When I was young I always played sports. Soccer, football, basketball, and anything else that was competitive. Coaches would often use the phrase “you play the way you practice,” to try and motivate the team. I have thought a great deal about this phrase and have come to the conclusion that there are three things one needs to do to be prepared to play the way you practice.
1. Focus: I remember watching a documentary about Navy Seal Training on TV. The drop out rate was between 60%-70%. The successful candidates focused on the task at hand where the unsuccessful candidates focused on how many days were left or the amount of pain they were in. Now, think about your life. Are you playing the way you practice? Too many times we start something like a new career only to find out that it’s hard and it requires much of our time. We start or go back to school only to find out that getting good grades takes effort and time commitment. You may even start to go to the gym only to quit because of how sore you are after only one week. My wife, Selina is a great example to me. She has been exercising all her life. For the past seven years she has been doing Zumba and getting up at 5 am, five days a week. She is now a very successful Zumba Instructor. Her success was not overnight it took time and a great deal of focus.
2. Effort: I currently train Soccer Goal Keepers for the Salem Shooters, a local youth soccer club in my hometown. There is one thing I demand at every practice and that’s effort. I don’t care if the players have had a bad day at school, if their friends are being mean to them, or if they are sick. When they get out of their parents car and lace up their boots it’s time to practice and give it 100% effort. If they are going through the motions we run and work harder. Too often we get bye, by not giving it 100% effort. Our effort will determine how successful we will be in our daily endeavors. Many of you may remember the NBA All star Allen Iverson’s famous rant about “Practice, you want to talk about practice? Not the game but about practice?” I don’t believe that it is a big surprise that we refer to Allen Iverson as an NBA All Star and not an NBA Champion. Champions pay the price at practice.
3. Preparation: Seal candidate training is a grueling six months. If candidates don’t prepare for the long road ahead of them they will find themselves ringing the bell to quit. They must train like they are training for a marathon and not a 10K. Like seal candidates, goalkeepers must prepare both physically and mentally.
First Physically, you must be able to get through all the drills and skills training needed to help you succeed. Be kind to your body; be so careful as to what you put into it. We live in a time of fast food and processed foods. Many food labels read low fat, fat free, low calorie and so on. Look at the fine print of ingredients, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). I have come to the conclusion that if you can’t pronounce the ingredient it’s not good for you. Second Mentally, there are so many things you can do to be more mentally prepared for whatever it is your are preparing for weather it be a game, career/job, school or life in general. Try to visualize yourself being successful. When I was attending college I would visualize myself walking across the stage with my cap and gown on and receiving my degree. Keep calm don’t ever get to high and never get to low, find a middle area and be steady. Have a positive attitude and surround yourself with people that truly want you to be successful. Finally don’t forget to have fun. Enjoy the journey that you are on.
As a coach I find myself repeating my coaches of the past “you play the way you practice.”