Focused or Deliberate Practice
Rod Havriluk, Ph.D.
World Swim Coaches Association Newsletter, 2011, 2, 4.

“Focused” practice is the key to quality training. (Focused practice has similarities to the “deliberate” practice of Anders Ericsson, a psychology professor, and the “deep” practice of Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code.) Only the training hours where a swimmer is focused on the specific cues of an effective technique count towards proficiency. (A cue explains a specific orientation of body parts that a swimmer can see or feel while training.) Attending to these cues provides a swimmer with feedback about whether he/she is complying with effective technique or executing the skill with error.

There are a number of strategies for “focused” practice that expedite skill learning:
•   Review of a model of optimal technique
•   Instructional cues for key body orientations and motions
•   Cue-focused practice of short swims at a slow speed with limited breathing
•   Instructional reminders before each swim
•   Individual feedback about compliance with cues after each swim
•   An analysis that explains positive technique elements as well as limitations
•   Drills and exercises that isolate and allow focus on select cues

Research found that a program with the above components produces an effect from 12 hours of focused practice that is comparable to 2,000 hours of unfocused practice (Havriluk, 2006).

How many hours of your practice count for today?

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