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Deliberate Practice

The Power of Immediacy

Years ago, there was a man in our office who had to test his blood every time he ate anything.

At first that sounded like a great inconvenience and burden. However, it also brought great opportunity. After all, this man received immediate and constant feedback on the result of his actions.

This came to mind after yesterday’s Gold Medal Squared volleyball coaches clinic in Santa Clara, Calif. As part of the agenda, national and high level college coaches conducted a sample practice with a local team. One of the drills called for the athletes to stop and write a score on the whiteboard every time they performed a skill.

Like the man in my office, these athletes had a chance to think about what they had just done. This is exactly what the coaches wanted. They were emphasizing mindfulness — drawing a connection between actions and results.

Athletes actually begin their careers by reflecting on their results and making adjustments. For example, the first time you shot a basketball, it probably fell short of the target. That’s because you were young and not yet strong enough to reach the basket. So you shot the ball harder, and eventually the ball went in.

Somewhere along the line, athletes stray from this process. Instead of analyzing results, they get frustrated. At that point, they have a choice: they can either decide they can’t do the skill, or they can realize that they are only one adjustment away from improvement.

Yesterday’s drill was designed to help them with that choice. First they get an immediate reading on their performance, and with it comes the invitation to make the adjustments that will improve that performance.

The bottom line is the bottom line: Make sure that somewhere in your practices, the athletes get a reading on exactly how they are doing. And make sure they know that whatever their score is, they can do something about it.


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