Quality Practice: Structured, Specific, Monitered and Trust the Teacher

In the last decade there have been great gains in sport performance. For example, a gold medal winner in the men’s 200 hundred meter free style in the 64 Olympics would not make the women’s team for the 92 Olympics or even qualifying for the same event in 2008. Training methods, equipment, nutrition, coaching styles and facilities combined with highly motivated athletes have enhanced performance levels for athletes in all sports. Increases in performance have been irrefutable for elite athletes.

Interestingly, while the numbers of elite professional and amateur golfers have increased as have their performances, the average handicap of the remaining golfing millions have not increased in the last twenty years. Thus, great advances in understanding the swing, audio visual analysis, written material for swing mechanics, the technology of equipment and improved condition of courses and have not effected the overall play of the masses.

Ericsson, Krampe and Tesch-Romer in the Psychological Review (1993), and Sverduk, (1998), reported on extensive research that expert performance across numerous domains correlates with deliberate (quality) practice. The author’s message to athletes, and specifically to golfers, is clear that performance will increase in direct proportion to the quality of practice. Quality practice development and implementation falls directly within the boundaries of Applied Sport Psychology. It is learning a new skill, and it is practicing to transfer the new skill to performance situations.

Activities Found To Be Most Effective for the Improvement of Performance:

  • Highly Structured: For learning new skills and the practice of skills to be used in competition by paying close attention to all of the required details.
  • Specific to the Task: Practice sessions must simulate competition situations and tasks.
  • Carefully Monitored: Practice must be supervised by a trusted coach or in the case of individual sports, by each individual (yourself) through a thoughtful knowledge of results specific to each task.
  • Rigorous Effort: Planned sessions at full speed the duration and intensity to be determined by the sport, individual, task and situation.
  • Full Concentration: In regards to closed sport skills like golf, it is important to develop a pre and post concentration routine and use it consistently during practice.
  • Qualitative Shift in Practice Content: Deliberate practice does not mean more but means doing old things in new ways and doing new things. It means the application of and improved organization of knowledge. To understand the difference between practicing for learning and practicing for performance.
  • Trust the Teacher: Develop a trusting working relationship with a teacher/coach who understands deliberate practice and expert performance.
  • Understand Long Term Benefits: To understand that change takes time and to keep long range goals in sight at all times.

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