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Deliberate Practice

When Creative Isn’t Right

This quote popped up on a Web site and made me wince. It took me back to  practices I’ve run. Bad ones.

It’s from Phyllis Hunter, a Houston-based consultant.

“Teachers do not have a right to do whatever they think best in the classroom. It’s not about teachers or what the teachers need or the rights of teachers. It’s about the needs and rights of the children. We need to end the shoot-from-the-hip approach to teaching and, like the medical profession, start using research-based practices. The great American lecture needs to die. There are a whole helluva lot of ways to do bad teaching, and calling them “creative” doesn’t cut it.”

This quote really resonates with me because there was a time in my life when I told myself I was good at doing things “by feel.” By instinct. That was just another way of saying I was too lazy to do the research!

It’s wonderful to be creative. But it’s not wonderful to ignore the nuts and bolts of your job and try to make up for it by calling yourself creative.

There are laws of learning, and certain conditions that bring huge improvements in skill. Coaches should know these laws, and these conditions.

You can start by researching the work of Dr. Anders Ericsson, who describes the process of deliberate practice. Read everything you can about deliberate practice. Know how and why kids learn.

Does this mean you must teach or coach in a box, with no freedom whatsoever? No way. But it does mean you have to know the rules. Poet Robert Frost said, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.”

Play with the net up!

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Mike Tully speaks to sports, business and educational groups. He also works with coaches, athletes and teams to make their practice time more productive and efficient. He and Gary Pritchard are co-authors of “Ten Things Great Coaches Know.”


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