How important is it to practice when you don’t want to?

Posted: 2014/02/24 in From the perspective of an Archery Coach.

I work with youth that are athletic by nature, of course, but I’m also hired to assist these competitive minded individuals in dealing with the stresses that just everyday practice can apply.

For example, I’m now working with a formerly “competitive level” swimmer that has not been in a pool to compete in about 2 years. From what I can tell, his exit from the sport wasn’t as gradual as you might think. At first, it was just not wanting to go and practice every now and then. Then, it was finding ways to do anything but practice, including faking injuries. Eventually, he created situations that would not afford him the time to practice at all.¬†Unfortunately, an athlete can only do this type of thing for so long before the guilt of not being able to perform as expected kicks in, this combines with the guilt that derives from not wanting to answer questions, or the guilt from having to face peers that have advanced while they’ve slipped behind.

What I discovered…

This young man, in his teens, was spending far too much time in a pool, practices at 6:am almost everyday, practices at 4:30 pm almost everyday. Sure his performance was improving but was it really? It’s been my experience that athletes that over train are preparing themselves for a quicker fall from grace, if you will. When I first met him, if we spoke about swimming at all, his eyes glazed over and he quickly became uninterested in maintaining any level of conversation. However, talk to him about other activities like school, other sports, or girls, and his interest peaked. The kicker was he had no social interactions with anyone at any level, the friends that he had involved himself with to be rid of the pressures of competitive swimming have all moved on. The friends that were involved in swimming have all moved on. In fact, just about everyone has moved on and he’s entered a state of depression driven by guilt.

As a Coach, it is our job to push an Athlete into being the best they can be but not just in the sport, it is equally important for a Coach to recognize the other needs of the Athlete as well. For example, down time away from the sport between competitions, family and friends time, either away from the sport or by having them get involved somehow in the Athlete’s training. These are just a couple of things that can be done to improve the value of training to, and quality of effort by, an Athlete.

At the end of the day…

An Athlete is a human being with needs that go beyond the need for training and it’s the Coach’s responsibility to adapt, provide, and exploit anything that keeps the Athlete’s head in the game, even if it’s sometimes to just hangout eating junk food and watching a really great movie. In answer to my original question, it’s not important to practice anyway when you don’t want to. It’s important to know when you might just need a bit of a break and do something completely off the wall. It’s okay to do this without guilt, and it’s okay to push doubly hard when you’re back at it.

Will I get him back into a pool? You better believe it!

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