“Practice must be purposeful, otherwise it is useless”
British Olympian Matthew Syed articulates this view in his excellent talent development book Bounce.
A core theme of Bounce is the importance of both expert and purposeful practice.
Syed believes practice has to be supported by the appropriate training systems. There is little value in training hard if the quality of instruction is of a low level.
This approach seems fundamental to success but is often overlooked by coaches who don’t evaluate their own performance.
Top Flight Football Academy operates a rule that every hour on grass is supported by at least an hour of research – usually from European or South American coaching sources.
Top Flight Football academy also connects two other elements of Syed’s theory – expert practice and purposeful practice.
Expert practice is designed to improve all aspects of an athlete’s game. It is not enough to focus on the things that a young player can do easily. Determined, regular effort is required to improve the below par skills of a young player. Working on all elements of an individual’s game is essential to developing a foundation of proficiency.
Expert practice needs to take place alongside purposeful practice.
The Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo is an example of someone who lives by purposeful practice, specifically his approach to take attacking free kicks within 25 yards of the opponent’s goal. With the exception of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo is without global peer in his ability to execute the perfect strike from just outside the penalty area.
Hours and hours of being heavily engaged in practicing this skill over many years has made Ronaldo outstanding.
The fans in the stadium and those watching on TV see the one moment of brilliance.
But that stellar moment is merely the end product of a process of honing his technique through constant striving, repetition and deep concentration. This consistency bridges the gap between the very good and great.
The caveat is that every time Ronaldo steps up to take a free kick the expectation of the spectator is that he will score or, at the very least, force the goalkeeper into a spectacular save.
For Ronaldo every occasion is the chance to step outside his comfort zone. He knows that, despite all those years of practice, he will be judged on the next attempt rather than previous success.
By recognizing and accepting this constant challenge it is no surprise that Ronaldo has made it to the top of world football.
Critical self-evaluation is another skill in his toolbox. While Ronaldo may sometimes appear a temperamental showman he is very good at providing self-feedback.
This is a quality that all Top Flight Academy footballers should aspire to develop.
Player development is therefore achieved through purposeful and expert practice. Feedback from the coach is also an integral part of this process, as it helps the young player correct and fine tune their learning.
By incorporating the right approach to practice with constructive feedback from the coach, a young player can accelerate their own progress. That is the objective for all young footballers at Top Flight Football Academy.
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