SCOTT BAKER’S WALKIN’ THE SIDELINES: The Value of Practice

Practice?

Are you talking about practice? Practice?

Yes.

I’m definitely going to talk about practice.

A former Philadelphia 76ers guard would certainly love to talk about practice.

Oh, maybe not.

Throughout my coaching career, I enjoyed the games. However, I loved practice.

Practice?

Indeed, I’m talking about practice.

Sure, games are exciting. Parents and fans are there. The officials are there. Cheerleaders and pep bands may be there. Perhaps the media and cameras are there as well. A score is kept. There is a winner and a loser. Despite that, I loved practice.

Practice? Why?

I enjoyed the teaching that occurred in practices. Practice is where the most teaching occurs. Can a coach teach during a game or contest?

Surely, they can and most do. However, practice provides the best opportunities for teaching to take place. Now as a coach, I had a few rules for practice — a few rules that were designed to be easy for the players to understand and follow. What were they?

Be on time and work hard.

First, let me say that on time meant 10 minutes before the scheduled start time. You see, I’m of the philosophy that you are either early or you are late. It’s quite simple.

Second, working hard entails making sure that the player understands two requirements in everything they do. We always worked around two key concepts: attitude and effort. I always felt that it was critical for players to have a good attitude everyday. Similarly, I believed that it was important for players to give maximum effort at all times.

Now on the subject of effort, I have heard many times when a coach would say they wanted 110% effort from their players. I never asked that. I’ve always believed that the maximum someone could give was 100%. That’s all I wanted, all that they had. Nothing more, nothing less.

Practices are a time for coaches, players and teams to work on things, to work on skills, to work on offenses and defense, and to work on relationships.

Yes, relationships.

Relationships must be built between coaches and players. They must be built between players and players. It is best if this is done where and when there is no outside interference. Therefore, I strongly believe that practices should be off limits to parents. Sorry parents. I know some will not like this or agree with me. However, please be mindful that this is just my opinion on the matter. I do not have this opinion because I believe that coaches have something to hide. Rather, I believe that practice is a time, the time, when coaches and players should focus solely on the task at hand. That task is to become better both as individuals and as a team. Distractions are unnecessary.

So yes, I believe practice is critical to individual and team development.

Practice?

Yes, practice.

Why then if practice is so important do some players and parents alike place so little emphasis on it?

I’ve experienced and have heard other coaches talk about players failing to understand the value of practice. A commonly missed practice day is often the one after games.

Why?

What better day than that to correct mistakes?

Too many players use practice days as a time to rest up for games. If they have the sniffles or a headache on a practice day, they take it off. Would they do the same if it were a game day?

Little chance.

Family time is scheduled during practice time. Therefore, the player misses practice. Would they miss a game for the same family situation?

Little chance.

The parent schedules an appointment for their kid during practice time. Would they make the same appointment and have their kid risk missing a game?

Little chance.

Now hear me out, do I think that kids get sick?

Yes, I do.

Do I think that family time is important?

Yes, I absolutely do.

Do I think that appointments are sometimes necessary?

Yes, I do.

My point is not whether those things are important, but rather whether or not practice time needs to be missed when they occur. I encourage players and parents alike to place an emphasis on practice time. Being in attendance at practice is of critical importance for individuals and teams to develop to their full potential. Failing to attend practices sends a loud message to coaches and teammates about the commitment that a player has towards the player and team becoming the best they can be.

So practice?

Yes, it is important to be at practice.

At the same time, it is just as important to put everything into practice once you get there. Putting forth an effort that is anything less than 100% is completely unacceptable. I’ve always been amazed by the amount of players that I’ve witnessed over the years leave a practice session and not even be sweating. What is up with that? Without question, players should be tired at the conclusion of a practice session. Otherwise, one should wonder whether or not they put maximum effort into that session.

Now what about the gamer?

For those who don’t know, there is this idea that some players are better game players than they are practice players. In other words, they perform better in games than they do at practice.

Do I believe that is the case that this type of player exists?

Yes, I do.

However, it should never be the case that the player is better in games simply because his or her effort is better. A player that can’t put 100% effort into practice shouldn’t be granted the opportunity to demonstrate their gamer ability. It is true that some players will play not because of their practice performance, but rather their game performance. However, what should not be mistaken is that those players who fail to put 100% effort into practice on a daily basis are failing themselves and their teammates. This failure prohibits them and ultimately the team from ever achieving their full potential.

Practice?

Yes. Practice.

Does it make you perfect?

No.

Does it make you better?

You bet, but only with a commitment to doing it regularly and well.

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