Practice doesn’t make perfect!

Once again, I am enjoying watching, listening and learning at the Mark Foster Swim Academy. This is Jessica’s second time in attending the camp, having been to Luton for the camp in May too. I wrote about that day in 2 previous posts ‘Why complicate things?’ and then in greater detail in ‘What do schools aspire to?’, yet I have still found today a total inspiration and had to write about it – this is my #teacher5aday for today!

Now whilst the title of the piece has not been said, the mantra of Vince Lombardi is permeating everything today:quote-Vince-Lombardi-practice-does-not-make-perfect-only-perfect-41781

Having been a child at school at a time where completing as much work as possible was seen as a mark of achievement – I perfected at an early age the art of completing exactly what was required, having seen friends asked to complete more of the same when they rushed to finish, today has been so refreshing for being the poor opposite.

Despite much of competitive swimming training requiring completing multiple lengths, Mark Foster was at pains to state from the first minute that today was about performing everything technically and correctly, not ‘being beasted’! In the pool with Mark Foster and Katy Sexton the swimmers were focusing wholly on technique, performing various drills for each stroke to build to the complete stroke. Supported by Ali and Emily the children were encouraged, demonstrated (by world champions and former world record holder!), supported and praised to develop their strokes at every point – and everything was explained and given time!

After lunch, working in the sports hall the children move to land training and the message is exactly the same, focusing not on multiple repetition, but on performing every exercise correctly and accurately – slowing the exercises down and developing the up and down phase of everything. Anthony and Rob maintain the same quiet, calm demeanour the children have already experienced from Mark and Katy and explain the benefits of every exercise, whilst also outlining the consequences of incorrect practice – giving simple self check tips the children can follow once the day has finished.



So how can this help teachers? Simply put, I’m sure all of the children today will leave with great memories and inspiration from everyone of the team they encountered


How you make people feel\

As teachers,do we do this in our classes? For every learner? Every day? Every lesson? If not, why not?

This is the essence of my chapter in the upcoming Independent Thinking Book ‘There is another way’. In that education and specifically the learners, require a R.E.V.O.L.T:

  • Reassurance
  • Engagement
  • Voice
  • Opportunities
  • Learning
  • Time

This idea has been perfectly modelled throughout the entire day today, especially the last element – perhaps most precious, commodity in a school. Despite the children being present at the camp for only one day there is no sense of rushing , more a focus on perfecting every aspect being focused upon – with a clear end in sight. Namely, improving the overall performance of each swimmer, through; stroke work, land training, diet and nutrition and attitude.

Perhaps the motivation of being led by Mark and Katy, Olympians, World Champions and multiple world record holder is the key – no teacher can provide that!

World Champions past and future?

World Champions past and future?

Mark Foster's Gold Medal

Mark Foster’s Gold Medal

However, I believe it is something far more fundamental. That is:

  1. State the purpose of why we’re here – individually and together.
  2. Explain expectations clearly.
  3. Provide every opportunity to work to that  purpose – calmly and thoughtfully.
  4. Provide modelling and correction as it’s practised, properly and unrushed.
  5. State the expectation that it needs continual work and reinforcement.

This is all achievable in any classroom – and no, the purpose is not, in fact it’s never ‘because it’s on the test’!

It also depends on your perspective. Perhaps you would see Mark Foster as a failure? (I certainly don’t!) But he told the children this morning that his aim, from a young age, having met Duncan Goodhew was to secure an Olympic gold. Yet, despite making it to 5 Olympics – and being the flag bearer in 2008, he never did.

mark-foster_olympic flag

But instead, he managed to win numerous World gold medals and break the world record for freestyle and butterfly numerous times – hardly a failure! To me, this shows how he embodies one of my favourite inspirations for learners:

aim for the moon


But, after today, I would say that the clear message from the swim academy is



What a great advert for learning, in any environment; swimming pool or classroom. And that is what 60 young people have received today, watched by admiring parents – let’s hope next week it’s applied at school to take learning further. Perhaps one day, one of these children will lead inspirational sessions for young swimmers and tell them of the day they met Mark Foster and Katy Sexton and that was the day it started for them. Or, perhaps they’ll become teachers and say the inspiration came from a teacher they once had! #REVOLT!


About M Creasy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.