The Art of Practice

Emily Holbrook


November 19, 2012

“Practice makes perfect” is a phrase often repeated by teachers and coaches. Multiplication tables, fielding grounders, even memorizing speeches are all things that can usually be mastered through repetition. But not every activity follows this rule.

Practice Perfect asserts that practice, no matter what amount, does not always lead to perfection. Using soccer players and their practice drills as a continuing example, the authors point out that though players may become proficient in one type of practice drill, that drill may not be of any use during a real game. Practice only pays off if you are practicing the right techniques.

But how do you know what techniques are the right techniques? Following the 42 rules that authors Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi lay out will help. Each rule is grouped into one of six sections depending on the topic it addresses. Within the “using modeling” section, for instance, the book explains how the best way to teach a skill is to model it—or teach through doing. It also lists eight rules that guide the reader through the process of describing the act a leader wants to model, how to make models believable and how to incorporate copy-cat behavior.

Practice Perfect uses everyday examples to get the point across that organizations must not rely on redundant exercises that may or may not contribute to more successful, efficient employees. Instead, the book doles out useful advice on how to distinguish the right things to practice from the wrong things to practice, and how to practice them to perfection.

This book not only inspires you to teach the right techniques to your team in the right way, it also pushes you to practice every day. The appendix includes excerpts from the popular leader-building book Teach Like a Champion along with a sample practice section.

Though useful, the 240-page book is somewhat wordy. Instead of 42 rules, for example, the authors could have easily pared down the text and combined rules to make a book with a less intimidating, less choppy 15 rules. But maybe this had a purpose, since repetition is the essence of practice after all.
Emily Holbrook is the founder of Red Label Writing, LLC, a writing, editing and content strategy firm catering to insurance and risk management businesses and publications, and a former editor of Risk Management.