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Deliberate Practice

It’s What You See

Back in my sports writing days, I always tried to sit next to one particular person in the pressbox because he seemed to see so much in the game.

He was WATCHING the same thing the rest of us were, but he always SAW more. Listening to his insights, and hearing him pick apart the details that had eluded the rest of us was one of the joys of attending games.

It turns out that this was no accident. Certain people DO see more than others. And those who see more tend to perform better. In the book “Talented Is Overrated,” Geoff Colvin devotes an entire section to the subject of perceiving. Even in such a skill as reading X-rays, says Colvin, “The experts did not have sharper eyes in the usual sense. They were all looking at the same films and could see them just as clearly. The difference wasn’t literally what they saw. It was what they perceived.”

For you, the question becomes, “Is this ability innate or can it be developed?” If you have been reading this blog for some time, or if you have read Colvin’s book, then you know the answer. It certainly can be developed! Seeing is actually part of deliberate practice.

My friend in the pressbox was not an inherently brilliant baseball man. But he had watched thousands of baseball games, not just with the idea of being entertained but with the idea of learning.

And so after that accumulation of time at the ballpark, he knew what to watch for on every play. He knew what correct footwork looked like, he knew where players should be positioned in various situations, and he understood the inner workings of the battle between the pitcher and the batter.

He had developed his eye. At the Gold Medal Squared volleyball coaching clinics that I attend every year, they encourage coaches to develop this eye by paying attention to various skill keys. We will talk more about keys soon.

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On our team, the experiments continue. I mentioned a couple of days ago that when considering players for certain roles, we are looking at improbable candidates. That’s because a search of LIKELY candidates did not produce the electricity we were hoping for. By widening the search, we have introduced more excitement and more fun into our competitive drills.

So far there is no definitive answer; we still have two weeks before our first game. But in the meantime, remember the words of Sherlock Holmes: “One you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” In other words, if something isn’t working, and shows no sign of being able to be fixed, you must change it, even if the new solution seems too outrageous to be true.


One comment for “It’s What You See”

  1. great stuff mike
    too many coaches stick with the same players and dont give others a shot- you never know until you throw certain kids into the mix
    if anything they will see why they arent playing when you put them in and they do not succeed

    Posted by kevin reilly | August 28, 2009, 11:18 pm

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