Tag Archives: preparation

Don’t Take Yourself Out of the Game

21 Apr

As an athlete, consistency is important.  Consistency of effort, preparation, and practice leads to consistency of performance.  But, despite our best efforts, athletes at every level experience performance slumps.  There will be  some games when your shots are just not falling.  How will you deal with it?

There are some things that are under your control every time you take the court.  Attitude is one of them and, perhaps, the most important.  You decide if and how you let a missed shot or turnover affect your next possession, or the rest of your game.  Although it may be easier said then done, a positive mental approach (and, sometimes, a short memory) is critical to athletic performance success.

Effort is another area that shouldn’t be impacted by your level of play.  Keep hustling.  Continue to “play hard, play smart, and play together” (Dean Smith, former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach).  Don’t allow a missed shot or bad pass to be an excuse to give anything less than 100% when you’re on the court.  Focus on the aspects of your play that aren’t susceptible to slumps, like defense, boxing out, and rebounding.

Don’t allow a performance slump to take away your aggressiveness, confidence, or energy.  You’ve worked hard to get to this point.  Keep believing in yourself and maintain a high intensity level.  Draw on positive past experience to fuel your thoughts.  Keep working hard, stay positive, and good things will happen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Prepare Like You Intend to Perform

10 Mar

A few days ago, I published a blog post titled, You’ve Got to Practice at Game Speed.  Today, I’d like to address practice and preparation from a different angle — specifically, the athlete’s focus and intensity level.

I must admit, once again, my thoughts and observations are based on having watched my daughter’s — and our high school girls varsity basketball team’s — scrimmages.  And my comments don’t just apply to our team.  To some extent, I saw this in each and every one of the five teams that participated in the scrimmage.

Some of the pre-game warm-up activity was just awful.  I’m not referring to the drills, themselves, but rather the effort with which the drills were performed.  Many of the players’ focus and intensity level was variable, at best.  Some of them didn’t even look like they took it seriously — half-hearted passing, shooting, and overall execution.  Moving through the drills at half-speed.  Laughing, joking, and fooling around.  Do you really believe there’s no carry-over into the game?  I’m not suggesting that the student-athlete experience shouldn’t be enjoyable.  But once you lace them up and step on the court, it’s time to focus your attention and effort on the task at hand.

Representing your high school on the basketball court is a privilege… not an entitlement!  Same goes for any other sport at any other level.  Show that you respect the game, your teammates, your coaches — and yourself — by taking your decision and commitment to play a little more seriously.

The same principle applies to school, work… and life.  How do you study for your upcoming exam?  How do you prepare for your business presentation?  Are you setting yourself up for success, or sabotaging your own efforts?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Embrace the Journey

8 Mar

e00010819“The journey is the reward.” – Steve Jobs

We all have goals.  Long-term goals, short-term goals – things we aspire to accomplish or achieve.

Some of the things to which we look forward are “milestones” – like turning 21 – and don’t require much preparation.  It’s just a matter of time.

Most of our goals, though, require some planning, preparation, and effort.  There’s a process – a journey – involved in the eventual achievement of these goals.

And, although achievement may be the pinnacle of the process, the journey is the enriching, character-building part.

In sports, it’s not winning a championship that makes you better; it’s all the time you devoted to daily practice and preparation as a player and teammate.

In school, it’s not the high grade on your test or report card that makes you better; it’s all the time you spent doing homework and studying – learning – along the way.

At work, it’s not the promotion – or the raise – that makes you better; it’s all the work you put into your job – your daily commitment to excellence as an employee, entrepreneur, supervisor, or co-worker.

If life, it’s not where you get that makes you better; it’s what you did to arrive at that point.

Accomplishment is great, but the self-improvement that occurs along the way is the real prize.

Embrace the journey.  Enjoy the ride.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

The Relationship Between Preparation and Performance

17 Feb

589031400-300x200I am blessed with the opportunity to work with hundreds of athletes, teams, and organizations, ranging from young boys and girls to elite professional athletes.

Obviously, the work I do with athletes is primarily performance training – Strength & Conditioning, Speed & Agility, etc.  Other areas of performance training, such as sport-specific skill development (e.g., basketball ball-handling and shooting), are equally important.

