Practice Makes Perfect…. or does it?

Practice makes perfect right? It’s an idiom that most of us will have used or had said to us during our life at some stage. It’s a fairly solid concept ! If you watch this Ted-Ed video it explains the science behind what happen when we practice. It also goes on to explore does practice actually make us better.


Mastering any physical skill takes practice. Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence. But what does practice actually do to make us better at things? Annie Bosler and Don Greene explain how practice affects the inner workings of our brains.



For me however the video doesn’t tell the whole story. If you listen back to the video again you might catch the line which is the crux of the issue for me and what’s relevant to us as paddlers.

 Coordinations are built with repetition whether correct or incorrect.

Basically if you are doing endless practice with the incorrect technique, you will just get better at preforming the action incorrectly. While you might not know who Malcolm Gladwell is, there is ever chance you’ll have heard his saying that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

I’m in no way disputing the merits of practice but we have to account for coaching somewhere in the mix, this could be analysis by yourself, your peers or a professional coach / instructor. In elite sport athletes will always acknowledge the importance of their coach in their success.

It’s been demonstrated by people far smarter than I that  success in sport comes from a holistic approach where coaching and analysis play an integral part of development. This kind of attitude is something that has been slow to be adopted by those of use who identify as ‘recreational paddler’.

Sure for those of use who are often described as weekend warriors, who get out whenever commitments allow are just doing so for pleasure. We have little or no interest in what elite athletes do for the most part, right?  I have been paddling for a long time now and I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t want to improve their current skills. That ranges from the guy getting to grips with their roll to the girl wanting the get clean lines on class 5 rapid. Every single person wants to be better in some way shape or form than they are.

Do you think Joe Clarke of Team GB when home after his Rio win and patted himself on the back thinking he did it all himself?

Why is it that we’re so slow to engage in coaching then? Are we being arrogant in thinking we have all the answers our selves?

When we seek out instruction we are openly admitting that we do not know something. If a coaching culture is not what you were brought up in, then it’s hard to break through the facade that coaching is only for elite level athletes or for those seeking gain. -Chris Wing, Founder H2O  Dreams

It’s something I’ve always wondered is this just an Irish phenomenon or paddlers the world over?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the reason many of us don’t seek coaching after we reach a certain level is that we’re not aware of the benefits it can bring and how it might unlock a whole new level of enjoyment for us.

In Ireland we have the Canoeing Ireland skills awards which isn’t too dissimilar to the British Canoeing system and  is linked to the is linked to Euro Paddle Pass. The pathway it provides for skills progression is in valuable but it has it’s short comings. I’m not being critical of the awards it’s just there are some things that are best improved on low ratio personal coaching.

The classic example is how many times have you blasted down the Avonmore / Dargle / Glenmacnass/ Clare Glens with your friends and hit the same lines time and time again. Sure sometimes you try mix it up but to what end?

I can’t stress strongly enough how I think the majority of us paddlers regardless of our perceived skills level would benefit from engaging in some professional coaching. In Ireland and the UK there are some real superstars out there who often don’t advertise that they will do 1:1 coaching but if you talk to them they will help you out. The thing is you don’t even need 1:1 coaching! If a you and a couple of mates can club together and get the likes of Ali /DC/ Kipper, Shane Mc (*) out on the water for a day you’ll not only have the craic but you’ll come away a better paddler.





(*) Those are only a few names but there are a bunch of people around who I would rate super highly, contact me with where you are and I’ll happily pass on suggestions / contact details.





Posted in Coaching & Instruction.

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