by Orest Stanko
Athletes and coaches alike have undoubtedly heard the phrase, “…you play the way you practice” or “…practice the way you want to play, and play the way you practice.” But how many teams really embrace a training attitude that can have an incredibly profound impact on their success? It requires buy-in from everyone on the team and a relentless drive to achieve optimal performance. You don’t just turn on the switch when it’s time to play. It’s more like a “dimmer”. The juice is flowing all the time and you just ratchet-up the intensity.
It’s not unusual for athletes and teams to comment, “…it’s too bad we didn’t play as well in our match as we did in practice last week.”
The single biggest reason for this attitude is that there are no real damaging or negative consequences in practice aside from maybe doing countless push-ups or burpees. In a tournament, and especially in a championship match, losing means not having the privilege of being on the podium. You inevitably have to deal with not only personal frustration but also the disappointment of your parents, coaches, friends, etc.
What’s the NOT so simple solution? Practice the way you want to play! It is easier said than done. How can we accomplish this goal?
- Athletes need to engage in all of the drills with a 100% commitment and with the goal of achieving the best possible result. Establish this expectation at the beginning of the season and reinforce it in every practice.
- Set a high standard of execution in practice regardless of the drill. Every touch counts! There is no down time except during water breaks.
- Employ drills with a scoring objective. This does not necessarily displace the real thing but it does help to condition the athletes to strive towards a tangible goal that simulates live match situations.
- Athletes need to take responsibility for their performance in practice as well as expect the same from their teammates.
- Treat every touch in every drill like it’s a championship point!