Coaches are always talking to athletes about developing routines; in basketball we talk about shooting, game prep, free-throws, etc. All sports focus on tenets of that sport (hitting, throwing, catching, stretching, mental prep, the list is exhaustive) but the message is the same for all – build a consistent routine for maximum return.
Routines are not meant to be for sports only. As a coach that strives to teach values-based athletics, I focus on making sure that everything we do relates to life; building a routine is certainly one of the areas that I stress in life outside of sports, but it was not always this way.
About four years ago I learned something that has helped me in all aspects of life and it was not from sports. To say I “learned it” would be a stretch because it is far from a secret but this technique was made available to me and for some reason I was receptive to it. The concept that I picked up had to do with intent, planning, focus, execution and practice – practice being the key.
And while practice will not make you perfect, practice makes you better. At everything. Practicing things that matter, with a methodical approach, will change your life for the better.
Four years ago I learned that building a routine, focused on a mission statement, will help you to practice the things that you need to practice to improve – at anything. A consistent approach in this manner will lead to an evolutionary review of your actions in pursuit of your mission.
In order to make this work, you need a mission statement, and this is not easy because it is something that should not be trivialized. Your mission statement is something that is personal and has a purpose, enabling you to set goals in support of the mission. I have included both my personal and my ‘Coach Rick’ persona mission statements at the end of this BLOG in case you are interested or if you need a sample. Both of these took me weeks to perfect and over the years I have updated them to make sure they are still relevant.
In support of my mission, I have created several tasks (21 at this time) that I review daily/weekly to keep me on track for my missions statement. The 21 items are spread across the categories of spiritual, emotional, physical and mental –by tracking these items, I can see where I consistently do well and where I need to work more (my challenge areas). I found that if I can do something consistently for about 90 days, it becomes routine. Those that know me will not be surprised to know that I track these maniacally and I keep a spreadsheet on my achievements, my goals and my plans to improve.
An example – prior to tracking these items, I was VERY poor at eating breakfast. Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but most people actually skip this meal for various reasons – mine was time. Although I know it was important, I ignored the experts because I deliberately decided to save 10 minutes every day by skipping. I dedicated myself to eating breakfast everyday and I tracked it; after 3 months I no longer needed to track this item (but I still do) because it became routine. In 4 years, I have missed breakfast exactly 4 times – once because I was too ill to eat and the other 3 times out of laziness (I blamed time, again) and I paid for it. Those three days (I tossed out the day I was ill) I felt off-balance, out of kilter and I had no energy. Trust me, I eat breakfast now everyday and so should you.
Some ideas for you to track:
- Spiritual – Reflection, yoga, meditation, silent study (professional, hobby, personal, theological), mission
- Mental – Driving energy, tracking progress, thinking/focusing, mental challenges (puzzles, games)
- Physical – Eating plans (I track four), working out, hydration, sleep – if you have a pedometer, make it work for you here!
- Emotional – Consistent work planning, focus on family, focus on relationships, managing priorities
Most of my tracking is objective (yes/no, quantity) but some are subjective (how do I feel that I performed on a particular task?). As coaching youth sports is a large part of my life, I’ll share with you an example of one of the tasks I track and how I manage it:
Task (Mental) Spend time writing/coaching to relax.
It is important to note that this task is a SMART goal. This goal is Specific, Measurable (see below), Achievable, Repetitive and Time-Bound (daily). As for measuring, I rate myself on a 1-5 scale (1 is low, 5 is high) daily – if I do any of the following on a given day, I score a 3. Two or more gets me a 5. If I do nothing then I score a 1 and if my energy is not there while I am performing these tasks, I take a point off the score. Here are the acceptable items in this category:
Writing this BLOG (I usually start this on Monday, finish on Friday for publication)
Reading another sports blog – my routine is at the end of this BLOG
Building a practice plan
Watching film or studying the game (you pick the game – I typically go with basketball unless I am coaching another sport)
This technique for focusing and tracking works for me, and I have seen it work for many others as well – it is not too late to start a 2012 resolution, build a routine now and make your daily actions support your mission. And if you don’t have a mission, you need to get one!!!
Please remember to listen, hustle and have fun™.
