Deliberate Practice is The Key to Preparation and Antidote for Fear

Most athletes and coaches too, (in fact, all human beings on the planet) have a fear of failure or of not being “good enough” or “letting others down”. Many believe that they are not tall enough, smart enough, fast enough or talented enough. While these concerns feel real and often jeopardize or sabotage our success; beliefs like this imply that our success is based purely on natural talent and the rest of us have no hope.


It is important to point out that we have a significant amount of control on our level of success.

Malcolm Gladwell took a detailed look at success and asked the question if there was really any such thing as natural or innate talent. In his book, The Outliers, he points to a mind-blowing study done by psychologists at the elite Berlin Academy of Music. They studied violinists and pianists. What they learned is that yes, by the age of five, the students studied had some level of talent, but when the students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge. Those that ultimately became the best, practiced significantly more than anyone else.

In fact, he found across disciplines, sports, and the arts that there was a magical number: ten thousand hours of “diligent, intentional, informed practice” resulted in mastery and the highest level of success. So those that achieved success at high levels not only practiced more and practiced harder, but they most importantly practiced smarter.

With each hour of deliberate preparation we put in as coaches, we increase our players confidence.  When Olympic Gold Medalist and current USA Women’s Volleyball National Team Coach, Karch Kiraly considered how he most wanted to be remembered as an athlete and teammate he said, “well prepared.”


Over the years, I realized that if I’d done everything possible to prepare myself for matches and tournaments, it took a weight off my shoulders and allowed me to play without fear of losing. When you’ve done everything you can to train yourself for competition, you’ll sleep well when the tournament is over, win or lose.   –Karch Kiraly

We may not have 10,000 hours, but in order to reap the rewards of preparation, we must put in as many hours of mindful, intentional practice as possible. For leaders and coaches it requires strategically and purposefully preparing an environment of focused practice every day for those you lead. The results of daily deliberate effort will show up in constant never-ending improvement and an overall increase in confidence on and off the court.

If you prepare, grind, improve and compete all week, then on game day your athletes can put on their party shoes and confidently play the game they love.

The same goes for you as you continue to develop your leadership, self-mastery and play this wonderful game called life.

Good luck to all coaches and athletes in the 2014-15 school year!

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