As someone who has a strong interest in practice, I have read ‘The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle and even written about it on this blog. You can imagine how excited I was to discover recently that the auther even has a ‘Talent Code’ blog (Well he used to. It is still there, but hasn’t been updated since 2014). Needless to say the post ‘The 3 Levels of Effective Practice’ immediately caught my attention. The idea is not originally his (he adapts it from the work of renowned conditioning coach Vern Gambetta). In short, the 3 levels of effective practice are:
1) Going to practice and doing what you are told and getting a bit better.
2) Going to practice, setting goals within practice, pushing yourself hard and getting a lot better.
3) Going to practice with a plan of how this practice fits into your larger goals, pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can outside your comfort zone over and over AND going home and critically reviewing your practice and your progress leading to a quantum leap in performance**.
I’m pretty sure everyone can identify people they have worked with who fit into each category and relate it to how they developed.
I like the idea from a few different viewpoints. Firstly, it recognises that improvement is an active process. You don’t get better by accident. Secondly, as Gambetta emphasises, improvement is a choice. You can work as much as you want, but you have to choose to improve. Thirdly, as Coyle emphasises, improvement requires a personal investment. You have to put yourself into it, just as Platonov talks about.
It’s all practice.
**Gambetta calls this level ‘winning practice’, hence the title of the post.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.
This post makes me think of the adage: “you learn from experience”. To me this fits into (1) on the list. You definitely learn from experience. Absolutely. In reality, some people might learn from experience fast enough to be successful in what they do. The problem with this is the assumption that if you experience something, you will learn everything it is possible to learn from that experience. Point (3) would dispute this (as would I). As always, the question isn’t whether one thing works or not. The question is, is this thing the best/fastest/most efficient way to improve?
The problem is that (3) is really really hard! Comfort zones are, by definition, not places people want to leave. All this makes me ask a question – is ‘natural’ curiosity a key ingredient of a high performing athlete?
There are countless stories of athletes who independently set their own ‘mini-goals’ and explore different ways to achieve them. Every off season in the NBA there are stories of players who ‘work on a new move’, as well as stories of athletes who don’t. Does individual curiosity drive these athletes? Is this part of ‘talent’?