How To Create A Killer Practice Plan For Yourself
Practice is the cornerstone of greatness.
In order to reach your goals and become the type of athlete you wish to be, training is required. But when it comes to judging yourself as an athlete, your mind immediately shoots to performances.
Now, this is completely understandable. No one is giving out awards for the best practice player. You’re not getting recruited or moving onto the next level because of how amazing you are in practice. All of that is based on outcomes.
However, when it comes to you evaluating yourself, the first place you need to look is practice. And a question you need to ask is, “Do I have a practice plan in place?”
In this article, we’re going to dive into why having a practice plan is so important and show you exactly how to structure your own for long-term success.
The Power Of A Practice Plan
As I said in the introduction, athletes are judged based upon how they perform in games. So I understand that your goals are focused on the results you get during a performance. But let me ask you a question: can you always control what happens in a game?
Of course not!
There are too many uncontrollable factors playing into the outcome to be able to truly control what happens. You desire a certain result, but you can’t force it to happen.
This highlights exactly why having a practice plan is so powerful. While you can’t control the outcome of a game, what you can control is how you prepare. And by focusing on preparation, there are many positive benefits that will increase your success as an athlete.
A Practice Plan Leads To Consistency
Once again, the outcome cannot be forced.
As much as you and I both wish we could control the result of a game, or any other aspect of our lives, the truth is there’s too much out of our control. So how then, can you work to be more consistent?
Consistent performances are highly sought after by athletes and coaches alike. No one wants to be streaky and coaches want a player they can trust will dish out consistent performances.
In order to be such a player, you need to be focused on being consistent in preparation. The outcome you want will happen as a result of consistently preparing yourself to perform.
This type of consistency is built through a well crafted practice plan.
A Practice Plan Increases Confidence
When you’re comfortable with something, confidence comes easy. That’s because confidence is all about trusting that you can do what you’re setting out to do. In terms of athletics, this means having trust in yourself and your skills.
A well thought through practice plan will work to build such confidence.
As you’ll learn further along in the article, a practice plan involves building upon strengths and working to improve weaknesses. The more you work to improve areas of your game where you already excel, the greater confidence you’ll have.
Also, the more you work to improve your weaknesses (areas where you likely lack confidence) the greater your confidence will be.
Confidence is all about experience. The more you see yourself succeed, the more confident you will be. So, if there is an area of your game where you lack confidence, it’s due to the lack of experience you’ve had seeing yourself succeed.
With a practice plan, you are providing yourself with such experience. By deliberately working on certain areas, you allow yourself to succeed during practice, which will translate into increased confidence come game time.
"Confidence is all about experience. The more you see yourself succeed, the more confident you will be."
A Practice Plan Boosts Focus
Developing a practice plan is all about intent. You don’t want to show up to training, unsure what your goal is that day. Everytime you practice, you need to have a purpose. With a good practice plan, you give yourself such purpose.
Let’s say you go into practice, not really sure what you’re striving to improve. When a distraction, whether internal or external presents itself, it will be much easier to lose focus. Since you never really had a strong focal point to begin with, your attention will quickly wander.
However, when you know what your intention is for each practice, you have such a focal point. There is a concrete plan you can return to each time you find yourself distracted. This plan will help to keep you focused throughout each practice.
How To Structure Your Own Practice Plan
Practice plans are not always easy to create for yourself, especially when you’re in a team sport. You may be wondering how you can create a plan, when your coach decides what you do for practice?
Well, when you’re coming up with your own plan, there are a couple different ways of thinking about it.
First, you can create a plan for the training you do outside of practice. Putting in extra hours of practice is great, but only if it is deliberate and with a purpose. Otherwise, you are more than likely tiring yourself out without making any real progress.
So, you can use this practice plan when coming up with your own training routine.
You can also use this practice plan for team practices, by giving yourself something to work on, no matter what your coach decides to do. This is especially true once you start to get the rhythm of practice.
For example, back in college, I knew that most days of baseball practice I would take batting practice and field ground balls. So, a practice plan could have involved working on aspects of my swing, or parts of my fielding I wanted to improve.
Let’s say you’re a basketball player. Lately you’ve struggled driving to the basket and you know that more than likely you’ll run a scrimmage to end practice. So, part of your practice plan is to work on driving to the basket during the scrimmage.
So you see, no matter whether you’re training on your own or with your team, a practice plan can be created as a way to increase your focus and provide you with purpose.
