All athletes practise their skills daily or weekly in pursuit of excellence. But the question they all have about practice is a simple but challenging question to answer: How much practice is enough? Two points are obvious here: one, we can save a lot of time with better practice scheduling, and two, practising cleverly could save you time, effort, motivation and confidence. Eccles and colleagues have outlined what we understand by deliberate practice and how we can use it better. Deliberate practice is:
Goal-driven – we are aiming to achieve a specific goal.
Contains feedback and guidance to improve.
Demands our attention and effort to raise our current performance to the next level.
If you do not have a goal, if you do not have feedback, if you do not have guidance to improve, and if you do not practice with focus and effort to raise your current level of performance, you are not likely to improve.
Principle 1: Deliberate practice demands attention and effort
Principle 2: Deliberate practice is goal driven
Principle 3: Deliberate practice contains feedback
Principle 4: Deliberate practice requires guidance to improve
I have translated these principles into a simple acronym: FIFA
Focus: Where shall I focus?
Intention: What am in trying to achieve here?
Feedback: What happened?
Actions: What do I need to do not to improve?
Putting FIFA into action
Focus – we need to focus on the task at hand. This focus requires freshness. For example, five attempts at a task are enough before we need a break to refresh and start again. If you are practising hitting a draw, lay out five balls and five different clubs. Keep your focus on the chosen target and then on the back to the top/back portion of the ball.
Intention – what is your goal for each shot? You need to be clear here. For example, I am playing a high fade with my 7-iron to this target at this distance. For the next shot in your set of five, you will need an intention. I am playing a high draw with my 6-iron to this target at this distance.
Feedback – you need factual information from your practice. You might record how far the ball travelled or how far the ball landed from your intended target. You might also consider the feel of the swing or the contact of the club on ball (i.e., specifics you can discuss with your swing coach). What matters most is that you have feedback and you can record and use the feedback.
Actions – you need to use the feedback to guide your practice. Sometimes a coach can fill in here and provide guided instruction to improve. If you are on your own, you might need to guide your practice, which can happen after sensible feedback and reflection. You might reflect on your feedback after every set of five balls.
Ask yourself these questions the next time you go to practice:
1. Am I practising with focus and effort?
2. Am I practising with intention?
3. Am I practising with feedback?
4. Am I practising with actions to guide me to improve from my feedback?
David W. Eccles, Emma J. Leone & A. Mark Williams (2020) Deliberate Practice: What Is It and How Can I Use It?, Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, DOI: 10.1080/21520704.2020.1850577