My favourite articles are the ones that I know begin with a trick question. Because I have the answers already percolating in my mind, it’s exciting to me as I consider the plight of the reader, wondering what the heck I’m talking about.
Wait, maybe that’s not such a good thing.
Anyways, one thing I think we can agree on is the importance of practice habits. The problem I’ve run into when talking to other coaches, parents, and athletes in any sport is that a lot of weight is put into practicing like you play.
This is backwards. You’ll play like you practice.
It’s impossible to re-create the circumstances of a big game or a crucial match. If you’re constantly thinking of how you compete in a game and you’re trying to emulate that in a practice, then there’s simply no way you can possibly achieve the intended results. There’s no substitute for the emotion and pressure of a real game or match.
Don’t practice like you play. Focus on practice habits and you’ll play like you practice.
The North Shore Winter Club doesn’t currently house a minor basketball program, but if we did, you can bet there would be a lot more jokes about Allen Iverson’s famous rant about practice.
Sure, Iverson was a professional athlete and by all accounts he was a pretty good player for the 76’ers, but what if he actually tried in practice?
It’s not the game that he loves, but in sports - in life - you generally get back that which you put in.
Which brings me to a hero of mine.
I know, he struggled against Lebron and his Cavaliers after going up 3 games to 1 in last year’s NBA final, but he’s still one of the greatest three-point shooters the sport has ever seen.
Why? I bet you can guess.
“Curry's rise to becoming the best shooter in the NBA, and perhaps all-time, comes from a pattern of hard work and intense preparation that has paid off immensely.” Source
Because of a competitive fire raging within, Curry rose to prominence long before he ever played professional basketball. That fire has always burned as brightly during practice as it does during games.
I can’t fathom the anxiety beating down on a basketball player as they step to the free throw line, let alone the pressure of trying to make a three from downtown with an enormous guard in your face.
But even though I can’t imagine that feeling, I know how Curry deals with it. He’s been working on the same technique his entire life.
And he’s not done.
Hockey players, tennis players, swimmers, water polo aficionados - it doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing, the attention to detail in practice pays direct dividends in games. This is why coaches create competition in practice, and it’s also why coaches slow skills down and work on the finer points of those skills.
If you don’t put the work in during practice - and I’m talking physical work, concentration, determination, and dedication - when will those poor habits come back to bite you?
…I’m having trouble finding a more elegant way to say always.
Poor practice habits will bite you during games. That one is obvious. But they’ll also bite you in future practices. It’s really hard to break the cycle once you fall into that trap.
Bad practice habits will affect you everywhere else, too. In school. At home. At your job, if and when you ever have one.
And even if you do practice like a maniac every single day, there’s still a chance the opponent on the other side of the ice, the court, or the pool has done the same.
And that’s when the magic happens.