Identify Your Strengths
Now, most people will immediately think weaknesses are the first place you must start when crafting a practice plan. However, I don’t believe this to be the case.
Great athletes are such because they’ve learned how to leverage and master their strengths. Yes, working on weaknesses is important and we’ll get to that. But first, you need to identify the areas within your game that are already strengths.
Think about where you excel. If you’re a basketball player, are you a good ball handler, shooter, or defender? As a sprinter, are you stronger from the start, or does your strength present itself when you reach top speeds?
To identify your strengths, you can make a list of all the areas you believe are your strong points. Then, ask a teammate, parent, friend, or coach what they believe to be your strengths.
With all of this information, you’ll have a solid understanding of the areas within your game deemed to be strengths.
After you outline these, it’s time to put a plan in place to improve.
Decide on how you can continue to fine tune and improve each of your strengths during practice. Do not feel satisfied and content with your skills. Seek to continually improve yourself. By doing so and working to get better and better in the areas where you already excel, you will become a much stronger player.
"Great athletes are such because they’ve learned how to leverage and master their strengths. Yes, working on weaknesses is important and we’ll get to that. But first, you need to identify the areas within your game that are already strengths."
Look Into The Areas You Need To Improve
Now that you’ve identified your strengths, it’s time to turn your attention to your weaknesses.
Weaknesses work against you as an athlete not only because they weaken your game physically, but they also reduce your confidence. When faced with a situation within a game that requires you to utilize an area that’s a weakness, self-doubt will fill your mind.
Through improving areas within your game where you aren’t quite as skilled, you’ll build confidence and work to become a more complete player.
When you’re identifying weaknesses, use a very similar approach to identifying strengths.
Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper. List out all the areas within your game you believe to be weaknesses. When compiling your list, think about times when you doubt yourself. This will help to highlight skills and situations you don’t view as strengths.
After writing out your own list, seek the input of others. Just as with your strengths, ask your teammates, parents, friends, and coaches what they believe to be weaknesses within your game.
Now you should have a good idea of where you can improve. Craft your practice plan to focus on turning those weaknesses into strengths.
Don’t Forget The Mental Side
At this point, you’ve outlined a practice plan likely aiming to build upon your physical strengths and improve your weaknesses. But there’s a key piece to the puzzle you cannot forget: the mental side.
When crafting a killer practice plan, you simply cannot overlook your mental skills. You want to take the same approach as above, identifying both your strengths and weaknesses. Then, use that information to implement mental training tools into your practice plan.
Training your mind will happen during practice, but also involves additional training each day on your own. By creating a practice plan for yourself, you ensure you are putting forth the necessary effort on a daily basis to make the changes you wish to see happen.
Whether you decide you want to work on confidence, calming your mind, being more focused, increasing motivation, performing better under pressure, or anything else, there are a certain set of mental training tools and techniques that will help.
In deciding on a practice plan focusing on the mental side of your game, here are a set of tools you want to make use of:
- Mental Imagery: also known as mental rehearsal and visualization, mental imagery is a powerful tool you can use to both build upon strengths and improve weaknesses. You can make use of mental imagery to decrease anxiety, increase confidence, perform better under pressure, and gain mastery in your skills.
- Mindfulness: whether your aim is to calm the mind, focus your attention better, or drown out distractions, mindfulness will help. This is the process of training yourself to focus in the moment, be more present, and have control over your attention.
- Self-Talk: the way you speak to yourself has a larger impact on your performance than you can imagine. It’s the core feature in how you feel and the belief you have in yourself and your skills. Training self-talk will provide you with more confidence, a calmer mind, and more control over your focus.
"Training your mind will happen during practice, but also involves additional training each day on your own. By creating a practice plan for yourself, you ensure you are putting forth the necessary effort on a daily basis to make the changes you wish to see happen."
Every practice and training session needs to be approached with intent. Otherwise, you are wasting your time and holding yourself back from the potential that lays idle within.
To gain such intent and purpose, you want to create a practice plan for yourself. Identify your strengths, outline your weaknesses, and don’t forget to focus on the mental side as well.
Take all this information and create a practice plan for yourself. That way, you are steadily making progress as an athlete and leaving no stone unturned in your aim for success.
If you are interested in learning more about the mental training tools you need to create a killer practice plan and really take your skills to the next level, click here to learn more about Mental Training Advantage.
It’s a 14 day course that covers all the sport psychology and mental training tools you need. It’s a program you don’t want to miss if you’re serious about reaching your potential.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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