“Practice makes perfect” is the usual phrase, or you may hear the modified “perfect practice makes perfect”, which doesn’t even make sense. What exactly is “perfect practice”? I really do not like either of those phrases at all because they are quite meaningless.
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence. Vince Lombardi
The learning process starts with education. Training is the next step, but sometimes both education and training are combined. After training comes practice, practice, practice. Then, for a performance, military drill being one, a rehearsal or dress rehearsal or two is in order. Finally, the actual performance.
My Agua Fria (AZ) senior AFJROTC instructor, Lt Col Bernard Lorenz, always told us “Practice makes permanent”. He was an Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam. His math skills were amazing and he used those skills to write drill for my unit’s drill team (see my book, Exhibition Drill for the Military Drill team for everything Lt Col Lorenz taught us and much more). His (correct) version of the statement about practice is true in everything we do. Everything.
For the JROTC competitive regulation drill performance, we march a long sequence of commands in a 100′ x 100′ box. The head judge is centered on one side and the team enters to his right, departing (in the southwest) to his left. As soon as the first team member crosses the boundary line, judging begins. Judging ends when the last team member steps over the boundary line.
While I was in school, Tolleson High School MCJROTC was our greatest rival. Hands-down one of the best teams in Arizona and probably the south western states. While our practice drill pad was a big, obstruction-free parking lot at the Agua Fria North campus (now Millennium High School) outside of Litchfield Park, Tolleson’s practice drill pad had one side up against a building and no one realized it was a disaster waiting to happen.
At a drill meet in Phoenix my team watched as the Tolleson unarmed female team went through a perfect regulation drill performance. It was perfect until just before the team exited the drill pad. The team was made up of four squads of four members. Just before leaving the boundary, squads 1 and 2 executed a modified column left and, you guessed it, squads 3 and 4 executed a modified column right. Their practices had cemented their muscle and visual memory so they did not have to think of what they were doing, they just did it. My team was thrilled because it was inside the boundary line and an enormous mistake- the pressure was off of us a bit and yet, we were so disappointed for the team. The Tolleson girls were devastated and never let it happen again.
We later found out through our instructors who spoke with the Tolleson instructors all about the one side of the practice pad being up against the building.
We won that day. Actually, the Agua Fria Union High School Air Force Jr ROTC Drill Team won every AZ drill meet and parade we entered from school year 79/80 to 82/83, except for one parade. The 1982 Billy Moore Days Parade. We lost to… Tolleson. It was my first experience as team commander and it was right at the beginning of the school year. I did not have enough practice and misjudged our entrance to the reviewing stand. Needless to say, enough practice was not an issue after that.
Practice truly does make permanent. What you do in practice, you will do in a performance because of muscle and/or visual memory. That’s why “JITT”, Just-in-Time Training rarely, if ever, works. You aren’t able to build up the muscle memory enough to be able to perform properly. So, train as you would fight – practice as you would perform and let practice make permanent in a good way.