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Beating the Odds

Getting Ready for the Big Game

If there’s one thing that every coach and athlete wants to know, it’s how to get primed for the big game.

There’s really only one answer to that question: There are no big games. There are only big moments, and the biggest moment is right now.

Here’s how it works: Most people have no trouble at all getting up for a game or a test. But most people have lots of trouble getting up for the practices. They go through the motions, approaching their preparation with no emotion or care.

So if you REALLY want to perform exceptionally when it matters most, then you must find a way to get truly excited about practice.

Right now I’m blogging from Catonsville, Md., at a Gold Medal Squared volleyball coaching clinic. The people putting on the clinic are among those responsible for last summer’s men’s Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing. They are experts in preparation: how to get the most out of practice through correct principles and time management. Among those here are Ron Larsen, one of the coaches.

Of course, they aren’t the only ones with an exceptional approach to practice. Heather O’Reilly, a professional soccer player who was profiled here months ago, became legendary in her area because of the way she treated practice time. Every time she touched a soccer ball it was like the most important thing in the world. She never gave away a chance to improve; she treasured every opportunity to grow.

When he was a boy, Hall of Fame basketball player Larry Bird practiced with a rim that had been nailed to the garage and with a ball with lumps in it. But he still worked for four hours a day, using the balls flaws to help him become a better dribbler. No wonder he grew into a championship player! He had overcome much more difficult obstacles every day in his own yard!

So if you really want to do well when the spotlight goes on, then you have to figure out a way to bring excitement to your practice gym. It’s not easy. If it were, then everyone would do it. If you do it, you will be ahead of those who don’t.


One comment for “Getting Ready for the Big Game”

  1. Mike it was great to meet you @ the GM2 clinic the other weekend, your website is awesome. A quick story that sort of relates to the subject. A few years ago our H.S. volleyball team seemed like they were peaking at the right time(regional tournament) but for whatever reason we didn’t perform very well in the state tournament. So the following year I emailed Carl McGown (we have been working w/GM2 for several yrs.)and asked him how they practice leading up to a big match or event (i.e. for us the state torunament)he replied that they typically go for a shorter time period in practice but more intensely. So we tried that approach that particular year and did not have much better results (got upset in the first round of the state tournament by a lower ranked team). Then as I was reading Anson Dorrance’s book “The Man Watching” (it might have been vision of a champion?) Anson stated that his teams usually have more recreational practices leading up to “big” events. Believing that there is enough pressure for females already w/the big game coming up, he did not want to add to that stress. Perplexed by the two differing approaches, I happened to be in communication with John Kessel, director of developement (or something like that) for USA volleyball, so I asked him about the two different view points and he gave an very interesting answer. Mr. Kessel stated that he thought both were right, that with boys/men (which Carl is most experienced) you should probably have more intense practices, but he believed Anson was correct with his approach when it came to coaching girls. Ironically we tried Anson’s approach the next two years with more positive results, state runner-up in 07′ and state champions in 08′. Whether or not the week’s practice leading up to these events actually made the difference is debatable But having the utmost respect for both of these men I reccomend Anson’s approach when coaching females! What are your thoughts?

    Posted by Shawn Martz | June 22, 2009, 8:25 pm

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