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Deliberate Practice

Roger Federer’s Footwork

Many thanks to Jeff Beer for sending this New York Times item on Roger Federer’s footwork. My favorite part is the very beginning. It concerns Federer’s ability to PERCEIVE quickly. The narrator says Federer’s split step begins the moment he sees the opponent’s racquet come forward to hit the ball. This early recognition is a key factor in expert performance. As we mentioned the other day, Geoff Colvin devotes a section to it in the book “Talent Is Overrated.”

This ability to see is so basic that you hardly think of it. But experts see more and they see it earlier. When a baseball player is asked to explain a hot streak, he may often say, “I’m seeing the ball well.”

Hockey goalies track the puck more effortlessly when they’re in a groove. Or do they get into the groove through deeper concentration on the puck?

Even in golf, the sport that Jeff coaches at the Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair, N.J., expert performance relies on sight. Great golfers see more possibilities when shaping their shot. In the book “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” the advice is to “see the field.”

Federer sees quickly. That is part of why he has won five straight U.S. Open titles and  is shooting for a sixth.


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