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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Part II: Consistent High Levels of Performance: How It’s Done

As discussed in Part I: Consistent High Levels of Performance: How It’s Done, many athletes set long-term goals that encompass what they want to accomplish by the end of a season, in high school, college, and/or even beyond, but how many set daily training goals that they vehemently and relentlessly pursue? And how many, once they can consistently and easily accomplish those, challenge themselves further by increasing their expectation of how well these daily training goals are performed? Maybe even combining two or three skills into a group of skills relative to how they will be used when competing, thus, demonstrating a true commitment toward mastery and reaching one’s potential. From what I have gleaned through my experiences as an athlete, coach, teacher, and parent of two club/high school/collegiate athletes, there are not many athletes who have these types of expectations.

For me, it just came with the territory – trying to achieve a long-term goal that was said to be impossible. I learned, out of necessity, to set daily objectives that had to be completed with impeccable execution. The better I got, the higher level of execution I expected, and/or the more difficult I made the combination of skills. My training for any particular day was not over until I accomplished these objectives, and I was relentless in my pursuit of them. It took some focused effort to find the right balance between what was too much and what was too little, and what level of execution I could reasonably attain in the amount of practice time available, but this judgment became a simple task in short order.

It is my belief that the above training strategy is one of those little things that makes a very big difference when trying to attain consistent high levels of performance, and when competing against individuals, and/or teams, that are just as talented as you. It is what I call a separator; it is something that separates those who are good athletes from those who are great athletes.

The central focal point of setting and accomplishing daily objectives is on perfecting and mastering one’s skills. The big advantage behind a strategy like this is that improvement becomes much more reliable, rather than just a hope. However, based on my experience with this training strategy, I think it essential I clarify a few very important points. Doing so will help promote the appropriate thought process – essential for success and preparing you for the type of work that lies ahead if you decide to travel this path.

1. In order to truly reap high levels of benefit from this technique, you must fully accept, adopt, and take to heart the Four Attributes That Lead To Athletic Greatness discussed in my previous blog. Not doing so tremendously decreases effectiveness. It is not that it won’t still help, just that the intensity of focus is just not there.
(a) Care
(b) Pride
(c) Passion
(d) High Expectations

2. There are some that will refute the effectiveness of this strategy for team sports due to the specific focus and individual nature it incorporates. However, I am not in agreement with this train of thought. All sports, whether team or individual, contain skills that must be executed in order to play/perform. The higher the level an athlete can execute their skills, and consistency with which that high level is performed, the greater the chances of their (and their team’s) success.

3. Make no mistake, you will experience higher levels of frustration than you might be used to. However, it is this same frustration that you can use to find an inner sense of motivation, if you need it.

4. You must be fully vested in this endeavor. It is not something that is applied haphazardly but rather with consistency and purpose in mind.

5. You must adopt an attitude of relentless pursuit. Going through the motions is simply not an option.

6. There will be times, especially on tough training days, that you may need to make adjustments to expectations you have regarding your daily objectives in order to finish a given practice. This will be important in creating a balance between sports, school, and the rest of your life.

Additionally, remember that few people ever became great at something without having difficulties along the way—and then using those difficulties as a means to learn, inspire, motivate, and improve.


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