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Beating the Odds

How to Be Extraordinary

Great performers practice in extraordinary ways.

For instance, every baseball player gets into a hitting slump now and then. Most players respond by taking more batting practice. But few approach the problem the way Hall of Famer Ty Cobb did.

Cobb knew that whenever he started to hit poorly, he had to go back to the fundamental of hitting the ball in the direction of the pitcher. So he placed a towel on the ground halfway between home plate and the pitcher’s mound, and bunted dozens of pitches until he could get the ball to land squarely on the towel.

Gradually he would pick up the towel and move it farther and farther from home plate, always being careful to make sure that he kept aiming for the target.

Finally, when the towel was all the way in the outfield, Cobb could swing the bat and make the ball land near it from a distance of a couple of hundred feet! Before long, the slump would be over.

This is an example of what researchers call deliberate practice. It’s a very special, very difficult kind of practice, taking a lot of concentration and attention to results. But it produces extraordinary performance. No wonder that Cobb retired with the highest career batting average of any player in history.

You can email Coach Tully at coachtully@totalgameplan.com.


One comment for “How to Be Extraordinary”

  1. It’s all about the target isn’t it. We think of this most naturally in golf, where we are taught to identify the smallest possible target, but it’s really true of any sport. Bill Bradley, apparently, used to pick a specific rivet at the back of the basket to aim at.

    Posted by Peter Hirsch | January 9, 2009, 12:14 pm

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