This blog post is specifically for those athletes who want to be the best they can be as players and leaders. If you want to be an effective leader it is crucial to first lead yourself. Learning the following five habits to lead yourself in practice will not only earn the trust of your teammates and coaches but it also will give you confidence in yourself.
Work on your game outside of practice
I know this says specifically for practice but I couldn’t let this one slide. If you want to be your best in practice you have to work outside of practice. The best shooters and ball handlers are not made because of the shots or dribbles they take in practice. They are the best at what they do because of the work they put in when nobody is watching. You will never be a great basketball player if you only work on your game during practice. It is also true that if you want to be the best leader possible you have to work on being leader outside the practice facility. You don’t earn the trust of teammates by just showing up and having good practices. You have to put in the work outside of the gym.
Change your view towards practice
I have been around players long enough to know that the majority of their thoughts surrounding practice is negative. I was once a player too. I know practice at times was not the most fun thing to attend. If you want to lead yourself in practice, you have to change your initial thoughts about it. Instead of saying, “ I have to go to practice” start saying “I get to go to practice.” It takes you from a place of negativity and complacency to a place of appreciation and opportunity. So I challenge you to start viewing practices as privileges and opportunities.
Have 1 main objective for each practice
Every single day, you should know what you want to get better at during practice. If you are unsure on what your focus should be, ask your coach. Ask them how you can improve as a player, leader, or teammate. Your coach determines your playing time so what he values is a good indicator of what you need to work on.
For example, let’s say I have had difficulties turning the ball over in our games. More specifically, my passes keep being deflected or stolen. My next practice(s) will be focused on completing passes. In every drill and every scrimmage, I am going to be the best passer on the team. No turnovers. Nothing high or low. Only goldilocks passes. If I really want to challenge myself, I will tell a teammate my practice goal so they can hold me accountable.
After practice, I made sure to have a thoughtful evaluation of my goal. If I tried to focus on 20 things to improve, during practice, then by the end I would have gotten better at none of them. Focus on one aspect of your game and grow that during your practice time.
Is the practice better with you there?
Be honest with yourself and ask “is practice better because I am here?” If practice is not better because you are there figure out why and fix it. Are your teammates better because you are there? If not, fix it. Do not be disengaged with what is going on around you. Great leaders do not have the luxury of minding their own business.
Take it a step further and ask yourself, “is this drill better because I am in it?” Great leaders and great players are constantly aware of their surroundings. Be aware of what is happening in practice good or bad. Special leaders and special players hold themselves accountable for their environment. If practice could be better or they are not enhancing their environment they do not fade into the background and blame the coach or a teammate, they accept the challenge and fix it.
Visualization and Imagination
A great way to lead yourself in practice is to have a game-like mentality. If you go through the motions in practice, there is a good chance you will not be as sharp for the games. If you throw lazy passes in practice or you have a nonchalant approach why do you expect a different result in the games?
Always imagine anything you do you are playing against the toughest opponents you will face all season. When you are on the sidelines, waiting to jump into the drill, visualize yourself making the right reads on defense or making the right decision on offense.
When those plays happen in a game you want your mind to think it is second nature. So use your imagination to practice the plays you will make in a game and visualize your success. Remember, “In times of most extreme pressure you revert back to your most deeply held habits”. You want your habits to be thought of and visualized so much that a game is actually easier than practice. Put pressure on your self in practice so the pressure of a game won’t throw you off. The best way to practice championship like pressure is to visualize it.
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I hope you can take these five keys and put them into practice as soon as you can. Not only will these habits benefit you now as players they will also spill over into your every day life. The more belief you have in yourself the more everyone else will believe in you as well. To be a leader of others you must first lead yourself. Don’t let practice be an excuse for you not lead yourself.
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