Monday, September 12, 2011

Finding the Edge with Practice

In youth sport leagues, teaching skills is usually coached by demonstrating, then simply expecting the kids to benefit from repetition. What about the kid who is athletically underdeveloped and the basic skill you expect everyone to perform is too hard for them? What about when the drill is too easy for the 8 year old "stud" athlete?

Either way it's wasting valuable practice time.

The edge is when we find that spot that is just a little out of reach, and we can quickly make adjustments to get there. Some have called it deliberate practice, deep practice, or meaningful practice. If it's too easy, little progress is made and the brain can quickly fill up with ideas and thoughts that hard work isn't necessary because everything comes easy to me. Fixed mindset. If it's too hard the brain can shut down with frustration.

Maybe better practice was what Shaq needed?

Finding this edge is an art. Every skill and exercise can be different for each kid. After recently teaching some young athletes the skill of jumping and landing, we quickly realized breaking down the skill is MUCH, MUCH harder than making it complex. Narrowing the focus to one aspect of the skill and building from there is necessary for laying a successful foundation for growth. Keeping the kids engaged by asking questions about how they are performing and how there peers or the coach is performing allows them to be apart of the process and continues the ignition to expand the skill.

The amazing part after breaking these skills down to the very basics and giving success, we saw nothing but smiles and a desire to keep staying at their edge. We even had a couple kids say, "I don't think I'm at my edge." So we progressed them.

There is no reason we can't have a young child understand this concept and apply it to other skills like music, math, science, etc. Understanding how they can get the most out of their practice time makes learning fun and engaging, rather than something they're told to do.

If you're in the San Diego area, Encinitas/North County, I am working with a company called Brain Highways to teach young kids, ages 6-8 and 9-12, this ability to find their edge by using 8 fundamental movement and sports skills. The class starts October 5th on Wednesday evenings. To sign up visit this link,, or shoot me an email @


  1. You can also refer to the Challenge Point Theory, which is essentially reaching the 'edge'.

    Guadagnoli T.D. and Lee T.D. (2004) Challenge point: A framework for conceptualizing the effect of various practice conditions in motor learning. Journal of Motor Behaviour 36(2): 212-224.