Some truths about practice seem to be related to all activities...
I came across an article (forgive me I have tried to find the link and will keep trying) on what makes good practice resulting in learning complex tasks. It was written about a study in which 50 or so top level pianists were provided a passage of music that they were to practice sight read as a test and given the following direction. You can practice for as long as you like up to the 1 hour time limit. Following that time you cannot play the passage again even from memory until you come to the test.
Some basic information from the study:
- Practice time had no impact on test results
- Practice strategies that resulted in success were consistent meaning of the multiple strategies identified, most or all were used by top performers
So in looking at the general strategies how can we relate them to baseball practice?
- Successful performers played the passage the same or less times than others but they played the passage correctly more times then lower performers. In baseball practice we can apply this by being diligent about improving the quality of players performance in practice not necessarily how much they practice
- Successful performers stopped themselves when making a mistake and corrected it immediately while lesser performers continued and then retried the passage. In baseball practice we might want to be willing to correct mistakes immediately particularly at younger ages
- Successful performers evaluated the passage and identified particularly troubling sections. They moved through this portion of the passage very slowly until they had mastered the passage and then began to speed it up while lesser performers tried to address the passage in the final context. We have walkthroughs in football and basketball but I must admit I have never tried them in baseball. Perhaps we should consider the value of walking through complex scenarios so that each person really grasps their role prior to trying to execute it at normal speed.
- The final practice tool was documentation. The best performers noted the sections where they made mistakes so that when they were in the test they could mentally prepare for the challenge. Frankly I am not sure how I would apply this to practice in baseball but maybe someone out there can see a way.
In summery practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. Mistakes understood and corrected immediately have a lower likelihood of being repeated. Getting things right slowly and building tempo improves performance. I suppose the last one is know your individual and team strengths and weaknesses so practice focus is most beneficial.
What say you?