Are You Training Yourself to Fail?

Peter BregmanI recently saw a video asking that question.  Peter Bregman says, “It starts with this basic premise that you get good at anything you do over and over again.  What you practice, you get good at.” That is absolutely true.  He adds, “But, how often do we make the same mistakes over and over again? If you make a mistake, that’s fine.  But when you keep making that same mistake over and over again, what you’re really doing is practicing getting really, really good at making that same mistake. ”

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Softball Example of this Concept

I had been taking my daughter for hitting lessons on Tuesday nights over the winter when she was 14 years old.  She was making pretty good progress, which was showing in the team’s Sunday scrimmages and practices. But, the coach noticed a flaw in her swing while trying to hit inside pitches, which he eventually corrected.

Before he fixed the glitch he asked, “Has she been doing her tee work?”  I told him that she had been doing it after school most every day.  He then asked, “Are you there while she’s practicing?”  I told him,No. She does it on her own before I get home from work.”  He then explained to me why that was a bad idea, “If she taking 100 swings off the tee when nobody’s watching and she’s doing it wrong, then she’s going to get really good at doing it wrong.”  From that day on she waited for me to get home before doing her tee work.  My job was to make sure she was swinging correctly as her coach had instructed her.

“Mom, am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m doing that thing with my hands that the coach told me.”

Quality vs. Quantity

To expand upon this example I learned another valuable lesson from a college coach at one of the camps she attended.  The coach argued that, “The quality of your repetitions matters far more than the quantity.”  In other words, don’t take 100 swings off the tee if the last 50 are not quality swings.   From that day forward, whether I was helping my daughter practice hitting, fielding or pitching, we stopped when we noticed the quality begin to degrade.  

Eventually this became a habit where I would leave it up to her when she was finished practicing.  If we went to the field to practice, she would say something like, “Ok I want to hit, take some fly balls in the outfield and some infield ground balls.”  During each segment she would tell me something like, “Alright. That’s enough fly balls. Now I’m ready to do infield.”  This system we had developed worked out really well.

What if You’re Not Sure?

Me feeding the teeSo you take your daughter to lessons and she wants you to help her practice what she’s learning.  You go to the field and begin working on, we’ll say hitting, for this example.  Then she asks, “Mom, am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m doing that thing with my hands that the coach told me.”   You watch a few more swings as closely as you can and cannot pinpoint what she’s doing wrong, but she’s not hitting the ball squarely and it’s obvious something is not right.  But, you cannot figure out what that something is.  Continuing to practice for the sake of practicing would be counterproductive at that point.  This is when it’s time to stop practicing and wait for the next lesson to have the coach show you and your daughter that thing again.  

That brings up another question and point:  What are you doing while your daughter is taking a lesson or practicing with her team?  Are you catching up on a good book? Chatting with another parent? Do you drop her off and pick her up at the end?  The point is that if you cannot expect to be able to help or answer her questions if you’re not paying attention at the lessons or practices.  Over the years many times I jokingly referred to my daughter’s lessons as our lessons.  

And today as a coach I invite parents to the workouts I conduct that their daughters participate in.  I am happy to explain to them exactly what I’m teaching their girls.  This way they can reinforce my teachings while they’re working with their daughters outside of our practices. This is also why during my practices I stop the drill to correct a player if I see her frequently performing the task incorrectly.

The bottom line is that if you’re helping your daughter and you think or know she’s not doing something correctly, but you cannot fix it, it’s time to stop practicing until you can get into see the coach.  Then, it’s up to you to fully comprehend what he’s teaching so that you can help her practice it.