How often have you heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”? Too many to count? Well I am here today to tell you that the advice every coach has been giving us our whole lives is wrong. Yup it is dead wrong.
I have discussed my son’s swimming in a previous post and walk a tightrope of encouraging him to focus on skill development without being an overbearing sports parent. He does so many things well and is on the cusp of meeting his personal goals for the season, but there are some things he can improve upon in order to improve his times.
Swimming is a complicated sport to the untrained eye. It requires athleticism, coordination, conditioning, math, and skill development. Some of the most important aspects of a race are starts, turns, and finishes (I’ll call them the big three). The stroke itself can be less important if you don’t get the big three parts working well.
The big three are skills that need to be practiced and perfected. You can be the fastest swimmer in the pool, but if you lose a second in the turn you risk losing the race. Swimmers who explode and streamline out of turns can make up lost ground or extend leads. In longer races with more turns, the discrepancy between good turns and bad turns makes time differences even greater.
As a parent I want my son to challenge himself to meet his potential, but it is safe to say his big three could use some work. He practices them every day in his regular swim practice but not perfectly. Am I expecting too much from an 11 year old boy to understand the concept of perfect practice? Possibly, but I feel it is my duty to carefully encourage him to do his best and his best in this case is to focus on technique in the little skills that separate first and second place.
Ultimately there is a bigger life lesson in here. Practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
I will reflect upon this in my own life as well. I will be more thoughtful and conscientious to do my personal best in whatever I am doing. My son’s efforts in swimming inspire me in and out of the pool.