Practice with Purpose

We have all heard the saying, “practice makes perfect!” If you want to be good at anything you have to put in the time and practice. As lucrative as racquetball is, LOL, most players have to work full-time, while juggling a family and a social life. Finding the time to devote to drilling and playing matches to get ready for a tournament is very challenging. So how on earth can you ever get better??

Well, let’s move on to the other saying by legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Instead of looking at how much time you wish you had, let’s make the most of the time that you do have. An example of this would be: Your drive serve was falling short and you want to be able to have your drive serve be effective.

1. You can spend two hours working on your drive serve only to have the same thing happen next weekend, which is incredibly frustrating or

2. You can spend one hour working on your drive serve and next weekend, you are getting weak returns and a handful of aces, which is incredibly rewarding!

What??? Well that doesn’t make sense, let me re-read that! How is that possible? Isn’t two hours of practice better than one? What is the difference?

The difference lies in THE QUESTION….ask yourself, ” When I am serving really well, what am I doing?”  Let’s say that the answer is: I am dropping the ball out farther and following through with my swing. So, instead of focusing on your serve not going in and getting frustrated, you are now focusing on what it takes to serve well consistently!! The blueprint for what you are working on when you are practicing your serve has been laid out. This will make your practices more efficient and it will also get you in the mindset of making adjustments to get the results that you want when you are in match. Now, you can enjoy more free time and be able to improve your game by,” practicing with purpose!!”

The “Cheat Sheet”

As we are getting ready to enter into 2019, we often reflect on the past year as being a “good year” or a “bad year.” We tend to play a highlight reel in our head of both the good and bad events that took place throughout the year and say, “Hopefully, next year will be better!” So, then what comes next? We throw it out there and hope for the best? No!! It’s time to break the cycle of hoping and create a cheat sheet,  based on facts, to make sure that in 2019, you have a plan to truly improve in all areas.

The first step to making this year better than ever is to first commit your efforts to improving and NOT JUDGING. WHAT!?! I love to judge myself, then beat myself up, and focus on all of the mistakes that I made, especially after a game! How am I going to get better if I don’t punish myself?? Now your reading this and saying, “Don’t judge myself, sounds great! How do I do that?”  You just started the first step to creating your “cheat sheet!” We start out by using one of the most valuable tools that we have, the ability to ask questions.

We start out by asking the question and then you fill in the answers.

  1. What were my biggest successes this year and what did I do to achieve them? Example; I hired a hitting coach, I worked on my mental game….
  2. What were my worst moments and disappointments? If I could go back and redo my at bat, what would I have done differently?
  3. What is holding me back from getting the results that I want?
  4. What kind of knowledge do I need to improve? Example; training, nutrition, mechanics, strategy…
  5. What books, mentors or coaches can help me to improve?

After you complete this cheat sheet for yourself, it will give you a sense of control and a solid plan to improve. Every day we want to learn from EVERY experience good or bad, so remember, always ask yourself, “What did I do well and what do I need to improve on?” Once you learn to evaluate your performance with this method and not beat yourself up and judge yourself, you will see great improvements both on and off the field. Our goal is not perfection, it is to keep improving…

Perfection does not exist — you can always do better and you can always grow.” – Les Brown

Identity Theft!!

How many times have you been at a social event or chatting with someone and they ask, “What do you do?” It is a very common question and people reply with their profession, for example, I am a dentist or a teacher or maybe a professional racquetball player! It sounds like a standard conversation that you have probably had with people more times than you can count. We often confuse what we do with who we are. 

What we do is only a part of what makes us who we are. Let’s take a look at some attributes they truly define our identity:

  • Kindness
  • Faith
  • Ethics
  • Loyalty
  • Work Ethic
  • Discipline
  • Motivated

Those are some examples that are at the core of what makes you, you! So, where am I going with this and what does this have to do with racquetball? Often times we get our self-esteem wrapped in how well we did in a tournament or league and build our identity around our success. The first question asked to athletes after a match is, “Did you win?” The answer is either, yes or no. I won, so therefore I am a winner or I lost, so I am a loser! It is so important to not get your identity tangled up with how you perform.

Playing a sport is what you do because you love the competition, the challenge, the training and the personal satisfaction when you improve and yes, win!! Your identity comes from inside of you and then you display those qualities. When you get your identity from how you think people perceive you from the outside, based on your performance and you are always looking for other people to validate you, you are a victim of identity theft.  Don’t let your identity be defined or stolen by what you do but rather make a list of what makes you who you are and enjoy everything that makes you the unique and cool person that you have become and when you are solid with it, you now can enjoy what you do….

