The determining factor that separates the best from the rest is Deliberate Practice, and below are the 5 characteristics that define Deliberate Practice.
It is an activity specifically designed to improve performance.
(SMART EXAMPLE- Your Play Book/Game Plan)
The key word in this attribute is designed. Designed practice is meant to stretch the individual beyond his or her current abilities. Deliberate practice requires that one identify certain sharply defined elements of performance that need to be improved, and then work intently on them (Almost always, it is necessary for a teacher to design the activity). The greatest performers isolate remarkably specific aspects of what they do and focus on just those things until they are improved, then it’s on to the next aspect.
Note: Going to the driving range, getting two buckets of balls, starting with a club of your choice, picking a target, occasionally thinking about why a shot is bad, eventually picking one of the thousand things that could be going wrong, until you hit another bad one, while deciding to work on another one of the thousand things to work on, convincing yourself you can sense improvement is not practice.
You can never make progress if practice is easy or comfortable, because if it is, you are ‘practicing’ activities you can already do easily.
It can be repeated a lot.
(SMART EXAMPLE- Drills that can be performed virtually anywhere.)
High repetition is the most important difference between deliberate practice of a task, and performing the task for real, when it counts. Repeating a specific activity over and over is what most of us mean by practice, yet for most, it really isn’t effective. After all, hitting ball after ball on the driving range is repeating something. This brings up two points which distinguish deliberate practice from what most of us actually do.
- Choosing a properly demanding activity just out of your comfort zone. (DRILLS.)
- The actual amount of repetition. The most effective deliberate practice activities are those that can be repeated at very high volume. There is an undeniable trend in the world’s best performers and the astronomically large amount of time and effort spent ‘practicing.’
Feedback on results is continuously available.
(SMART EXAMPLE- Our facility, your instructor, automatic video capture, trackman, a mirror.)
You can work on your technique all you like, but if you cannot see what you are actually executing and the effects from the execution, two things will happen: You won’t get any better, and you’ll stop caring.
A teacher/ coach is crucial for improving technique and changing motor patterns. Our facility and technology are also great for providing the necessary feedback to improve.
Note: In the early stages of practice for most individuals, the lease effective place to be getting better is at the driving range by yourself. If you can not accomplish a change based on thought and feel alone, the last feedback you need is ball flight.
It’s highly demanding mentally.
(SMART EXAMPLE- Exhaustion during/after sessions is not uncommon.)
Deliberate practice, is above all, an effort of focus and concentration. That is what makes it “deliberate,” as opposed to the mindless hitting of golf balls that most people engage in.
Continually seeking exactly those elements of performance that are unsatisfactory and then trying one’s hardest to make them better, places enormous strain on anyone’s mental abilities.
The work is so great, that no one can sustain it for very long.
Findings which are remarkably consistent across disciplines is that sessions lasting 60-90 minutes seems to be the upper limit of deliberate practice at one time.
“Practice with your body, and you will need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in one and half hours.” – Leopold Auer
Note: We are not saying that you need to practice 60-90 minutes at a time, every day to get better. We are saying more sessions and less time at once is most productive. We will add, like most disciplines in life, the more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.
It isn’t much fun.
(SMART EXAMPLE: We identify the ‘painful,’ difficult activities that will make you better and do those things over and over.)
Doing things we know how to do is enjoyable, and that’s exactly the opposite of what deliberate practice demands. Instead of doing things we are good at, we insistently seek out what we’re not good at. After each rep, we force ourselves to see or get your coach to tell you exactly what still isn’t right so we can repeat the most difficult parts of what we have just done. We continue the process until we are mentally exhausted.
Note: If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them, and there would be no distinguishing the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.