Deliberate practice is an activity designed specifically to improve performance, often with a coach or mentors help. Most people practice by mindlessly repeating an activity over and over without any clear goal of what they want to accomplish. For example, let’s say a person wants to improve their golf game. If they are like most people, they’ll just go to the driving range and hit a couple of buckets of balls without thinking much about specific ways they can improve their swing. 300 balls later these people haven’t improved at all. In fact, they may have gotten worse. Deliberate practice, on the other hand, is designed with clear objectives and goals. When top performers practice, they break down their skill into sharply defined elements. After breaking down a skill into parts, a top performer will work intently on the element they need to improve most. During the entire practice, they focus solely on that one aspect.
Take a swimming example. Instead of just going to the pool and mindlessly swimming lap after lap, break down your stroke into different elements – body alignment, head position, arm alignment, recovery arm action, downward hip drive, elbow/hip connection, catch, breathing, etc. After breaking down your swim stroke into specific parts, go to the pool and spend an hour focusing on just one of those elements.
Keep working on that one element until you have made Improvement, then move on to the next one. Carrying out practice in this deliberate fashion is a skill that takes time to develop.
That’s why having a teacher/coach help design your practice sessions can be invaluable. They have the knowledge and skill to break your stroke down into specific elements. Coaches also see you in ways that you do not see yourself and can direct you to focus on the elements that you need work on most.
Unfortunately, many swimmers have the tendency to think that they’ve outgrown the need for technique coaches and that fitness and conditioning with Squad coaches is all they need to achieve their goals. It is no surprise that they do not improve. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.
Swimmers seem to think that it is a sign of weakness to ask for help.
But asking for help will only make you stronger and better. There is a reason why the best swimmers and athletes continue to have coaches who work on technique and why successful businessmen seek the advice of mentors throughout their careers.
they understand the power of an outside eye and opinion in their personal growth, they stay hungry and they practice and work on technique repeatedly.