and become an elite athlete, engaging in deliberate practice should be one of your objectives. Dr. Janet Starkes, a kinesiology professor at McMaster University, and colleagues recently concluded a study dating back almost three decades on deliberate practice, and state: “The core of our work has alluded to the important role that self-focused attention plays in helping skilled athletes to refine inefficient movement during deliberate practice.” This self-focus is one of the main factors in developing elite athletes. Her work also suggests that something called “reflective somatic awareness” plays an important role in this process. By learning to feel and understand the body, you will increase your awareness to consciously and deliberately improve the movements within your sport.
So how can we engage in deliberate practice? There are a few steps to take. First, you must be motivated to improve your performance and continuously exert an effort to be better. Second, use your pre-existing knowledge to help you understand the task at hand so you are performing movements properly. Third, ask your coach to give you immediate and informative feedback after your performance so you know what went well and what needs improvement. Lastly, you should repeatedly perform the same or similar tasks to increase your awareness (Clear, 2016). Following these steps will help you partake in deliberate practice and improve your overall performance!
Barr, C. (2016). Deliberate Practice: What It Is and Why You Need It.
Clear, J. (2016). The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice | James Clear.
Starkes, J. (2016). Toward an explanation of continuous improvement in expert athletes: The role of consciousness in deliberate practice. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 46(6), 666-675. Retrieved November 15, 2016.