As I stated above, here is my BLOG reading routine – check these out as they are not only informative, but entertaining as well. If there is a BLOG that you think I am missing, please let me know!
- Monday – I check out Stats Dad at http://www.statsdad.com/ This BLOG comes out intermittently so I tune in on Mondays to recap what Fran has written. His insight as a coach/dad is awesome and his wit is sharp. You can follow Fran on Twitter @Stats_Dad
- Tuesday – I check out Ask Coach Wolff at http://askcoachwolff.com This BLOG is based on Rick Wolff’s Sports Edge radio show and is very contemporary with regard to youth sports for parents and coaches. This BLOG also comes out intermittently, so I play catch up on Tuesdays.
- Wednesday – I check out JBM Thinks at http://jbmthinks.com Janis always has great content regarding youth sports and as the wife of a coach/former coach, I love to see her insight as I try to apply it to my situation(s) as I try to empathize with the plight of my family. As this content also comes out intermittently, I catch up on Wednesdays. You can follow Janis on Twitter @jbmthinks – A double whammy for mid-week, I also check out Moms Team at http://www.momsteam.com Brooke has a great site with awesome content. This site is relatively new to me, but I have run through it top to bottom and recommend it strongly. As the BLOGS are intermittent, I catch up on Wednesdays and you can follow Brooke on Twitter @MomsTeam
- Thursday – Thursday is my fun day, and I like to sit down with Steve Rushin http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/writers/steve_rushin/archive/ Steve’s Blog comes out on Thursdays and his wit and insight into the sports world are certainly unique. It does not help him with his fantasy football team, but that is for another day. You can follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRushin – his tweets are hilarious. I also check out Coach Dawn Write http://coachdawnwrites.com Dawn has awesome insight into coaching collegiate athletes, and what I like is that she delves into the female athlete mind, which is very helpful to me as a coach. You can find Dawn on Twitter @CoachDawnWrites. (Also – buy her book, a quick and insightful read!)
- Friday – Friday is my favorite BLOG day. In addition to releasing my own every Friday, my two most long-standing BLOG reads are accomplished – the first is Stronger Team http://blog.strongerteam.com/ Alan is always putting out fantastic information about training and basketball, he is a must read and a must follow – his content comes out typically on Thursdays and you can follow Alan on Twitter @AlanStein. Also on Fridays I check out Layups.com at http://www.layups.com My friend Eitel always has great information and sometimes has a contest or two. Another must follow on Twitter, you can find Eitel @EitelDaniel
- On the weekend I checkout a couple of sites that come out less frequently than the ones listed above, but the content is great (I wish there was more!). The first is from Clarence Gaines – A Scout’s Perspective http://cgscoutperspective.blogspot.com/ You can follow Clarence on Twitter @ClarenceGaines2. The second is Sports Feel Good Stories http://www.sportsfeelgoodstories.com/ Definitely a good read, this group accentuates a values based approach toward sports.
- And time to come clean – my friend Matt Beeuwsaert has a completely awesome site that I somehow lost track of until yesterday. This site not only has great information for players and coaches within the BLOG, but he also does comic work and his main character, Zac, is awesome. Well, he is Wack. Check out his site at http://www.zaciswack.com – you can find Matt on Twitter at @AskCoachBeez – as his BLOG comes out on Thursdays, I think I’ll add this to my Friday routine.
I also committed above to sharing my mission/vision statements (which can be found at http://tinyurl.com/CoachRick-main). I believe it is important for everyone to have a vision and mission statement. As a person and as a coach, I have developed mine – develop yours today!
- Vision: Encouraging youths to be the best they can be both in sports and life and that the healthy pursuit of athletics should be fun and available to everyone.
- Mission: To enable youths, coaches and parents with the tools and information to have fun with athletics while at the same time allowing for optimal performance.
- Vision: To become a better person than I was yesterday
- Mission: To honor God and to be an extraordinary husband and father first. To be a sought after business leader and coach that inspires others to reach their full potential. To grow daily in a spiritual/mental/physical/emotional manner that is measurable and repeatable.
If you would like a copy of my routine and/or a template, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a copy – and yes, it is free.