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Life Lessons

The Great Equalizer

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about? — Henry David Thoreau

(Note: Today’s post contains two items about use of time. The first concerns how time is spent specifically at practice. The second refers more generally to life.)

What do you suppose are the most important minutes of any practice?

To me, they’re the 15 minutes before practice actually starts.

That’s when an athlete can gain an advantage over the competition by getting repetitions that other people do not. It’s a chance to get extra instruction, to work on fundamentals , or try to nail down what happened in the previous practice.

Jeff Robbins, an excellent coach with whom I’m working this winter, spotted the following quote on SI Vault from pro golfer Notah Begay. “Whether you’re rich or poor, you have 24 hours in a day. That’s your resource. As an athlete, you ask yourself, ‘What do you do with it?’”

Our athletes all get the same 15 minutes before practice. But not all of them get the same OUT OF those 15 minutes. We ask them to do three things when they get to the gym:

Get to work.
Work on the right thing.
Work on the right thing in the right way.

Let’s take a closer look at those three steps.

Get to work. Some athletes arrive at the gym and make an art form out of delay. They talk on the phone, get something to eat, or generally waste time. Every minute spent in delay is a minute without improvement.
Work on the right thing. In our gym, we’ve told the athletes exactly what we want them to do: work on short shots. If they’re doing anything else, they’re doing the wrong thing.
Work on the right thing in the right way. We’ve taught a specific way to shoot, with emphasis on certain keys. If the practice shots are sloppy, it makes no difference if the players are doing the wright thing. Doing the right thing in the wrong way is as bad as not doing it at all.

The more often the players do the right thing the right way, the more they improve. They stand in great company: Jerry Rice, Larry Bird and Steve Carlton are just some of the athletes who became great through extraordinary practice routines.

This comes courtesy of Kevin Reilly, asssistant women’s basketball coach at Ramapo College:

A man opened his wife’s drawer and picked up a package wrapped in silk paper. “This,” he said, “isn’t any ordinary package.”

He unwrapped the box and stared at both the silk paper and the package. “She got this the first time we went to New York , eight or nine years ago. She has never put it on. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is it.”

He got near the bed and placed the gift box next to the other clothing he was taking to the funeral house. His wife had just died.

The man turned and said, “Never save something for a special occasion. Every day in your life is a special occasion.”

Let those words change your life. Read more and clean less. Sit on the porch without worrying about anything. Spend more time with your family and less at work.

Use crystal glasses every day. Wear new clothes to go to the supermarket. Let the words “Someday” and “One Day” fade from your vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing, listening to or doing, then see, listen or do it now.

Each day, each hour, each minute, is special. Live for today, for tomorrow is promised to no one.


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