Recently at my daughter’s Sunday morning baseball a parent anxiously asked when the game was going to start. The coach replied saying that the girls practise a series of drills first.

The woman proceeded to say that she drives several of the girls and they intentionally arrive late because they prefer to play the game and not take part in the practise. The coach was surprised and didn’t really know what to say, other than reiterate the importance of practise.

This is the same as an athlete saying, “I’ll complete in the track & field meet, but don’t feel like participating in any of the practises leading up to it.”  Even someone with natural talent will only make it so far until those who apply themselves with regular training perform better.

Have you ever struggled with a skill and then by committing yourself to regular practise, you noticed your performance improve?

Although basketball wasn’t my favourite sport as a teenager, I enjoyed playing it and longed to be better. For a while, I believed that those who were taller and seemed to have more ‘natural talent’ were always going to be much better than me.

A lot of progress happened however when my Dad put up a net at home and I practised afterschool. Then, I attended a week long intensive summer sports camp which focused on skill development. By the fall, I was a much improved and more confident player.

In the words of famous NBA basketball Player and Coach Edward Macauley, “When you are not practicing, remember–someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win.”

Of course, if we are practising something incorrectly, then clearly we are forging pathways that will not serve us.  Deriving input from a coach, mentor or someone who has already mastered the skill(s) is a good ‘game’ plan.

So how does practise change our brain and body?

Practice translates to real physical and mental changes to structures within your body and brain and allows data to move more quickly, making you more efficient in all tasks and skills.

You have two main types of matter in your brain; 1) Gray matter processes information and directs signals and sensory stimuli to neurons (nerve cells).  2)  White matter is a combination of fatty tissue and axons (nerve fibers) which are long, thin projections of neurons that conduct electrical impulses away from the main body of the neuron.

Just as electrical wiring in your home requires insulation to prevent the loss of energy and keep it moving efficiently along the proper channels, axons are the same and they have a natural insulating sheath known as myelin. Every time you practice and repeat a physical motion, you build up the layers of myelin around your axons, fortifying the insulation.

This added insulation creates a “super highway” for the electrical signals traveling through your body and increases the speed at which your brain and muscles communicate, recall, send signals and respond.  The outcome?  You become more efficient and skilled.

Does this process apply to improving physical skills as well as mental performance?

Whether you are learning complicated dance steps, playing an instrument, performing a sport; or engaging in intellectual activities such as memorizing data, doing your taxes or becoming adept in a new software program…practise and how it impacts the brain are the same!

Ultimately the main goal of practice is to thicken the myelin sheath insulation and create a super highway for electrical impulses so information and responses to travel quicker.


  • MAKE IT FUN: Research shows that we learn things faster and retain them better when we are in play mode vs. when we in stress
  • LEARN FROM THE BEST: Hire a coach, engage a mentor or ask a friend who has mastered the skills you want to develop
  • TAKE BREAKS: Even professional athletes take time to recharge.  Don’t overdo it or you may be nursing an injury rather than improving your skills.
  • COME TO YOUR SENSES: The more senses you incorporate into your training, (sight, sound, smell, taste & touch) the more effective your practise will be as multiple parts of your brain will be involved and help you recall and use information when you need it.
  • TURN ON YOUR LEARNING SWITCHES:  Incorporate some Brain Activation Strategies before and during your practise sessions to support more efficient learning, skill retention and enjoyment of the process – which may be, the most important!

To your growth,