One of the ideas I've been reading about over the past few months is the idea of 'deliberate practice'. This is a concept that has emerged over the last few years as a result of studies about how 'experts' gain their expertise. I've decided to work on my skating by applying some of the principals of deliberate practice.
Now, I've read a number of books and articles on deliberate practice and some steps are unachievable for me (For example, practicing several hours a day and being under 20). I love to skate, but it's a hobby. I'll implement the changes I can.
1. Practice the hard stuff first.
Start with the difficult skills first, while you're still fresh
I like to practice the warm and fuzzy stuff first: swing rolls, chasse's, cross rolls, etc. From now on I'm going to start by practicing with my uncomfortable skills: Back crosses, back stroking, back chasse's, back swingrolls.
2. Practice Intensely.
Have a set of drills planned out and stick to it. Don't be distracted by chit chat. Don't rest between drills. Focus on what you're doing, not on what other people are doing. Your skills don't get better because you're better or worse than another student; your skills get better because you work with focus.
3. Renew yourself.
Intense Practice can only be done in 90 minute sessions.
I've been doing a 2 hour freestyle. I'll try a 90 minute one, then break for lunch and practice another 90 minutes on public
4. Achieve failure.
One of the first ideas about deliberate practice is to make your practice harder so you achieve failure. Then break down that failure. Analyze it, and work towards fixing it.
For example, in my ice dance I prefer to do the dance slowly so I feel comfortable with it. To achieve failure the approach would be to do the dance at a faster beat, and identify where my problems are in the dance. Then go back and isolate the failures and work on them individually at the faster speed. All this sounds like a regular ice dance practice except for the instruction to practice up-tempo. By practicing up tempo I should be like a baseball player who swings a weighted bat before stepping to the plate. By practicing it under harder conditions, when I step back to regular tempo, it will seem easier.
So here's my goals for this week:
1. Practice my backwards skating first thing on the ice. Don't dither around warming up with skills I can already do well.
2. Have a set of drills planned for the day. So I'll start with backward stroking, then back chasse's, then back edges, and back crossovers. After that switch to the same forward. My goal is 2-3 minutes for each back skill and 1-2 minute for each forward skill. This will be followed by practice of other skills in a less structured format and dance practice.
3. Anticipate only 90 minutes on ice. Schedule my practice and lessons for that period of time. Followed by rest, and possible repeat later in the day.
4. Practice my dances solo by adding 10 beats per minute to the tempo. Instead of doing the Canasta Tango at 100 bpm, do it at 110 bpm.
5. Focus on identifying and fixing critical errors identified during up tempo skating.
I'll try this form my practices this week, and see how it goes. I'll have 3.5 hours practice before my lesson, maybe that will bring about some small changes. I'll report back.