Monday, January 10, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect

photo by KG Sand Soccervia PhotoRee

farlieonfootie with an Assistant Coaches' corner in the absence of Coach Tom, borrowing a lesson learned time and again in the shadowy hush of the practice pitch:

Friday night I was coaching my daughter's team.  Running late per usual at the end of the work week, I arrived at the practice pitch somewhat distracted and not quite ready for the undertaking.  As if picking up on the cue, several of the girls chattered their way through our quick warm up drills, eager to gossip and catch up on the week's activities.

It was at that point that I remembered the first rule of coaching, and pulled myself back into the present to teach the girls an important lesson about sport: you play the same way that you practice.  If you turn in a tight performance in rehearsal, chances are you're going to play the same way; if you're lazy and indifferent ahead of the game, odds are you're going to regret your next performance.

The kings of the sport may be gifted with certain skills, but it's practice that got them to where they are.  One only has to look at the likes of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo -- legendary practicers both -- to see the results.  Long after their teammates had left the pitch, two of United's best were spoted still dribbling and shooting away.  No rest for the weary, and nothing left to chance.

Taking the message to heart, the girls redoubled their efforts, going all out not only in the drills but also in the brief scrimmage that followed.  In particular, my daughter turned in a fantastic scrimamge, tracking down every ball and showing a gut-level desire to put it in the net.  She scored twice in the practice match, and finished her evening by offering a beautiful layoff for her best friend, who easily slotted the ball home.  As we left the practice field and drove home, the three of us discussed the evening's events.  My daughter, who had yet to score in a "real" game, was pleased with her practice effort, but expressed doubts about being able to replicate the performance the next morning.  I reassured her with the lesson we had discussed at the evening's outset: if you score in practice it's going to happen sooner or later when it counts.

Neither of us had any idea that sooner would arrive a brief 18 hours later.  Down 3-1 at halftime, the girls were intent on trying to find a way back into the game; despite outhustling the other team, we were on the wrong end of the scoreline.  It was then that the lesson became more than a discussion point: my daughter's two second half goals tied the game, and her best friend's goal a few minutes later proved the winning blow. Tacking on one more for good measure, our team was ahead 5-3 at the final whistle, which proved two things:  i) no scoreline is safe in the face of real intent and desire; and ii) you play like you practice.

So those of you out there who are doing more than just reading about football (or any other sport), take note: go out there and practice hard.  The results will be worth it.

This is farlieonfootie for January 11.

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