The Talent Code
I wanted to spread the word on a reference Terry made on the coaches forum that I don't recall him posting here. It is a book called the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. The book is an observational study of talent "hot spots" around the world. The "Hot spot" concept is a small area that has a greater than expected number of highly ranked individuals in any area. For example, there is one tennis club in Russia that has produced more top 20 female tennis players than the entire united states.
I have just started reading this book and I am already impressed. One of the first things they mention is that these hotspots all use "deep practice". This should ring true for all of us as focused attention is one of our central ideas. But I started thinking about an example they gave in the book. The example was of a girl videoed practicing the clarinet. She played a few notes. Missed one. Stopped. Studied the written music. Hummed the tune. Air practiced her finger movement. Then picked up the instrument to try again. This time she got several notes farther before she repeated the process.
My thought was this. She had a clear image in her head of what the song should sound like. In our practice, the most common struggle I find is that we often don't know the difference between what we feel and what are aiming for. For example, we often use the focal point "patient lead arm" in workshops and discussions here. Almost every workshop, clients tell me that they were being patient.
The problem is that the term "patient lead hand" is difficult to evaluate. I would like to suggest that we all, in our practice try pick words that allow us to self-evaluate. For example, in the past couple workshops, I have changed "patient lead hand" into "the catch is still at your head when the spear is finished". (I haven't found catchy wording yet, and this is a slight, purposeful overexaggeration, but it works.) We can check that, when we complete a switch, the anchoring arm has not yet passed our head. That ability to self-evaluate is what allows the deep practice.
Another example, "mail slot entry" is hard to evaluate. Sorry Terry, I seem to be picking on your words today. No disrespect intended. We used to use the concept of silent swimming. I like this better because, if you can hear your arm as it enters, you are not doing a mail slot entry. Silence is evaluatable (I think I just made up that word.) One of the things I like about silence, is that your entry must change with your speed to keep it silent. The faster you go, the more it sneaks forward. The slower you go, the more steep the entry must be. By evaluating your silence, you are also training yourself to automatically find the best entry point for your speed. This automatic adjustment is something that Coyle and Terry consider an element of mastery.
I have often used self-evaluative cues for skating such as:
Feel air on your hip.
Feel the water hit the top of your top shoulder.
Your top heal breaks the surface.
When you hit the wall, your hand is on the cross bar of the + on the wall (this + on the wall is remarkably consistent in most pools.)
I would like to suggest that we all pay particular attention on our next few swims to find sensations that we can evaluate to know that we are doing things correctly. Then make our focal points relate to those sensations.
I would also strongly suggest this book (at least from the first few pages.) It seems really cool.
Last edited by CoachEricDeSanto : 07-13-2009 at 03:35 AM.