Does practice makes perfect?




Over the years, we have all heard the phrase ‘Practice makes perfect’ in many aspects of life such as sports, music and also school work. This week, I have been looking into how much practice affects performance and how much is necessary to get the best out of yourself.

At the elite level, I have found that practice increases performance by 18%. However, this is based on the assumption that all players have mastered the basic technical and tactical elements of their sport. Within youth, sports practice will improve performance by a much greater margin as players gradually learn new technical skills but more importantly they learn about their sport by the amount of time they spend playing it.

However, players can practice all day long without seeing signs of improvement and sometimes even going backwards. How can this be when we thought practice improves performance? Well, Vince Lombardi who is one of the greatest American football coaches ever once said, ‘Perfect practice makes perfect’ and this is very true. As you practice your sport (football and swimming for us here at MEYSO), you develop muscle memory and start to form pathways in your brain. If you are practicing the wrong way, they will become habit and have a negative effect on your game.

“Coaches and PE Teachers will be able to give you advice about how to practice at home.”

It is important that at a young age, you take advice from knowledgeable individuals on the appropriate things to do. The best practice is to have sessions with a qualified coach, but it is also vital to do extra outside of these sessions. Coaches and PE teachers will also be able to give you advice about how to practice at home. All top players are passionate about the game and this is one of the keys to their success as it gives them a desire to get out in the garden or in the park and get playing.

Over the last decade, I have been in and around Manchester United’s training ground ‘Carrington’ and one thing that struck me is the work ethic of the players day in and day out; putting in quality in every session. The intensity is at a different level as compared to the lower leagues and semi- professional where I have played.

There were two cases that I particularly noticed in the hundreds of sessions that I watched and these were for two distinct reasons. One was Cristiano Ronaldo; his work ethic outshines even the most model professionals such as Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.  The other was Anderson who Manchester United signed in 2007 as a young superstar and tagged as the ‘the next Ronaldinho’. He would lay on the mats on his phone when he should be stretching, not pedalling on the bikes during warm ups and laughing and joking during the session whilst others worked hard. It’s safe to say they both had unbelievable amount of natural talent but it’s easy to see the different paths their careers have taken. Work ethic made the big difference!

MEYSO coaches sometimes receive queries from parents who feel that their child may not be progressing at a rate that they had hoped.  But it is at the training sessions that our players learn the techniques.  It is then up to them to master them away from the sessions.

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