Practice Makes Perfect...

As we enter the revision high season, I thought I'd share some of the subliminal - and not so subliminal - messages about effective approaches to exam preparation and performance I always aim to incorporate within my assemblies at this time of year. I hope you find them as stimulating and thought-provoking as I am sure the students always do!

Rugby featured prominently in my 2016 assemblies, with lessons from the All Blacks - the most successful team in history - and Sir Clive Woodward's TCUP, or Thinking Correctly Under Pressure mantra to the fore...


I'm delighted that last year's GCSE results were indeed the best in the school's history! Evidence of impact, perhaps!? That Year 11 have certainly 'left in jersey in a better place'...

This year I've chosen to show the following two video clips, posing the introductory questions:

A) Which athlete do you think is most likely to win as you watch the race unfold?

B) What qualities are shown by the eventual winner?

C) How is any of it relevant to you?

Unheralded Dave Wottle's last gasp victory in the 1972 Olympic 800m final and Australian Steven Bradbury's even more improbable Gold Medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics - an Australian Speed Skater, for heaven's sake!? - offer the opportunity to reflect on the significance, in context, of qualities such as:




Pace and timing

Focus - Bradbury's victory is surely a great example of not getting caught up in distraction by others!

And what about the role of luck? For many students, of course, the natural reaction is to say that the Australian's win can just be accounted for in terms of good fortune...

Gary Player 

That's when it's time for Gary Player, one of the greatest and most successful Golfers of all time. When asked by a bumptious journalist to account for his apparent good fortune in winning a string of Majors over time, the wily South African replied...

'Its funny that. The more I practise the luckier I seem to get!'

Ah, the role of practice. Preparation. Sheer hard graft. Persistence. Back to the starting point of resilience, even.

How timely then that over the Easter break another Golfer, Sergio Garcia should have won his first Major Title at the Masters... after 74 attempts.

Sergio Garcia 

And the lessons aren't confined to the world of sport.

James Dyson

It took billionaire inventor, designer and entrepreneur James Dyson five years and 5127 prototypes before arriving at the final version of his revolutionary bagless vacuum cleaner…


And then, finally, onto unpacking the role of practice just a little further.

The thinking is beautifully drawn together in this book....

Bounce Syed

Syed makes the point that natural talent alone cannot explain, or indeed produce high performance - in sport, business, artistic creativity. Attitude, hard work - practice - are the keys to success.

And not just any old practice. Simply repeating the same activity, going over the same notes, hoping that they'll stick without further thought or reflection, isn't going to work. Practice - revision - to be progressive and active. I'm hopefully making the point, by now!

Great practice - and purposeful preparation - is all about challenge; pushing on from mastery of one element of performance to strive for the next goal. Really testing yourself, under pressure. Timed conditions. As Syed puts it:

'World-class performance comes from striving for a target just out of reach, but with a vivid awareness of how the gap might be breached. Over time, through deep concentration, the gap will disappear, only for a new target to be created, just out of reach once again.'

He illustrates the point about purposeful practice by making final reference to Japan's Shizuka Arakawa, one the most successful, innovative and creative figure skaters of all time. It's estimated that she fell over more than 20,000 times in her progression to becoming 2006 Olympic Champion, constantly attempting more and more difficult jumps...


'Arakawa's story is invaluable as a metaphor. Landing on your butt twenty thousand times is where great performance comes from.'

No bum notes in the purposeful revision and targeted preparation messages, I hope. Messages about how resilience, focused hard work and commitment pay off in the long run...

Hope you've taken suitable note!