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Monday, April 13, 2015

Practice makes man perfect ~ how much is enough to make a champion ?!?

Tiger Woods stood on the seventh green at Augusta National, legs crossed  seemingly  intrigued by this routine bit of maintenance, staring at those whirring machines for the longest time.  He has been around for a long time,  yet practises hard all the time.

In Nov. 2013, Sachin Tendulkar walked back those 22 yards at  Wankhede and the Nation followed him – yes, he retired from International Cricket, after setting very high standards and creating so many records.   What started at Wankhede in 1988 with a century in debut in Ranji, blossomed for 24 years of International Career of unparalleled excellence.   34357 International runs; 201 wickets and 256 catches – he  excelled in every possible manner – he was so passionate about the game and practised hard. 

There was Ivan Lendl of stoic composure – pictured as a man of precision, a man in control.  He was so methodical in his approach.  Whenever his grip was sweaty, he would wipe it  twice with sawdust from his pocket.  In serving, he would hold  two balls, study, rotate and consign the fluffier one to his pocket.   The ball would bounce four times before his 1st serve, the 2nd ball would bounce thrice – when on grass, it would two and one.   Every racket he used was  identical: 441.0 grams, strung at 72.5 pounds, with a balance point 331.0 millimeters from the butt. He was extremely organised and practised so hard – remaining at top for 156 weeks.

“Practice makes perfect” – the oft repeated adage – ‘doing something over and over again is the only way to learn to do it well’.  The old adage “practice makes perfect” has been applied to many kinds of learning, from high school  Mathematics, to Sports, to household chores, learning computers and even to creativity.  While experts continue to debate the number of hours and the type of practice that is optimal for success, one thing is clear: training improves performance and changes the brain.  Practice means constant use of one's intellectual and aesthetic powers.   Proper planning and practice promote perfect performance. Practice depends on training and it means repeating an activity. Constant practice also sharpens talents.  While practising hard, one needs to do -  hard work,  have strong will power, faith, tolerance, positive approach, self confidence, unwavering mind, dedication, determination and more.   One should not stop practicing and be satisfied until one achieves perfection; then continue to practice to be perfect for ever !!!!

But then ..... Can you win at anything if you practise hard enough?  If you had enough practice, advice and expert training, could you become a success at anything? How much is achievement based on natural ability and how much hard work?  For instance, could an "unco-ordinated computer geek" become a table-tennis star in one year? In an international experiment, a table-tennis coach gave an "unsporty" adult an hour's coaching every day for a year in a bid to make him one of the top table tennis players in Britain.

Ben Larcombe, a young coach from north London, gave 24-year-old Sam Priestley more than 500 hours of personal tuition and took him to elite training centres in Hungary, Denmark and Middlesbrough.  He predicted he could make Sam one of the 250 highest-ranked players in Britain within 12 months. ~and what happened when the year came to an end .... ?????

Here is something from the BBC's Knowledge economy series.  To test the theory, they  needed someone without experience of table tennis or natural aptitude for the sport. Perhaps unflatteringly, the coach  turned to his childhood friend Sam, a budding entrepreneur who describes himself as an "unco-ordinated computer geek", who by his admission had been worst at any skill-based sport at school. 

In the book Bounce, former Commonwealth table tennis champion Matthew Syed suggests that to become an expert in anything you need to put in an average of 10,000 hours of "purposeful practice".  There are not 10,000 hours in a year, so Ben focused on the quality of Sam's training.   Sam Priestley was holding his own against experienced club players after six months.  "If you go to a table tennis club you see lots of people who have played for many, many years, but they are just hitting balls mindlessly and playing matches," says Ben. "Sam and I were always thinking about what we should do with the time we had. Everything we did was focused on Sam's improvement."  Most lessons were held in the kitchen of Sam's shared flat on a table which also served as a dining table.  Ben recorded every session and made a video compilation which shows one second of Sam playing on every day of the challenge.

The video shows Sam improving dramatically. After six months he was holding his own against seasoned club players. But he was still a long way from his target when the year ended.  Rory Scott, a coach who has trained juniors who later played for England, watched Sam in a recent tournament.  His verdict? "He is nowhere near the standard of the top under-11 player in the UK."

Why did the project fail? One reason might be that Ben chose the wrong sport.  "It is probably the most difficult sport to pick for this challenge," says Steve Brunskill, head coach at the Swerve Table Tennis Centre in Middlesbrough. "Table tennis has the smallest court, the smallest ball, the smallest bat, the quickest reaction times, the most spin, and it's the only sport where you play on one surface but stand on another.  "You have to play so much to develop the skill, co-ordination and timing, and you have to learn to cope with different styles of opponent."

Ben is still convinced the challenge is achievable. He thinks a lack of practice time was the main obstacle to Sam's success.  "It's clear that talent matters and perhaps results would have been quicker with a more natural sportsman who has better movement and anticipation, possibly a tennis player.

Most people will have to train for years together to get some mastery and during that time, they must remain committed.  In subjects like mathematics, if young people are not very good at the beginning they tend to give up because they don't think they have got a brain for numbers.  There is cultural angle too, as in places like China there is a very widespread cultural belief that you get better with training, so people tend to persist longer.  Culturally, in some places they believe in innate talent, while in others belief is in hard practice.

..  ~~ and  BBC concludes stating – as  for Sam, he has not given up hope of reaching the top 250. His housemates should prepare to eat their dinner off a table tennis table for another year

                                                                                 Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

13th Apr 2015.

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