“Baby steps are the royal road to skill.”

Chapter 4 Takeaways:

  • 3 Rules for Deep Practice
    • (1) Whole-Part-Slow
    • (2) Repetition
    • (3) Feel It

1. Whole-Part-Slow

Refers to visualizing the action, move, or concept in its entirety. Allowing those to conceptualize on their own for how to execute. Chunking is considering the breakdown, taking a part of the activity in isolated form. Slow everything down to methodically connect all the dots, so that when performed at full-speed it will appear fluid.

2. Repetition

Merely a matter of quality over quantity, while quantity still playing a significant role (10,000-hour theory).

“Spending more time is effective – but only if you’re still in the sweet spot at the edge of your capabilities, attentively building and honing circuits.”

3. Feel It

The notion that quality practice often comes with a sensation of feeling productivity. There was a list of words that the author found commonly used when describing this feeling for their most productive practices:






Consider our best practices, are these attributes that you would use to describe the days where the team was most productive? The words used to describe deep practice seems comparable to the Flow State of mind when athletes find themselves being in the zone. Practices tend to be at their best when there is an intersection between a challenging task versus ability.

Athletes become immersed in being pushed beyond their perceived capability; this is where competency begins to stretch.

“You cannot get into the zone through an act of will; you can only prepare the ground for it to happen.” – Andrew Cooper (Author of In the Zone: The Zen of Sports)

Coaching Application

Consider the study referenced, how does dialogue play a role in skill-acquisition and skill-development within your program?

There was a cogent concept here that really stuck out in this chapter. Consider this study cited by the author, Daniel Coyle:

“They gathered a range of expert [volleyball] players, club players, and novices, and asked them how they approached the serve: their goals, planning, strategy choices, self-monitoring, and adaptation – twelve measures in all. Using the answers, they predicted the players’ relative skill levels, then had the players execute their serve to test the accuracy of their predictions. The result? Ninety percent of the variation in skill could be accounted for by the players’ answers.”

Think about this example here, if you were to have your basketball players in your program anonymously respond to a question pertaining to their shooting form. Based on their responses evaluating description and/or detailed instruction, do you think you would be able to approximately rank answer with ability? And what does this study even tell us as coaches? Could we use this approach towards deriving feedback from them following a certain drill or decision?

Those that are able to abstractly visualize their mechanics are likely more capable of fine-tuning it. The case study done here exemplifies chunking a particular technique within an activity. By breaking down a specific skill, athletes are forced to compartmentalizes a certain aspect of an activity (i.e. shooting form, footwork for a dribble move, or fighting through ballscreens). Seeking feedback strengthens self-awareness, possibly slowing them down to re-create said move in order to improve. Considering a leadership perspective; it could enable communication peer-to-peer by identifying what is the correct movement and addressing others how to sustain similar successful execution.

“Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it’s about seeking out a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.”

              1. Pick a Target
              2. Reach for it.
              3. Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach
              4. Return to step one.



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