Deliberate Practice in traditional hard mastery

Deliberate practice is a term that is rooted in more traditional concepts of learning, especially with regard to ‘hard mastery‘. Although it is not a concept that inherently belongs within the realm of ludodidactics, it is useful to list the characteristics of deliberate practice as used in reference to hard mastery.


The Key Characteristics

  • Goal directed activities (that are highly relevant to performance)
  • Active/mindful/effortful/sustained concentration and attention
  • Focuses on weaknesses
  • Appropriate feedback from self (through observation/comparison) or high quality coach or
    mentor (challenging, critical, perhaps even painful)
  • Appropriate opportunities for repetition and correction of errors
  • Finds new ways to undertake the task
  • Structured/measurable
  • Not inherently enjoyable/motivating
  • Does not lead to immediate social or financial rewards
  • Not work or play – focused learning, refining old methods
  • Starts at an early age (if player wants to compete and perform at the highest level)



The key characteristics of deliberate practice appear to have changed over the years. Researchers of the phenomon initially emphasised the self-directed and solitary nature of deliberate practice (with particular reference to expertise development in music). In more recent years, the role of team training, and the coach/mentor as a provider of challenging critical feedback, has become more prominent in their thinking. Furthermore, the notion that deliberate practice is or needs to be inherently un-enjoyable, have somewhat softened (with reference to Côté and Hay’s (2002) work on ‘deliberate play’).


Recommended reading
  • North, J. (2012). ‘An Overview and Critique of the ‘10,000 hours rule’ and ‘Theory of Deliberate Practise’. Sport Coaching Innovations, Carnegie Faculty, Leeds Metropolitan University.