The folly of Repetitive Practice
If you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume you have a general understanding of what constitutes a typical athletic practice. If, like me, you grew up practicing a sport in a standard, traditional manner, you may be surprised to learn how effective (or noneffective, depending on the type of practice) those practice sessions actually were. I can only speak based on my own experience, and I grew up playing baseball instead of golf, but after reading about different styles of practice and the science & research behind the information I will present later in the article, I was astounded by how deficiencies in the way I practiced directly related to weaknesses I remembered in my game.
I suppose some backstory would be useful at this point. While I played baseball year-round from the age of five through fifteen and competitive softball for another five years after, I was never a particularly good athlete, and whether during tee ball, little league, travel leagues or high school, due to the community in which I was raised, I never had access to elite level coaching… not that it likely would have mattered.
Practice Has To Change
Due to the coaches not knowing of any other ways to conduct practice, practice at each level was identical, with the same routine under the same stresses in the same environment. And, not coincidentally, each coach at each level raised the same issues regarding my game, “why can’t you perform in the games like you do in practice?” Whether fielding or at the plate, I was the model ballplayer in practice, but dropped easy fly balls and failed to even make contact during games. It never made sense to me until I began researching the different types of practice and how to practice more efficiently for an early GLT article. Then, boom, like a popup I misread in a little league game, it hit me right in the face: I could perform like an all-star in practice because I was doing just that, I was performing. I was replicating the feedback immediately provided by coaches, in a low-stress, controlled atmosphere. I wasn’t learning a new skill. I wasn’t even sharpening the skills I already possessed, at least not in a way that could be retained long-term. Why? I was failing to actually learn because the traditional, old-fashioned practice I’d become familiar with was simply making me better at practice, it wasn’t simulating the random and unpredictable events I would face in an actual game. In short, because practice was repeating the same things, also known as blocked practice, I was not growing or learning.