10 Principles to Learn Any Sports in Record Time

Snowboarding in Chinese New Year Holiday in 2022 (Left side is my coach)

I have learned so many sports in my life. Basketball, volleyball, surfing, surf-skating, snowboarding, yoga, karate, Thai boxing, badminton, swimming, table tennis, ice-skating, rock-climbing, weight-lifting, running, etc. In retrospect, I learned some sports better than the others, and now I’m starting to see common patterns. As I grew older, I learned how to learn new sports quicker and smarter (e.g. 4 days to finish snowboarding beginner level at age 30).

Here are 10 key principles to help us learn any sport in record time:

1. Find a Good Coach that Gives You Instant Feedback

My first surfing coach was a Chinese National Team member, but he sucked at teaching. Every lesson he just taught me a new move and went surfing by himself. My second coach was a “nobody” in Shenzhen, but he taught me one small technique at a time and gave me constructive feedback after every wave I caught. A good coach knows how to break down the sport into small chunks and sequence it logically. Also, he would provide customized feedback quickly and videotape for you. Find a good coach right at the beginning.

2. Break Down Into The Smallest Components and Add One layer On Top At A Time

Every sport looks complicated until you break it down into the smallest components. For surfing, you start with pop-up, then paddling, then reading waves, then turning, etc. And for the pop-up part, you can further break down into where your hands should be placed, how your legs should bring forward, etc. Don’t practice everything at once. Practice one thing at a time, and once you perfect it, you can then add another small layer on top, and repeat the process again.

3. Understand the Physics

Every sport has its physics theory behind it. Volleyball has an Angle of Reflection in receiving a service, and Bernoulli’s Law in spiking a top-spin. Snowboarding has a lot to do with friction and gravitational forces. Once you understand the Physics theories and the “why” behind each movement in a sport, you can play with the principles at will, instead of following blindly to techniques.

4. Deliberate Practice

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Following the Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) strategy, every practice drill should be about improving 1–3 flaws in your previous movements. I like to talk to myself during practice, remind myself when and where to pay attention, and give encouragement to myself. Be willing to put in a lot of time to master a sport. I put eight hours a day for consecutive 7 days to practice snowboarding. It’s all about work ethic and deliberate practice. Don’t forget to practice the foundations over and over again as well.

5. Videotape Everything

I played basketball for more than 20 years. I thought I had the perfect shooting form, until my friend took a video for me. And I looked like C3PO from Starwars! It’s terrible! It’s impossible to self-correct, if we can’t see ourselves from a third person perspective. That’s why we need a coach or video-tape ourselves as often as possible.

6. Gather Extra Resources Online

No matter if it’s learning basketball, snowboarding or surfing, I always look for extra video courses or clips online. Sometimes a different coach would give you a new perspective. But don’t just be a bookworm, you have to try and practice what you learned. YouTube and Bilibili (Chinese Youtube) are great resources.

7. Strength, Mobility, and Endurance

When we say someone has an athletic body, we are usually referring to the person having strength, flexibility, and high endurance. These 3 fundamental areas will benefit you in learning any sports. Strength can be trained through weight training. Mobility can be improved through stretching and massaging trigger points. Endurance can be strengthened through cardio exercise (like running) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Spend time to develop these 3 pillars on regular days, so you can master any sport faster.

8. Ask Questions

Be willing to ask questions on improving your sticking points. Ask your coaches, ask your friends, Google online. But don’t bother asking questions about problems that you still haven’t faced. If you can’t shoot the ball in front of the rim, there’s no point concerning how to shoot a 3-pointer. Ask the right questions.

9. Rest

You might have put in a lot of time practicing, but if you don’t have enough rest, all your effort might go down the drain. Not only does your body needs rest to perform at a peak state the next day, but your brain also consolidates your learning and memories during sleep. Rest as if it’s part of your training.

10. Join a Community

One of the reasons why my volleyball techniques improved exponentially in 2017 is because I joined a lot of volleyball communities- Volleyball classes, volleyball league teams, volleyball fun games, and beach volleyball. When you are surrounded by friends who are into the same sport. You will be more engaged and discuss different techniques together. I recommend meetup.com to find a sports community.

Clap & leave a comment below on what sports you are trying to master!

P.S. If you want weekly emails on how to become your best self, subscribe here. A free relationship ebook “Mindful Love”+ Tim Ferriss’s Workout cheatsheet will be delivered to your inbox immediately.

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Personal Development Coach || Business Analyst in JD (China’s Biggest E-commerce Company) || Management Consultant Background

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Jason Kwan

Jason Kwan

Personal Development Coach || Business Analyst in JD (China’s Biggest E-commerce Company) || Management Consultant Background

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