The time of year is upon us when many athletes prepare to take the next steps in their personal and physical development. For many this time of year is when skills, strength, speed, and mental focus can significantly advance. For this reason I am compelled to provide a framework to exponentially charge the progress in each of these areas. That is, to differentiate between just “showing up” to practice and engaging in training.
At the surface these two concepts almost appear redundant. However, they really aren’t and it is important to know the difference.
The concept of training centers on an athlete’s vision for a goal they want to accomplish and doing the work to generate crystal clarity about what needs to be accomplished in order to see the vision become reality. This vision or goal may include making a team, increasing ones contribution or playing time on a current team, running a marathon, preparing for a challenge, or deepening ones physical and mental tools. The focus on training is on growing discipline, focus, consistency and overall personal development because this is how exponential gains are earned rather than the incremental progress that is the mindset associated with practice.
The focus for practice is a single ‘moment in time’, a scheduled block of time that provides the opportunity to work on a skill or set of skills often done in repetitive fashion seeking to incrementally move an athlete or individual closer to their vision of achievement. Here is the problem…it is possible for one to practice but not train. I have worked with athletes too often that continually show up to a practice session lacking clear goals, leading to a lack of focus, as well as, disconnected from a overall plan, investing significant time, energy and resources only to find themselves at the end no closer to any goal than when they started.
So how does practicing turn into training?
This happens when five elements converge:
1. A clear and challenging goal or achievement is set. (requiring significant progression)
2. The skills needed to qualify for the achievement are clearly identified.
3. A holistic plan is created that puts forth a series of practices that build momentum towards the achievement sought after. (including mental skills)
4. The athlete engages, commits and focuses on these skills intentionally in each practice with the desire to push beyond current limitations. (living more comfortable with discomfort)
5. Quality coaching brings feedback and correction immediately to enhance learning. (expertise, and relevant immediate feedback and correction)
The individual blocks of work often disconnected from any clear goal are practices. The long haul daily grind connected to a goal or clear point of accomplishment is training. Very rarely does any ONE practice or block of time get one to their goal or achievement, it is the ongoing focused energy and commitment to deliberate and daily practice (I am calling training) that qualifies one to gain not only the physical tools needed but also the character and mental toughness and focus required to achieve and succeed to the extent required to reach the long term goal.
My challenge is to TRAIN your way to your vision and goals, use practice as your on ramp to accomplish what it is going to take for you to get to your end result. The character, mental toughness, and discipline required to do this not only helps you in your sport, but also deepens your character along the way.