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Joy and Repeated Practice

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

In 2022 I listened to several podcasts on the field of Happiness. A couple of common themes that appeared among these podcasters in 2022 were quitting and loneliness. I expect this may result from current research done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I find these podcasts educational and interesting, with valuable applications to sports coaching. However, my pick for a favourite year-end podcast is a repeat podcast from The Athlete Development Show, with Dr. Craig Harrison, from two years ago, titled Start With Joy, with author Dr. Kate Cunningham.

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The guest, Dr. Katie Cunningham, is a literacy specialist. This is a slight departure for this sports podcaster; however, the discussion of Dr. Cunningham's book and the comparisons of creating a joyful environment for learning to read and physical literacy and sport provide some exceptional guidance for sports coaches and program designers. In her book, Dr. Cunningham outlines seven pillars of a joyful literacy experience - connection, choice, challenge, play, story, discovery and movement. As a result, the conversation in this podcast is upbeat and joyful, with examples illustrating effective and ethical teaching and coaching.

photo credit: Hannah Shields

One of the pillars discussed is play. "The idea of play leading to practice is really huge because, without play, practice doesn't become as joyful. And, so, we stop doing it. If we stop practicing, we don't get to the stage of mastery because mastery requires repeated practice" (Cunningham, 2020, Athlete Development Show). This reference to repeated practice took me further back to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, where he explores Ericson's 10,000h hour rule. However, the discussion, and the book, are much more broad and holistic regarding the association of joy and learning, as the discussion explores how autonomy, narrative and creativity make learning joyful.

The Athlete Development Show podcasts are lengthy discussions, but this one has many gems. It is worth the listen. (Link to podcast on Spotify: Start With Joy)

Happy - Joyfilled - New Year.

Kevin Shields


If you want to explore how you can include more play and joy in your coaching, then click this link Contact US and send me your question. (I am a Master of Coaching Student University of Alberta and have 29 years of coaching experience from young children to masters athletes.)

Here are my top three most-listened-to podcasts from 2022

Spotify image - The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

Spotify image - A Slight Change of Plans with Maya Shankar

Spotify image - Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam

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Fiona McKenna
Fiona McKenna
Feb 02, 2023

I continue to be motivated to work with young Jackrabbit skiers and adults and thank you for the reminder to incorporate connection, choice, challenge, play, story, discovery and movement. Also, I witnessed this joy on the finish line at the OCup races watching and hearing many young athletes demonstrate play during their race events and laughter after recovering and talking together with peers. It was joyful for me to witness.

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