Practice makes perfect, doesn’t it? Make sure your practices have the greatest chance of improving your players.
For many, practice is just around the corner. Before you start, read this.
Softball season is just around the corner which means players and coaches are working hard to get better. For coaches, that improvement comes in the form of studying, reading and planning. While players are busy training, conditioning and practicing.
Ah, practice. That magic quality that impacts both players and coaches. Practicing is something we all do, a lot. And yet we don’t all get better.
Through the science of expertise, we’ve learned a ton about how to practice better. This deep exploration into the science of performance has exploded lately as more and more people strive to get better, faster. And while shortcuts are something our culture looks for in almost everything we do, skill improvement is exempt from shortcuts.
The science of expertise tells us how practice either will or won’t make us better. It tells us about how to ensure that the time you spend practicing actually makes you better.
But first, let’s look at the graphic to the left to see some common practice myths, and the actual truths about practice.
Well, if these common practice myths aren’t true, what are we supposed to believe, and more importantly, what are we supposed to do during practice in order to ensure that the time we spend practicing will in fact, make us better?
To save you time – so you’ll have more time for practicing – I’ve summarized the research for you, and listed below the keys to helping make practice more efficient, and most importantly, help make you better:
- CONNECTION – To do any movement, information travels from our brains, down our spinal cords and to the body part we need to move. Help your players make a better connection by describing things many different ways, and helping them “feel” your instructions with their hands or feet.
- SUPER HIGHWAY – Repetition increases something called MYELIN in our brains – this makes the message travel faster (from the brain to the body part) and travel more efficiently (because less of the information will be lost in the transfer). Think of MYELIN like a super highway. Help your players understand how purposeful repetitions make their inner-info highways bigger, instead of careless, mindless reps.
- QUALITY – The quality of practice matters as much as quantity. Once again, 100 careless, mindless repetitions sloppily done aren’t as helpful as 50 high quality, thoughtful reps with a purpose.
- INTENTION – Really matters. To really make a difference, practice has to have a specific goal. (Both the coach and the player must each have a specific goal). Start by asking your players more questions, like: “how do you need to do this skill better in the game? Or, what, specifically, are you working on in this drill?” Intention not only matters, but it’s specific.
- GET ON THE EDGE – Practice on the edge of your abilities as much as possible. This means you’ll struggle and often fail. Perfect, because it’s through this failure that you’ll discover the solution – and that’s when improvement happens. This means to challenge your players with slightly more speed, more range or more intensity to get them out of their comfort zone & get them on the edge of their skill.
- SLOW IT DOWN – Instead of always going game-speed, or full-speed, try practicing in slow motion and add speed gradually. Forcing yourself to slow down increases the brain-body connection and awareness. While this sounds easy, your players will find this to be one of the hardest things they do (until they get better at it).
- BREAK IT UP – Instead of a go-go-go mentality in practice, take lots of breaks, or break your practice up into many parts. This allows the brain to process what’s just happened and then recall it when practice resumes. Softball is a game filled with starts, stops and breaks, so adding breaks into practice not only better simulates the game environment & tempo, but it greatly enhances your player’s learning.
I hope you enjoy your holidays and experience an incredible 2019!
My obsession with learning has led me to create many products that will improve how your team practices. Here are a few, based on your level of experience:
- Softball Excellence Coaching Certification Course
- Vault Classic – Annual Membership
- ePractices (25 practices I’ve already done for you, complete with drills)