I read a quote the other day from Coach Thad Matta that said "Working hard is one thing, but working hard with purpose is what separates the good from the great" There are many athletes that show up for practice or for workouts because they "have to" but there are those that show up because they are on a mission to become the best at what they do. When we talk about practicing with a purpose we are talking about knowing what you are working for and you have a plan to get there.
I always get excited when I meet an athlete that has the drive to go after what they want and are seeking out those that will help them get there. All the athletes that I have worked with over the years, no matter the sport have had that kind of drive. Having that kind of drive means you put in long hours working on your craft. You make sacrifices like practicing when others are out partying. You are getting up early and staying up late to workout. You are studying film, reading about the latest training trends. You are investing in performance training and individual sport specific training....basically you are doing whatever it takes to get better.
It starts with setting goals for yourself. They have to be goals that make sense for what you are attempting to achieve. In the article "Got A Plan; Be S.M.A.R.T About It", (click here to read) we talked about how to set goals. There are long term and short term goals. Long term goals can include what you want to do "down the road" like playing varsity in high school or playing on the collegate or professional level. Short term goals are more along the lines of what you plan to do this season, this game and even this practice or workout. EVERYTHING you do has to have a purpose. Time is a valuable commodity so why would you waste it doing things that don't get you where you want to be.
One area that many athletes overlook is the plan for workouts or practice. I challenge my basketball players to always have a goal in mind everytime they take the court, even if they are playing pick up games. When guys are playing pick up, they are focused only on winning and looking good. You see it all the time, the guy who is talking the most stuff and feels like he always has to have the ball. I could go on and I will in a future article. My advice to players is that you pick one aspect of your game and focus on working on that. You need "game like" situations to practice the skills you have been working on and since it is a game you are playing, might as well use the opportunity. Whatever your sport, you need to take every opportunity to get better at your craft.
Once you have your goals set then you need to set out to find ways to get there. Whether it is finding where you need to get more advanced skills training or sports performance training, or finding the right AAU program that will seek to develop you as a total player and not just a means to a win, your goal needs to be finding people that will help you get to your goals. The "I can do it on my own" mentality doesn't work here. Every athlete that I've worked with that have "made it" all say that they could never have gotten where they are without someone helping to bring out the talent and giftings that live within them.
Athetes who "practice with purpose" have a greater chance of reaching their goals. So I ask you, are you practicing to practice or are you on a mission? If you are on a mission then all I have to left to say is, get a plan, take action, separate yourself from the competition!
Stay Forever Strong