I have studied champions at every level, and a few things have become obvious. Champions do simple things really well and have a ridiculous attention to detail. After examining these championship characteristics, I have put together what I believe are ten steps, essential, to athlete success. By themselves, these habits are not special. What is special, and very rare, is finding an athlete, that will close the gap between knowing these steps are essential to success and actually doing them, CONSISTENTLY.
All sorts of things always go wrong. Big deal. We know that. That’s the given in the athletic algebra. The only unknown is you. It is apparently human nature to blame someone or something for failures and inadequacies. Typically, almost everyone blames the president or the governor or the mayor or the principal or the boss or the teacher…for whatever may have gone wrong. Athletes and fans, for the most part, do little to lift themselves beyond this phenomenon of “scapegoatism.” It’s always someone else’s fault, never yours.
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.
During practice, seek to be mature, not right. After practice you can work out the rights and wrongs, removed from the tension of competition and performance. What is the difference between a mature athlete and an immature athlete? The answer to this very important question every athlete ought to ask and think about daily is one hour.
THINK THE GAME
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A 1992 study of 8,000 youth athletes found that “having fun” was their primary reason for participating in a sport and yet more and more frequently, we see this primary reason slowly begin to fade. In many cases, the fun factor of a sport will take a backseat to factors such as getting a college scholarship, winning, pleasing parents or coaches; the list can go on and on. In the worst cases, the fun factor of a sport is replaced by stress inducing factors that eliminate the fun altogether.
I disagree with coaches who claim that defense is the number one ingredient in winning games. I have no doubt that the most important ingredients are offensive ones. You could have a terrific defense, but if you lose the ball before getting a shot, your opponent will often have the opportunity to score against no defenders on a fast break before your great defense has a chance to form. (Most teams can be stopped nearly half the time if you just manage to get all your players standing in the lane with their hands up. I’m all for defense, but you just can’t pretend it’s as important as offense.)
I have seen it all when it comes to recruiting. I coached college basketball for almost a decade and then ran a NCAA certified recruiting service that had college coaching subscribers from all levels so, to this day, I often get asked by athletes, parents and high school coaches about college recruiting. The recruiting process can be daunting and confusing, at times. However that process could be over before it begins if you allow these 5 habits to be a part of who you are.
We talkin’ about practice. Not just practice, we talkin’ about pre-practice. The champions approach to practice is to play with MORE focus, preparation and love than they do in games. Why? It’s more difficult to bring your passion to practice on a daily basis but the key to championship performance is to learn to master the boring and love the mundane details as much as you love to play on the stage in front of the bright lights.