CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi Paul here,

I hope this finds you well. Welcome to Week 4 of the CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter. This week’s theme is …

Deliberate Practice

The first three weeks of this newsletter have focused on identifying who we are (Values & Character), our approach to learning (Learning Disposition), and what we want to achieve (Goal-Setting). It is important we complete these preliminary steps before embarking on our journey. These steps provide clarity and purpose; they provide a sense of direction toward becoming the person we are striving to become. Once we have established who we are and what we want to become, deliberate practice will support us in closing the gap between our present and future self.

Deliberate practice, as defined by Anders Ericsson is “the individualised training activities specifically designed by a coach or teacher to improve specific aspects of an individual’s performance through repetition and successive refinement” 1 . As the name suggests, deliberate practice is purposeful, and in many ways systematic in its approach to self-improvement. Process goals are intrinsically linked to deliberate practice. You may recall from last week’s newsletter that process goals break down the outcome into manageable daily actions and habits. Such daily actions and habits are expressed through deliberate practice.

When defining our values, it is important to be specific. Identify one’s values, define each one, and compile a list of associated behaviours that demonstrate such values. Through purposeful and systematic training or practice, these associated behaviours evolve and improve. They help us towards our goals; they assist us in becoming the person we want to become. The key lesson is that in order to practice deliberately, we must first understand what behaviours we want to develop. Values, mindset, goals provide us with a map and a compass; deliberate practice allows us to embark on the journey…to sail towards our destination.

In essence, deliberate practice is taking ownership of our actions; it is taking responsibility for our direction of travel. By breaking down goals into manageable components, a coach or athlete can design a personalised improvement plan. The plan requires detail; it requires challenge. Starting with the end goal in mind, each component part builds on previous knowledge and skill through deliberate practice. A “considerable, specific, and sustained effort” 2 is required, with the focus on improving something “you can’t do well – or even at all”.

We must step outside of our comfort zone. We must feel challenged. The difficulty and complexity of our practice must increase with each step we take toward our goal; once a degree of competency is achieved, we must seek greater challenge. This requires a deliberate attention and approach to practice; it requires being comfortable with discomfort. Deliberate practice demands a deep intrinsic motivation, and a set of specific and achievable, but challenging goals. If our practice is deliberately designed, and aligns with our goals and values, it is a highly effective tool for building confidence, competence and motivation, all of which will enable us to contribute at a higher level.

How can you be more deliberate in your practice this week?

You can read more about practice in this article by Dr Phil Kearney which is an extract from Be the Best You Can Be in Sport- A Book for Irish Youth

(1) Ericsson, K. A., & Lehmann, A. C. (1996). Expert and exceptional performance: Evidence of maximal adaptation to task constraints. Annual Review of Psychology, 47, 273–305. (2) Ericsson, K.A., Prietula, M.J., & Cokely, E.T. (2001). The making of an expert. Harvard Business Review. 85 (7-8). 114-193.


CARVER Insight

The CARVER Coaching Framework positions coaching and performance as a craft where perspective, tools and skills are the key drivers. My father was a carpenter, a craftsperson. He loved his craft; it was at the core of who he was as a person. The more I reflect on the craft of coaching, the more I see the parallels between the practice of coaching and how my father lived his life.

My father loved talking to fellow craftspeople- plumbers, plasterers, block layers, electricians, artists, potters and so on. He was at ease with them. They would talk about tools, materials, the quality of workmanship, and would go deep into conversation. One craftsperson would learn from another. They would share insights, which would in turn change their perspectives and way of doing things. It was lifelong informal education.

This week I drove over 1,400 kilometres for my work in coach development. As the great coach and leader David Brent would say, ‘Life on the road!’ I always aim to dovetail my travels with catching up with coaching friends. This week I caught up with many coaching friends and had many coaching conversations.

First up I met Liam, a man affectionately known as ‘The Coaches’ Coach’. He gave me an insight into the old days in coach development, and how himself and some buddies had worked together to raise the standard of coaching. Next I moved on to Noel; I actually stayed with him and his wife Orla and their kids. Their hospitality was first class. Noel works in Sports Medicine. He gave me a glimpse into his work with athletes, and the process that goes into early diagnosis and treatment of injury at an elite level.

The following day I had coffee with Peter who works in professional rugby and GAA. He is an athletic development coach with an engineer’s mind. We talked broadly, yet deeply, about all things coaching and performance. I had lunch in Anne’s house. She is a mindfulness coach. Present moment awareness is a key to performance across all domains. The present moment is where high performance is expressed. It was great to gain her insights into this area and the lunch was great too…. all three courses. The following morning, I spent time with Philip. Philip specialises in player development. He’s been at this game a long time. It is always uplifting to spend time with a great sage.

A few days later I caught up with Paul. He is a hurling coach and also helps coaches improve. We talked about Lululemon trousers; among other things. I always admire his trousers; they look like a cross between a tracksuit bottom and chinos, and according to him they are extremely comfortable. They are the type of trouser you would get away with anywhere, on the pitch or afterwards in a social setting. I hope my wife reads this in time for Christmas…

Later in the week I spoke with VP; I speak with VP a lot. He is a top class coach. His professional background is in change management and process improvement, and he is a fountain of insight and knowledge. Finally, I met Dave for tea, sometimes I call him ‘Sensei’. Dave is an analyst, but he can coach a bit too. He is a numbers man. If I want to know what the facts of the matter are, I talk to him.

So it was a week of travel and a week of very diverse coaching conversations; a week jam packed with informal learning. Sometimes as coaches we can look at the world through a straw; our perspective can be very limited and limiting. Coaching conversations change our perspective, the more diverse the better. Coaching conversation allow us to gain new insights and this allows us to change the way we look at things.

When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.

Again this week the newsletter began with a coupon code for a 20% percent discount for those who have supported my newsletter by signing up to it. I greatly appreciate it. It ends with a coupon code for a 25% percent discount for those who have read it in full. I appreciate that also (and some …) The codes expire at midnight Sunday evening.

Thanks for your support.

Drive on!


Copyright Paul Kilgannon 2021
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