Smart Practice

Even if you are an athlete or active individual, without a coach, smart practice strategies can help you to reach your desirable goals and rewards.

Published May 02, 2013 05:16

Smart Practice
Carlos Rodriguez, Li Na

You may hear of an athlete or sporting teams that go straight back to practice and spend even more hours of training after losing early at a competition. Is this the best solution to turning around the athlete or the teams' success? Many times, the answer is NO!

There are many variations that must be considered in this situation. These need to be discussed between coach and athlete/team, to determine the best course of action. Even if you are an athlete or active individual, without a coach, smart practice strategies can help you to reach your desirable goals and rewards.


What do you need? What does your team really desire and require? A Life in competition, whether you are an individual athlete or part of a team, is filled with pressure both on and off the sporting arena. Your ability to read yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually is the key to success.

• Treat yourself as a whole person not just as an athlete.
• This holistic approach will help you reach your goals.

What does this mean to you? It means that when you or your team, experience a bad loss do not be afraid to review your training options. Your body and mind may be trying to send you a message.
There are alternatives to flogging yourself at practice, which is likely to cause you more damage than good.


Your motor patterns of your performance (the anticipation, activity and wiring of your muscles and nervous system that allows you to automatically and skillfully perform) are firmly entrenched. Your body does not forget how to perform after a day or a week of no training! Consider that when you are tired:
MENTALLY you are flat so you are not reacting as quickly. This causes the feeling that you are struggling on court or the field.
PHYSICALLY you are not moving and reacting quickly enough .You feel slow and sluggish.
EMOTIONALLY you are drained so your nervous system is slow to respond. You feel very jaded and unable to anticipate or concentrate well.

These aspects will not improve by spending more hours of training!

• Consider your individual requirements for work, rest and play in every training decision you, your team (and your coach) make regarding your schedule and weekly practice activities.
• The choices you make daily will determine if you reach your goals and have a happy, long career.
• Champions oversee their programs and make educated choices about how and when they train.


VARIETY will keep your body and mind balanced. Experience another sport and cross train for fun and performance benefits. It will keep your body active and stimulate your nervous system like never before. Try swimming, bike riding, in-line-skating and team activities like soccer.

RECOVERY is critical. Include regular massage, hot and cold hydrotherapies and stretching every day. Other active experiences such as cross training or mind-body activities like Yoga and Tai Chi may also assist your body, mind and soul to recover faster.

Perhaps most important is that these experiences take you away from the environment that is causing you stress. Your body and mind will love you for it and you will be refreshed and eager to get back out when the time is right.


Practice sessions are important to maintain and develop your performance: to understand the way you need to perform to win and how you maximize your strengths and address your weaknesses appropriately for the level at which you are competing. It is critically important to ensure that your time of practice is effective and efficient.

Include these aspects into your training program to keep your mind and body stimulated:
• Variety of practice partners. Different athletes will stimulate and challenge you with their distinctive ways with styles.
• Sessions that involve drills and activities aimed at building your confidence and self-belief. Target your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Mental training is a major part of success for a professional athlete.


After a match, you can be physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted, especially if you lose.
• Right after a competition is usually not the most appropriate time or mindset in which to learn, to make changes or address an issue in your performance.
• Wait for 24 hours so that you are more ready to understand and appreciate feedback.
• This also gives you or your team and your coach time to reflect on what needs to be improved.
• Sometimes athletes and coaches mistake skills for confidence or visa-versa. If it is confidence in an area you lack, it may only take a short, properly structured time of training (20 minutes) to have you feeling great again.
• A short confidence boosting session can be very useful after a win when you will be competing again soon.
• Communicate with your coach about when is the most effective time for you to practice.
Effective learning and practice occurs in many ways. Use mental training, such as visual and verbal feedback using tapes, diagrams and conversations and visualization techniques.

You, have the final responsibility to look after yourself. Make smart and educated choices about how you are feeling and modify your training and practice schedule accordingly.

When you train, remember to engage your brain!


The contents of the Health site are for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, psychiatric, psychological, health care or health management advice. The materials herein are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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