I was reading a fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal about Francesco Molinari’s win at the British Open Golf Championship, “The Uncomfortable Practice Habits of a Champion,” and immediately thought about court reporters and particularly court reporting students.
The article, by Brian Costa, talks about how in past years Molinari would practice hitting balls on the driving range, hitting perfect shots, was always considered a top golfer, but never made the cut. Molinari was frustrated and decided to hire Dave Alred, a soccer/rugby sports psychologist. Alred wrote the book, “The Pressure Principle.” He advises athletes (court reporters) “you need to add stress to sometimes otherwise mindless practice shots” (speed tapes).
Golfers in many ways are like court reporters. They practice at their own speed, improve at their own pace, and don’t require teammates to make them successful. Becoming a great golfer takes hundreds of hours of practice and a special talent that only certain people are born with. Court reporters learn their theory and then spend hundreds of hours practicing for speed and accuracy, many hours alone only motivated by their strong desire to be great (or pass a speed test).
When Alred was hired by Molinari, Alred asked, “Do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be ready?” As a court reporter, I know that I can write clean and fast when everyone is speaking clearly with a consistent cadence. But when it is time to pass the CSR, CRR, RMR… even though the speakers are speaking clearly and with a consistent cadence, nerves set in, and the writing becomes a challenge.
Costa writes, “Molinari went on to win the British Open with a stellar short game and almost robotically steady play on a volatile leaderboard. But his ascent to become the first Italian to win a major championship is rooted partly in a change he made only to the past two years. It wasn’t in the way he swung. It was the way he practiced.”
Costa goes on, “At their first session together, at the Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles, was a preview of how things were about to change. Alred had Molinari practice a tricky flop shot on a downhill lie and asked him to keep hitting it until he had stopped five balls within 3 feet of the hole. It took him 48 tries.” Alred made Molinari practice at a high frustration level
Another sports psychologist, Cordie Walker says, “We want to have learning environments that foster skills that are retained on the golf course.” (Speed test.) “Desirable difficulty,” a term coined by cognitive psychologist Robert Bjork argues that introducing a certain degree of challenge to the learning process boosts long-term retention.
The bottom line is the experts believe that practicing just for the sake of practice is not good enough. Practice needs to be intense and even uncomfortable. I am thinking it would be good to practice at quick bursts of speeds beyond my capability, slowing down to write sustained complex material, and then have another speed burst. That would be very tiring for my brain, but perhaps a beneficial exercise for increasing speed and accuracy.
I found the article about Molinari to be inspiring. I want to be better. Pushing out of our comfort zone will make us better than ever!