I have heard coaches, parents, swimmers saying things like they practice until what they do becomes 2nd nature. Until it becomes automatic.

Got me thinking…….

Do I really want the athletes I coach to preform as if it has become automatic?
Now I’m not an authority by any stretch of the imagination so may be I’m wrong on this but I’m not entirely sure this is what I am aiming for.

What exactly does it mean to be automated?

The dictionary definitions are
1. The technique, method, or system  of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, reducing human intervention to a minimum.

2. A device that functions automatically without input from the operator.

Now i appreciate that these definitions are not specifically talking about sport but it doesn’t sound to me like this should be our aim as coaches.

Any one who knows me knows that I believe that we are that which we repeatedly do. I believe that in order to achieve perfection there must be repetition and a lot of it. I believe it takes 10000 perfect practices to achieve perfection.

So is this a form of automation?

I don’t believe so no.

In fact I believe that we practice so much so that we can avoid automation at all costs.

Automation to me imply that the athlete has disengaged from whatever activity they are doing. I want my athletes to be actively in the moment at every stage. I want them to know how to react to every situation and have the ability to respond.

In my opinion we, as coaches, need to teach our athletes to think for themselves, to assess what they are doing in every set and actively learn from each experience. I don’t want them to become automated in their approach to training or racing THAT is the exact reason we train so much.

Does this conflict with my believe in the highly structured controlled environment I want to create?
I don’t think so.

My aim is to encourage every athlete in the club system to become more thoughtful in what they do, more concidered in their approach and try things. When they fail, they learn and they improve.

This learning and constant evolution of skills as we strive for perfection, in my opinion,  means that, if we are to become  truly world class, we move beyond automation to a higher level of execution.

Just a short 1 today. Till tomorrow

posted by Peter


One thought on “Automated??”

  1. The four stages of competence

    Unconscious incompetence
    The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage.[1] The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.[2]

    Conscious incompetence
    Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.[3]

    Conscious competence
    The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.[2]

    Unconscious competence
    The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

    1. “Learning a New Skill is Easier Said than Done”. Gordon Training International.
    2. “Conscious competence learning model matrix – unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence”. Business Balls.
    Flower J (1999). “In the Mush”. Physician Exec 25 (1): 64–6. PMID 10387273.
    3. “The Four Stages of Learning”. Process Coaching Center.


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