Image result for quotes on identity

Excuses..Excuses…Excuses….

When things don’t go our way, it is easy to explain why and blame it on a circumstance or another person. We have all had a lot of practice at making excuses when we were growing up! For example, we didn’t complete our homework because my friend said it wasn’t due, or I was late coming home because I didn’t know how late it was! The reason we came up with excuses was so we wouldn’t get in trouble and we didn’t want to accept responsibility for being wrong. It is much easier to blame our shortcomings on the circumstance or misinformation. The reality is, you could have checked when your homework was due and you should have kept up with what time it was. NO EXCUSES!!

How does this relate to basketball?

I lost the game because:

  • The referee made bad calls.
  • I was missing my jumpshot because the rim was too hard and the ball was bouncing out.
  • The court was slippery.
  • The opponent was fouling me and they weren’t calling it.
  • My teammate wasn’t in the right spot so I turned the ball over.

The list can go on and on and on. So instead of making excuses, let’s start coming up with solutions!

The referee was making bad calls, so-lution- I  took a deep breath, and refocused on the gameplan and the next shot…

The rim was too hard and my jumpshot was bouncing out, so-lution- I made sure that I adjusted my shot so it would fall…

The court was slippery for both of us, so-lution- we got the referee to have someone sweep the floor…

My opponent was fouling me and they weren’t calling it, so-lution I made sure to keep hustling and finished in case I didn’t get the foul…

My teammate wasn’t in the right spot so I turned over the ball, so-lution I adjusted the play when I didn’t see my teammate so I didn’t turn the ball over….

There are always going to be situations that come up in a game that we didn’t plan on happening. We have two choices, we can choose to make excuses so we don’t feel bad for losing, or we can be a problem solver and learn to think in terms of, this is what I have to work with today, how am I going to overcome this and figure out a way to play my best!! The more prepared you are physically and mentally going into a game, will be a direct reflection on your results!

You can have results or excuses-not both….

It’s All In Your Mind…Really!!

IT’S ALL IN YOUR MIND….REALLY!!

Wasn’t it fun when you were a kid and you would day dream about making the game winning shot at the buzzer or hitting the walk off home run to win the World Series! Sometimes it would be so real that you would even have the post- game interview. One of the most powerful tools that we possess is our ability to visualize different scenes in our mind.

It is always easier to go somewhere that you have already been than to try to find a new place for the first time.

When we visualize a body movement, there is a region of the brain that is activated, creating pathways through the brain cells as if you were actually doing the movement. Imagery is used for everything from practicing hitting a particular pitch that you are working on in practice or being in a game situation. Ok, so I just daydream about playing and it creates the pathways? Well, not quite, but it’s a start! In order to establish strong pathways the visualization has to be as real as possible. The visualization does not have to be long and can be done at any point in the day when you can relax and clear your mind. Let’s walk through a visualization using this scenario: your team is down by 1 run and it’s the bottom of the last inning, there are 2 outs, a runner on 2nd and 3rd and you are up to bat! You can almost feel yourself getting tense just reading about it!

Let’s walk through a visualization of your “At Bat”:

  1. Relax by sitting in a chair or lying down and take some deep breaths concentrating on the inhale through your nose and the exhale out of your mouth until you feel relaxed.
  2. The most important aspect of visualizing is to incorporate all of your senses- put yourself on the field – feel what the temperature is like(hot, cold, windy)-what does it smell like(dirt, snack bar)-what do you see(are there people watching, teammates)-Do you hear anything(fans cheering, parents yelling, coach, people talking)-how does your body feel(anxious, calm, adrenaline)
  3. Now you are ready to start your at bat
  4. Always visualize yourself being successful (we want to create the pathways that we want!)
  5. Start with your mental routine( deep breath, focal point, cue word)
  6. Put yourself in the game situation and see yourself waiting on your pitch and then hitting a great line drive that drives in an RBI. See yourself running to first, hear the fans cheering, and feel the excitement in your body!

This is just one example, always start with steps 1, 2 & 3 and then move on to whatever you would like to work on, maybe it is hitting an outside pitch to right field, or taking an inside pitch to the left.

Visualization is a key part of any mental routine and is used by all elite athletes throughout the world.

“Seeing is believing”