“Details make perfection, but perfection is not a detail.”
Be deliberate in all of your training, no matter what discipline you study. Whether it be music, mathematics, the arts, athletics, languages, etc. If one wants to continue to make improvements, one must make her practice sessions intentionally deliberative. This is very hard to do, and even more difficult without guidance of a teacher who stresses deliberative practice.
Typically, most people do things in an un-deliberative manner (aside from the first few months of trying to learn a new subject or topic.) People drive their cars undeliberately, they read their book undeliberately, they play their iphone games undeliberately, they exercise undeliberately, and so on. “Undeliberate Practice” can be defined as: Simply going through the motions, or rather, repetitious practice of routine drills and techniques for maintenance purposes. And that is usually OKAY for daily living. For most humans, mundane skills such as ‘driving a car’ do not usually need to be pushed to one’s deepest limits, especially once you have reached an acceptable level of proficiency and competence as compared to other peers. Same thing for ‘reading a book for pleasure’. If one really wanted to push her reading skills, one would set a timer during every session, and try to push the boundaries of speed-reading, or try to push the comprehension boundaries by keeping a log of all the vocabulary words that one does not comprehend. But we are not robots, and we cannot expect to do every single task in life with the intention of deliberately outperforming our past selves.
Competitive Athletics and Sport is a different story. In this area, if the athlete desires to become the top of her field, she must put in deliberate “boundary pushing” practices sessions, continuously. An athlete’s skills and technique need to be continually battle-tested and measured, in such a way that her training sessions are always uncomfortable. One should never allow himself to become comfortable. When one’s performance has reached a “good” level, this is where the plateau phenomena usually takes place. If an athlete becomes proficient at a certain task, a coach’s job is to introduce more layers of demanding requests. Only through this layered and meticulous manner, can the individual build themselves into a hyper athlete, one who has high levels of proficiency in all technical areas of the sport through memory and execution of multiple layers of tasks during performances. It’s not easy, but “Iron sharpens Iron”.
“Iron sharpens Iron”
How can coaches make practices deliberative? By focusing on the details. Focus on details in a religious and obsessive manner, and be specific in your requests/demands. For example: a bad teacher may say something like “I want you to be tighter.” Whereas a better teacher may say something like “The focus for this week, I want everyone to have their fingers glued together when they set their arms prior to each somersault. We will be checking your fingers on every skill this week.” That is a very specific requests; the mission and goal is stated and explained straightforwardly, there is no question about it. When you train your students in this meticulous way, they themselves remember what to look for when aiming for perfection. Otherwise, they will just be shooting in the dark when trying to reach the concept of “perfection.” Let me end the post with one of my favorite phrases that I remind myself all the time as a coach: If you train in a random manner, you will get random results.