The True Value Of Practice Written By Renee Ferguson
I read an article a couple of weeks ago that got me thinking about how my current team was approaching practice time. We have been in the gym since January 15th and thanks to the wonderful weather we have had on the east coast, we won’t even be able to get onto our field before our first game. Fact of the matter is this: the girls are tired of just practicing. They want to showcase what they have learned this winter and are pretty much over listening to me tell them how important their foot work and glove work is to prepare them for the our upcoming games.
Anyway, the article I read was called, “With commitment, the only way out is forward” by Dan Oswald. It actually a business centered article that goes a little something like this, “A man is in a restroom standing in front of a urinal when he finds himself with a dilemma. He has somehow dropped a $5 bill into the urinal. As he is contemplating what he should do about his five bucks, another man enters the restroom. The second man quickly sees the problem and asks, ‘What are you going to do?’ The first man thinks it over for a minute. He then pulls his wallet out of his pocket, withdraws a $100 bill, and tosses it into the urinal! The second man stands in amazement at what he has just seen. He asks, ‘What are you doing? Why would you do that? You just made your problem much worse.’ The first man smiles at him and says, “Well, you don’t think I’d stick my hand in a urinal for just $5, do you?”
After reading this I had an epiphany. The girls were approaching our practices as of late as that lone $5 bill in the bottom of the urinal. While they can see its value staring them in the face, they are convinced that reaching in to grab it just isn’t worth getting their hands dirty. They have been taking the approach that our practices are only worth so much effort if there is a larger reward waiting on them. I can only assume in this case that the reward they are looking for is an actual game on an actual field and not practicing in the gym every night. The problem with this is that they are approaching their prep time for games as “worthless”. Sure they may actually have a value of $5 but if we do the actual math on this and the girls continue to approach our practices as only being worth $5 each and looking at our games as the $100 incentive, it would literally take 20 practices to prepare for one lone $100 game.
My philosophy has always been that practices should be harder than games and, if there is ever a time where the game seems harder than it should, I am not doing my job to prepare them as a coach. So when I presented the information to them as I have you and they heard the actual math they realized they were setting themselves up for failure. In sports you can’t really count one thing as more important than another; they all lead you to the same place if you approach each distinct area with the same mastery mindset. I quickly expressed to them that every drill or activity we do needs to be approached with the mindset that they want to be able to execute it flawlessly, while I know that’s not possible it will minimize our mistakes on the field. It’s my hope that by giving them a refresher on the purpose of practice and its worth (both figuratively and literally in this instance) I will see a new found sense of focus and pride while we are at practice. I hope that passing the question, “what is your practice worth?” to you gets you thinking about the way you stress specific skills and drills in practice. Are you accepting $5 from your players on a regular basis or do you only accept $100 effort in every situation?
Renee Ferguson Renee has over 30 years of combined playing and coaching experience at the select and college levels. After a 3 year stint as Division I, Morgan State University’s pitching coach; Renee was appointed the Head Women’s softball Coaching position at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. Where she lead the Pioneer Softball team to an 8th place finish, in the NJCAA DIII Nationals in Rochester MN after taking the helm only weeks before the 2013 season started. Renee’s goal is to instill the love and passion that she has for the game, into each and every one of her players and students.
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