In addition to training these athletes, I try to get out and watch them (as many as I can) compete.  Watching them play provides me with invaluable insight into two key areas:

  • The impact our training has on their performance, and
  • Areas of improvement where we can enhance/modify our training to further improve performance

But there’s also something else I’ve learned from watching these athletes in a competitive setting: The attitude, effort, and work ethic they bring to our training sessions is directly reflected in their performance.

Recently, I had the opportunity watch several, high-level club volleyball teams play, all of whom participate in our organizational team training.  These opportunities are rare, since most of these teams travel considerable distances to compete – regionally and nationally, and don’t participate in many local tournaments.

As far as I’m concerned, there were no surprises, regarding the level of their performance.  The teams that routinely bring a high level of effort and work ethic – and a positive attitude – to our training sessions played well, even against top competition.  The teams that bring a less-than-desirable attitude and effort to our training sessions did not fare as well.

Work ethic is not a “sometimes” thing.  You can’t work hard some of the time and say you have a strong work ethic.  It would be like studying only some of the time, but claiming to have good study habits.  It simply doesn’t work that way.

You can’t go through the motions and half-a** your way through your performance training sessions and expect a high level of success when it’s game time.  My observation of hundreds of athletes and teams, over time, has corroborated that.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no guarantee of success, even for those athletes who do consistently demonstrate a high level of effort and strong work ethic.  But I sure like the odds, and so should you.

STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

If It’s Important, Do It Every Day

15 Feb

michael-jordan-game-winning-shot-1[1]Lots of athletes dream of sinking the game-winning shot, scoring the game-winning touchdown, or getting the game-winning hit.  It’s easy to be enamored with the romantic idea of being the hero.

But that doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes a lot of practice and preparation to put yourself in the position to perform well in a pressure situation (heck, it takes a lot of practice and preparation to perform well in normal game conditions).  That means, if you’re a basketball player with a desire to excel, you should be practicing ball-handling and shooting, or doing something to improve your strength, speed, agility, and athleticism… EVERY DAY!

And that, I think, is where there is a disconnect.  It’s one thing to express a desire to play well.  Anyone can do that… that’s just talk.  It’s quite another to do what’s necessary to play well.  That takes time and effort and commitment and dedication and focus and purpose and motivation and persistence and perseverance and… well, I think you get the point.

And, while this all may seem somewhat overwhelming, it doesn’t take a 24/7/365 commitment.  Focus on the quality and consistency of your efforts, and not necessarily the quantity.  If you’ve got 10-15 minutes to practice your ball-handling, make it purposeful and give it the best 10-15 minutes you’ve got.  Know and understand your areas for improvement and direct your efforts, accordingly.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that, since you only have limited time, improving your physical or sport-specific skills is not worth the effort.  Trust me, the cumulative effect of quality repetition will steadily improve your game.

Devote yourself, daily, to self-improvement.  Make it happen.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Success is an Iceberg

24 Feb

“The key is not the will to win… everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” – Bobby Knight

“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” – Confucius

“Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.” – Vince Lombardithe-iceberg-of-success[1]

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

By Failing to Prepare, You Are Preparing to Fail

20 Jan

smb_081022_gjw_practice[1]“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Successful performance requires purposeful preparation.  This is true in school, sports, business, and life.  As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.

Sport-Specific Skill Development

The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”).  If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie.  Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve.  Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player.  The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team.  You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability.  Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents.  Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.

Strength and Conditioning

Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete.  A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete.  Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season.  Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa.  Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement.  Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!

Nutrition

Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance.  You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition.  Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.

Goal Setting

It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals.  You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight.  It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way.  Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition.  Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Do Your “Homework”

30 Dec

Want to improve your athletic performance?  Then you’d better do some “homework.”

Here’s my school/sports analogy:  The tests you take in school are like your games.  They determine your standing.  They represent the culmination of your preparation.

Your team’s daily practices are like the classes you attend every day.  They are usually content-specific, designed to prepare you for your next test or game.

But here’s where the comparison breaks down for many athletes:  As a student, what would happen if you never (or rarely) did any work outside the classroom?  What if your preparation ended when the school day was over, and you didn’t reinforce the day’s learning with any additional preparation and/or practice?  I would venture to guess you wouldn’t fare very well, academically.  Well, the same concept applies to sports.  It’s the homework — the additional time you commit to self-improvement — that makes the difference.

