“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Successful performance requires purposeful preparation. This is true in school, sports, business, and life. As an athlete, your preparation should be year-round, and include sport-specific skill development (for example, basketball ball-handling and shooting); strength and conditioning; and nutrition.
Sport-Specific Skill Development
The first step toward improvement is gaining an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses (I like to refer to them as “areas of opportunity”). If you have access to video footage of your games, watch it — video doesn’t lie. Sit down with your coach and have a discussion about what he or she thinks you do well and the areas in which you can improve. Your goal should be to become a better all-around (complete) player. The more you can contribute — on both sides of the ball — the greater your value to your team. You want to be an asset to your team when you’re on the field or court… not a liability. Don’t get caught up comparing yourself to teammates and/or opponents. Focus on self-improvement — be better today than you were yesterday.
Strength and Conditioning
Improvements in strength, speed, agility, and athleticism can only benefit you as an athlete. A strength and conditioning professional can help you develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals as an athlete. Your strength and conditioning plan should be periodized, with phases to address the off-season, pre-season, and in-season. Generally, as your sport-specific activity increases, your strength and conditioning activity should decrease (taper), and vice-versa. Your strength and conditioning plan should also be progressive, gradually increasing in intensity over time to ensure improvement. Don’t take the in-season phase off — it’s important to maintain what you’ve developed!
Learn how to fuel your body for optimum performance. You can refer to several of my previous blog posts that discuss the importance of breakfast, pre- and post-workout nutrition, and sports performance nutrition. Don’t underestimate the impact proper nutrition can make — it can affect your metabolism, energy level, and mental focus.
It’s important to set some challenging but attainable (realistic) goals. You’re probably not going to go from being a 50% free-throw shooter to an 80% shooter, overnight. It’s fine for your ultimate goal to be 80%, but set incremental goals along the way. Develop a plan (in writing) that incorporates lots of purposeful practice and repetition. Decide how you will measure success, then align your plan with — and channel your efforts toward — your goal.