Written by Dr. Scott Silverman Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00
Many players go through the motions in practice, planning on displaying their true talents once it’s game time. This type of practice does nothing to improve the skills of a player. True competitors make their practices as worthwhile as their matches or games.
In order to get the most out of your practice sessions, first develop the attitude that practice is often the most decisive factor of the actual game. The ebb and flow of a game setting is often difficult to predict. This very unpredictable situation makes it important for control and consistency to become your main allies. Being well-prepared increases confidence, protecting against the highs and lows that can throw off your game.
Simulation is a term used to refer to realistic practice. Elite athletes practice simulation daily. The objective is to re-create the experience of competition in practice so that you are ready when it counts. This involves setting up practices that lead to the same pressure (or close to it) as experienced in the game.
If you have time to scout your opponent prior to the big game, simulate shots that would work best for you against that player’s weakness. Next, practice situations in which your opponent’s strength is played to your weakness. I’m sure you can come up with many other creative simulations. The challenge is to make it seem realistic. Use lots of variety throughout the practice and remain completely focused. Play out scenarios exactly as you would in the match. The Boston Celtics were known for blasting taped boos as they practiced their free throws.
You should also simulate mental toughness situations as well. Mental rehearsal techniques should include feelings and thoughts similar to those experienced in the game. For example, if you often get nervous during the first batter on the pitching mound, find a way to get yourself equally nervous in practice. Combining smart physical practice with smart mental practice is essential. As your on-practice routines become more simulated to game situations, your game performance will improve too.
Dr. Silverman is the districtwide athletic coordinator for Glen Cove schools. He has a degree in sport and exercise psychology from Boston University. He has worked with high school to professional athletes on performance enhancement and has appeared on a number of sports programs discussing the topic of youth sports. He has a passion for making athletics the best possible experience it can be for all young athletes, as well as ensuring all youth have an opportunity to use sport as a learning tool about life and health. Dr. Silverman is a fitness buff who still is an avid ice hockey player.