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Deliberate Practice

Ego and Improvement

Today’s post comes in the form of a poem offered by the Coaching Toolbox web site. Many thanks to Kevin Reilly for sending it along.

The poem portrays a young athlete learning how to handle praise; it would make great material to put on a gym wall.

It also raises the issue of deliberate practice, that very rigorous approach to improvement. Here’s a question:

Can an inflated ego and deliberate practice exist side-by-side?

After all, deliberate practice would seem to require a sense of humility, a realistic and exact sense of where improvement is needed. An inflated ego makes that difficult, if not impossible.

Deliberate practice requires the observation of results, and the need to make corrections when necessary. An inflated ego can’t make these corrections; it is too busy making excuses and looking for scapegoats.

In short, deliberate practice begins with a certain attitude. That attitude can either be “I am great” or “This is what I have to work on.”

This is why coaches should praise hard work, not ability. They should point to progress, not potential. To really help your athletes, Put the focus on ACTION. Tell them what they need to work on, and how to work on it. The rest is up to them.


One comment for “Ego and Improvement”

  1. I think Michael Jordan was a good example of how ego and improvement can co-exist. He definitely had a very large ego, but was an incredibly tireless worker, driven to be the best and to goad his teammates into being as good as they could be. Six championships later, it’s hard to argue.

    Posted by Lee Roberts | July 15, 2009, 10:08 am

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