I was talking with a colleague about his experiences with Peyton Manning and his most striking observation was Peyton’s repetition; performing a simple drop back hundreds of times to perfect footwork. Most figure these “basics” are unnecessary for a 37 year old with NFL quarterbacks for both a brother and father.
But this repetition is about mastery, and goes well beyond the 10,000 hour rule often quoted as the requirement for developing expertise. However, this quantity benchmark can interfere with deep practice, more is just not always better. Daniel Coyle, author of Talent Code, goes on to explain how this deep practice initially requires ignition.
Coyle’s research found ignition in the youngest sibling and those seeking to improve their life conditions, such as the Dominican players discussed last week. He defines ignition as the potent moment when a person falls helplessly in love with their future passion. So the goal of mastery is not flawless quantity, as passion will fade into resentment. Rather, deep practice for mastery is about seeking a particular struggle.
Are you pursuing something worth mastering?
However, all movements do not ignite a desire for mastery. One of the key requirements of a master movement, a prescription, is scalability. A movement has to be capable of a lifetime of improvement. For example, a leg curl does not inspire mastery, and inevitably the athlete will get bored, pursue other options, or worse, develop a distaste for training as a whole.
The second critical aspect to movement mastery is validity; the prescription must have some effect on benefiting sport performance for longevity. After all, we don’t want gym rats, who begin to love metrics in their training more than their sport. One of the best avenues for this validity is to search for movements and assessments that are associated with healthy sport performance, particularly by leveraging technology.
Competing with Yourself and Others for Mastery
Leaderboards are one of the oldest traditions of training and preparation. Unfortunately, we often find lesser players near the top of these leaderboards, questioning its validity. If most of our best are not in the leaderboard, we have redefined our training metrics or convey a greater importance for each metric.
The second pitfall of leaderboards is the upkeep, we are just too busy coaching to change records on the wall! Unfortunately, this lack of mastery on our end encourages athletes to stop competing with themselves and others. So the software we use automatically creates current rankings of the actions we deem important.
But what happens during the season when the goal is playing instead of training? The mastery emphasis needs to shift to regeneration instead of setting new PRs. So one of our digital leaderboards allows us to compete against the best weekly or monthly regeneration scores. This recognizes the athlete who is sleeping, eating, and working on their flexibility most consistently.
Mastery in the Big Data Age
- Ignition is critical for mastery, choose scalable master movements (prescriptions)
- Limit separation between athletic performance and sport specificity… no gym rats!
- Leaderboards should be current and year round, made possible with technology