Practice With A Purpose (Part II)

Lack of effort and focus in practice can often bleed athletic dreams dry. To guard against this, athletes must be sure to be physically and mentally present at practice. In sport, we know the opposite of this as “going-through-the-motions”. Many athletes make the mistake of just trying to “get through” practice time to get to the next game or competition. While it’s often not exciting, practice-time is where real improvement and development takes place.  I like to remind athletes that if they’re killing time in practice, it’s not murder – it’s pure suicide!

A couple of suggestions:

Recognize the signs that you’re going through the motions.  Anyone can practice well when they he or she feels like practicing. What happens when you don’t feel like practicing after a long day at school? For a variety of reasons, many athletes waste valuable training time by going through the motions. They’d rather count down the practice time rather than make practice time count. It’s not a bad idea to have athletes scout their practice behavior. This starts with asking – what are the signs that you’ve mentally checked out of practice? What does look like? (In other words – if you were watching a video of your practice, what are the visual signs you’ve checked out?) The earlier an athlete can recognize these signs, the sooner that athlete can take steps to turn it around in practice.

Turning It Around – Give Yourself 5. It’s important to develop ways to break out of the funk of going-through-the-motions in practice. One way is to see how well you can practice – for just 5 minutes.  Pretend that a scout has arrived to watch you for only 5 minutes. The idea is not to go all “NFL Linebacker” on somebody, but to give your best quality, focused effort for five minutes. After five minutes, stop and ask, “what did I do to check back into practice? What did I focus on?” The answers to these questions are important because they’ll tell you what you need to do to get yourself going in practice and in games.

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