Deliberate practice – decoding our favorite buzzword

I first heard of the concept of deliberate practice a few years ago when the book The Talent Code circulated around our league.  I didn’t really get it at the time – I what I took away was that the quality of practice trumps quantity, but it was difficult to find the right elements that made the difference during my attempts at higher quality practice. Isabelle Ringer re-motivated deliberate practice through her Rollercon seminar and that’s when I started to piece together my training that got me good results.

If you’re not familiar with the term, deliberate practice refers to “a form of training that consists of focused, grueling, repetitive practice in which the subject continuously monitors his or her performance, and subsequently corrects, experiments, and reacts to immediate and constant feedback, with the aim of steady and consistent improvement”.   Thanks, Competitive Intelligence Glossary, whoever you are.

Jerry Rice is well known example of someone who used deliberate practice, with extraordinary results.  While his methods of practice could certainly be described as grueling or patently un-fun, he enjoyed an incredibly long, successful football career. As I began to experiment with techniques to improve my own training, I discovered that deliberate practice for skating does not necessarily mean it has to be extremely boring. It’s definitely not the chaos or excitement of scrimmaging for practice, but as Jerry Rice once said (according to the internet): “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t”.

What should be deliberately practiced?

Anything can be practiced deliberately, but where it’s made the most sense for me is basic skating skills, which are the bedrock for doing any coordinated advanced derby anyway.  I have used it most for stopping, quick direction change, transitions in all directions, and agility movements. The things that really made the practices “deliberate” were setting a specific amount of time or reps that I needed to complete, making sure I stayed engaged during the entire practice, and setting milestones for improvement during the session.  It’s also worth noting that the bulk of my deliberate practice sessions were solo practices or during open skates, but I’ve also run small group practices using the same techniques.

Another element that makes your practice deliberate is to do all of the steps completely, even if you messed up.  Let’s say you are practicing inside hits, then plow stopping once your opponent is out.  If you forget and do a turn around toe stop out of habit, that’s fine, just do the plow stop anyway, even if your opponent already re-entered the track.

Or, if you are practicing inside hits on the banked track, and you forget to get your foot all the way to the coping, be sure to complete that step, even if your opponent is already in the infield.

Example Practice Setups:

Routines:  This is a grouping of skills that I am working on all at once. They work best when you set a time to go through the routine continuously. I also grouped skills that mimic something you’d do in gameplay. Music can help gauge the time and make it fun.

My favorite is the Snow Plow/Inside Line routine:

  • Start on inside line.  Your left foot should hold that line throughout the entire routine.
  • Take two strides, and snow plow as quick as you can.  Use the plow to come to a COMPLETE stop.  Stop as quickly as possible.
  • From your stopped position, skate backwards for 2 or 3 seconds
  • Immediately stop using your toe stops, and do a toe stop run (4 or 5 steps)
  • Without striding at all, do another plow stop
  • Repeat for 4-5 minutes
  • Switch to outside line and do the same thing

This routine allows zero time for rest, coasting, or downtime. For best results, have a coach or friend watch you and remind you to keep that left foot on the line, to try to stop harder and sooner, etc.

100 Reps Training:

Find a skill that you are having a difficult time with.  Decide to practice it 100 times in a session.  Break it down like this.

10 bunny slope attempts – This means correct form, correct technique, but very slowly.  This is comfort zone training.

10 deliberate attempts – This means practicing a little out of your comfort zone, keeping firm focus on the technique, the objectives, and correcting yourself if errors are made.

Rest.  This means work in another skill you are practicing, or just do something fun and easy for a minute or so that clears your palette.

5 bunny slope

15 deliberate

 Very short rest

 10 deliberate

10 increased intensity – This means you are now attempting the skill at an intensity almost at the level of game play.  This could also mean that you are now attempting the skill near other skaters or in a pack.



10 deliberate

10 increased intensity

10 balls out – Try to go at a speed or intensity much faster than your comfort zone.

If you find yourself zoning out, becoming disinterested, or especially if your technique starts to get sloppy – stop, take a quick break/refresher, then continue.  Don’t stop until you have done 100 reps of the skill, even if you have to go back to bunny slope for the rest of the session.  This routine can be modified to match your needs, specifics and intensity increases really depend on the skill.

At some point I’d like to put up a couple of videos to illustrate more routines, but in the meantime, if anyone needs ideas on how to create a deliberate practice routine for a tough skill, feel free to contact me.

Next post will talk about how to get shit done in your league when everyone is working for free.  Seems simple enough, no?


3 thoughts on “Deliberate practice – decoding our favorite buzzword

  1. I love this post!

    So often people (incl me!) are unfocused during training. It’s a waste of their own time and also breeds a culture of low intensity. I’m looking forward to the videos 🙂

  2. Pingback: Take a Break – Lift’s Habit of the Day | SoshiTech
  3. Pingback: Treinando sozinha: o que fazer quando você não tem mais ninguém – Pense Derby

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