As a basketball player, for example, how much ball-handling and shooting practice do you get in games and team practices?  It’s unlikely you’re getting the kind of concentrated skills practice and repetition needed to improve your performance.  Team practices typically aren’t (nor should they be) designed to accommodate each individual player’s need for skills practice.

The point is, you have to commit yourself to doing some purposeful, “homework” as an athlete — including skills practice (regardless of your sport) and strength and conditioning.  Take initiative and ownership of your development by putting in some extra effort, outside of your team’s practices, in order to reach your performance goals.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

YOU Are Your Best Motivator

20 Apr

mountain-climbing-accidents-deaths-on-lhotse-person[1]Any endeavor requires motivation in order to make it a success.  Typically, we begin the pursuit of a goal with lots of energy and enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, many of us abandon our dreams, in part because we fail to realize that this high energy won’t last forever.

We may feel highly motivated to begin a new diet or exercise plan, or perhaps a new job or other project.  We are excited about the possibilities.  Then, after a while, we become tired and our initial enthusiasm fades.

That’s when self-motivation becomes important.  That’s when we need to push ourselves.

We shouldn’t allow our motivation to be too dependent on what the scale or mirror says, or what other people say or think.  There’s nothing wrong with external (extrinsic) motivation — sometimes it can be effective — but we need to work on developing our internal (intrinsic) motivation.

Being motivated doesn’t mean we won’t have to struggle with adversity along the way.  There will always be demands on our lives and our time.  There will be obstacles and temptation to derail our efforts.  Things are rarely as easy as they initially seem.  Remember that even when your motivation is low, you are still able to accomplish something.  Low motivation doesn’t have to mean paralysis.

Conversely, when your motivation is high, take advantage of it by taking on more (or more difficult) tasks.

Occasionally, there will be a “bad” day.  There are times in all of our lives when we find it challenging to stay motivated and on course.  Don’t allow yourself to focus on the negative.  Focus instead on what really matters and learn from a negative situation in order to create a better outcome next time.

We can improve our self-motivation when we acknowledge and embrace the realization that we own our thoughts, feelings, behavior, and choices.  We are in control of what we think, feel, and do.  Reflect upon times when your motivation was high and try to determine what you did to feel that way.

Your motivation will be much stronger and consistent when you focus on making conscious choices about what you can do consistently to achieve all of your dreams and goals.

Be accountable when looking at how you define problems and situations.  Think about what you can do — given what is reasonably and realistically within your power — and do it.  Be open-minded and willing to try different things.

Preparation — and the effort you put into preparation — will make it easier for you to follow through, even when taking on more difficult tasks.  Advance planning and forethought can help you to be less dependent on extra motivation.

Focus on progress, rather than perfection.  Incremental change is the key.  Avoid alternating bouts of productivity and inactivity.  Be consistent — do what you can — on a daily basis, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve over time.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Habits are Created at Practice

27 Jun

nba_g_rallen1_576[1]“Habits are created every day in practice, and they carry over to the game.” – Chuck Noll

Do you want to make the big play in the big game?  Ace the math exam?  Nail the business presentation?  Then you had better practice.

Even with lots of practice, there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed when the “test” is administered, but that’s where to place your chips.  Because, without purposeful practice, consistent achievement is out of your reach.

In order to excel on an exam, you need to attend class.  But that’s not enough.  You can’t just do classwork and disregard the need to do additional preparation in the form of homework.  It’s the homework that reinforces the knowledge, skills, and problem-solving techniques.

Sports work in much the same way.  Games are like exams, or tests, and your team’s practices are like the classes you attend.  But what if that was the only skills practice you got?  What if you never did any additional ball-handling or shooting drills away from your team’s practices.  That’s where the sport-specific skills “homework” comes in.  You just can’t build the kind of muscle memory that leads to success without lots and lots of technically correct repetitions.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure your practice is situational.  As much as possible, your preparation should reflect the same conditions and demands as your game, test, business presentation, etc.

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” – Unknown

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

 Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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