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There's a long NYT article on developing child athletes from this weekend that describes the dull, uncomfortable process of learning that is familiar to many teachers and parents -- but maybe not so obvious to others who think of learning as "natural" or merely a function of time, or who have forgotten how hard, how frustrating it is to learn something new.
The story opens with the writer's description of her daughter's first frustrating (and unsuccessful) efforts to hit a baseball -- "Toss after toss, she missed. Five tosses. Then 10." -- followed a day later by sudden and unexpected improvement. What happened, she finds, is the power of deliberate, concentrated time spent working on a specific technique with critical feedback from a teacher or coach. It's not the amount of time, but rather the focus of it -- what one researcher calls the "uncomfortable place" that, along with repetition, leads to mastery.