Dice
Creative Commons License photo credit: Paul Cheek

“More often in life, we end up regretting the chances in life that we had, but didn’t take them, than those chances that we took and wished we hadn’t.”Anonymous

Going for the Slam 
photo
credit: Darhawk

“It's not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice.” — Eric Lindros

With three kids in many different sports and music programs, it seems there is always a practice of some sort to go to. Right now it's baseball, softball, and piano.

This got me thinking about the value of practice – on several different angles.

Practice is for What?

What things do we (as adults) practice? What are we working at getting better at? And this isn't just doing our job we're paid to do. Usually this is the "game" situation. How are we practicing, when it doesn't count? We need to spend time reading, taking classes, learning new things. Think about when you've tried something new – you're probably excited, maybe taking a class, or learning how to do "it" on the side. You want to be good when it counts. But what happens after we become "good"? Does practice take a back seat? I think the answer is yes, often in can. But we must not become complacent in our practicing of the skills we have. The better we become at using these skills, the more we'll be able to use these skills for good.

Do You Just Show Up?

So, you're practicing? But is it productive practice? To get the most out of our practice, we need to make it quality time spent. This means we are fully engaged during our training time. Maybe we set aside a certain time of day (i.e. taking a class at the local community college). Or maybe we read a book, having a highlighter and notebook along. Or maybe we work on something with a group of people, with everyone contributing value to the group. The key here is that we're not just at practice for the sake of practice. We're there to get better at whatever it is that burns inside of us.

Make It Fun

If you're not enjoying practice, then maybe you're not enjoying the "game" either. Enjoy what you do, and practice will be as fun as the real thing. If it's fun, you're more likely to stick with it.

Apply What You've Learned

What good is practice if you go out afterward and just keep doing what you've always done? The key to practice is that you learn something and apply it. This is why we practice. We are working at getting better at what we do (or want to do).

This all reminds me of a couple of college courses I've had (several years ago!). If you think of the college course as the practice, then the real thing would be either the class tests, or applying what you've learned in real life situations. Some of these classes, I know I didn't apply what I had learned, and the price I paid was poor grades on tests. At the time, I was happy to have passed. But in reality, what did I learn? Not a lot, and especially not a lot that would stay with me once I left that class. So, in that case, I had just showed up, had little fun, and couldn't apply at all what I had learned. My practice in these classes, was of little practical use for me.

How many times in our life does this happen?  The key is to minimize (or eliminate) these.  This is done by having fun at what we're doing and learning. In turn, this leads to us wanting to learn more, and grow and improve. And that's what practice is all about!

baseball for baby bob
Creative Commons License photo credit: ryan loucks photography

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime. ” ~ Babe Ruth

It’s youth baseball season here right now. Last night brought two games at our household – for my older son (13) and younger son (9). On the one hand, both games ended in defeat. On the other hand, both boys each had what I felt was their best personal performance of the year. I came home excited by their performances, telling them it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. But, was that the right approach?

As a parent, I was most pleased that my children performed well for the team. And, I believe both boys felt they had performed well. But their view was more focused on the team. They were more upset about losing the game than on have a great personal game.

Taking this all into perspective, the kids had this one right. It is better to share in the victory of a team over the individual effort of one. That is not to say the indivual effort is not to be praised. The key, though, is to meld together individual performance for the betterment of the team.

This, of course, applies to all team sports. But in can apply in other areas as well. Think work teams, or teams of volunteers, or family “teams”. When we can get everyone on the team (no matter what kind of team we have) working together toward a common goal, with everyone putting forth their best effort, is when we have the greatest opportunity to have a great team effort. Maybe this results in a win (little league baseball), or maybe it results in a successful software implementation (work project), or maybe it results in a successful clean-up of a local park (volunteer project), or maybe it results in a great family vacation (family). In the end, how the team performs trumps individual performance. Invidual performance plays a factor in the team performance, but only if it is in alignment with the team.

So, in the activities that matter in our life, it is important that we strive to give our personal best. At that same time, however, it is equally important that our personal achievements are in alignment with the overall achievement of our team. It is then that we will experience the true success of these teams!

That which we really want takes effort, and time, and sweat, and tears, and failures, and practice, and …..

This applies to sports (here), and this applies to your life.

So, don’t make excuses. Instead, go out there and work for what you really want.

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