Why the 10,000 hour rule isn't enough
10,000 hours. You’ve probably heard the “rule” made famous by Malcom Gladwell in his book, Outliers. Based on the research of Anders Ericsson, Gladwell posited that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. While the path of mastery is certainly time consuming, according to Ericsson himself, the 10,000 hour rule is a misrepresentation of his findings.
“It’s not enough to engage in 10,000 hours of a task. What’s critical is ‘deliberate practice’” - Anders Ericsson.
Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Grit explained, “many people think what Anders Ericsson discovered is that quantity of practice makes you a champion… That’s disastrously incomplete. It’s quantity and quality. One of his insights that I hope will have a lasting legacy is people need to work hard, but also smart.”
In this week’s 3 Point’s, I’ll define deliberate practice and how you can use it to guide player development.
1. So what is deliberate practice?
Anders Ericsson, known as the expert of experts, was a renowned researcher of experts and human performance. He coined the term deliberate practice. Ericsson defined deliberate practice as:
The individualized training activities specially designed by a coach or teacher to improve specific aspects of an individual’s performance through repetition and successive refinement.
2. EXPERTS framework for using Deliberate Practice:
Professor of Sport Psychology at Florida State, Dr. David Eccles, created the EXPERTS framework for implementing deliberate practice.
(E)stablished Training Techniques:
Deliberate practice develops skills that other people have already determined how to do and for which established and effective training principles, approaches, and techniques have been developed.
This is where you, the coach, use your expertise to create and plan sessions.
E(X)isting Skills as Building Blocks:
Deliberate practice involves building on and adapting existing skills by focusing on specific aspects of those skills and improving them.
As a coach, it’s important to understand current skill level and teach the fundamentals upon which more complex skills can be added.
(P)ushing the Envelope:
Deliberate practice takes the learner outside their comfort zone because it requires constant attempts at skills that are just beyond their current abilities. These attempts involve near-maximal effort mentally and sometimes physically. This effort makes the process of deliberately practicing demanding and challenging.
Particularly in the early stages, your role as a coach is critical in knowing when the athlete is in their comfort zone and when to push the envelope.
(E)nhancing Mental Representations
Deliberate practice leads to the development of “mental representations” about the task and how it should be performed. These representations allow performers to monitor ongoing performance more effectively, which helps them notice when they are doing something wrong and makes them better at correcting these mistakes.
Deliberate practice allows for athletes to develop their own self-awareness to their performance. Feedback (below) and allowing the athlete to reflect on their performance are important tools for this.
(R)esponding to Feedback
Deliberate practice involves obtaining individualized feedback and responding to it, leading to the modification of current attempts at improvement.
Again, the role of the coach, especially in the early phases, is to monitor practice, identify areas of improvements and provide instructions. Eventually as the athlete develops greater mental representations, they will be able to monitor their own performance and provide feedback.
(T)otal Application and Focus
Deliberate practice is intentional; it requires the performer’s full attention and effort in attempts to improve. One cannot simply “go through the motions” when performing.
Only through total focus can the athlete effectively monitor performance and make adjustments.
Deliberate practice involves well-defined goals related to improving a specific facet of performance, which is often an area of current weakness; it is not aimed at some vague overall improvement.
For example, if a player wants to become a better defender, practicing toward the goal deliberately would break down specific weaknesses of their defense (footwork, closeouts, positioning, etc) and setting goals toward that.
3. Questions to consider for your next practice/training session:
What are the specific goals for this practice/training?
Are the athletes receiving feedback relative to the goals?
How can we push the envelope in a way the represents the performance environment?
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