Last weekend we had the opportunity to go to a Portland Trailblazers game and we were fortunate to be admitted before the doors opened so that we could watch them practice, shoot around as it is called. It was interesting to see the Rose Garden arena almost empty and rather than playing for the crowds, the players were simply working hard to perfect their games. As I grew up I imagined myself scoring the wining goal in the cup final, the glory of being a professional athlete.
Seeing the players warming up showed me a different side of doing this for a living. Shooting shot after shot, moving to a new position and doing the same thing, over and over. I noticed this did not appear to be a chore for them although these were mostly the rookies and perhaps you could argue they had the most to learn. The one all star on the team, LaMarcus Aldridge, was also out there working hard, perhaps there is something to the old mantra hard work pays off?
As they warmed up, one of the coaches paid close attention. These guys are not simply throwing up shots for fun, they are working deliberately on a specific aspect of their game and as the saying goes, “perfect practice makes perfect”. I learned about this when I played golf competitively, you are wasting your time wailing away on the range without purpose, all you will likely do is ingrain those bad habits. As an executive coach at Intel and beyond a couple of things come to mind here. Firstly isn’t it odd that our athletes have a coach working with them everyday, giving them feedback and helping them improve and yet in our professional lives having a coach is seen as a sign you have screwed up and need to be fixed. My other thought is how often do we practice anything in our professional lives other than working hard and hoping it will turn out right? Are we learning something new or are we simply ingraining our bad habits? Hmmn, I think I know the answer.
One last thing if you are excited about the life of a professional athlete. After working out, the final activity is signing autographs and to their credit the Blazers rookies were true gentlemen, taking the time to respond graciously to every request for their signature.
There is an old Chinese tale of an artist who is a master of his craft and tells his student that everything before the age of 70 was warm up. I often feel that with my work. Still a rookie.
We never stop learning, at least we shouldn’t.
Yogis call it a “practice” and they’ve seen it that way for thousands of years.
Hi Lori, thanks for this and your other comments! I think we gave list sight if having to practice diligently in our have it now society.
Don’t you just love how the iPhone mangles your text!