I got this idea from watching the differences in kids learning to play baseball during the last couple of seasons with my son. I noticed that some kids had much better reflexes than others and by reflexes I don't mean speed. While all of the kids started at the same point, over the course of just one season you could clearly see that some kids had gotten much better at the skills than others. And after observing each and every practice it was apparent that the kids who were advancing were shaping their skills while the others didn't seem to know where to start. They were all participating and practicing but like Lou pointed out awhile back with the example of the math student that studies and studies and studies, but doesn't think, many of the kids were practicing but not actually practicing the skill.
For practice to work I believe that the kid must possess a couple of things. First, they must be competitive. I am not saying that they must compete with others, though that is a natural development. I am saying that they must compete with themselves. They must be striving to tackle something and get better. Seeing others should only inspire them to go farther, until they hit their own limits, which is perfectly fine. Secondly, they must have the reflexes. I am not arguing that they must have good reflexes, I am saying that they must have the reflexes period. While watching the kids learn to catch and throw, it was obvious that some lacked reflexes that others take for granted. Asking them to be the ball is like asking one of us to be the sun.
I am not saying that we can change reflexes, although I am in the camp that believes we can help children find those reflexes much better than we do now. Obviously I do not think we can do this by inventing different reflexes and as I have made the point earlier, such ideas come from people without the reflexes. People who can do these things well know the reflexes and traditional methods of training and practice were simply created with those reflexes in mind.
If educators want to understand these things better then they need to accept that ability is distributed diversely. They need to stop fighting the idea that some kids have more ability in some things than others, sometimes much more. They need to accept what has in fact been their underlying premise all along. That kids that do well at these things appear to have a significant inner advantage. I say that this has been their premise because whether they admit it or not, this is what they have been chasing. They need to start spending more time analyzing what it is they are chasing rather than running away from it with alternative make believe scenarios. They need to study these reflexes in detail.