“Energy flows where intention goes.”
What are you doing today to make yourself better? In practice do you start with intention, or do you get caught in the cycle of going through the motions? Do you set mini goals for the session, maybe a goal for the day or are you a get in - get out type of person.
I'd say I'm a mixture of both by nature, but I'm trying to adopt habits for life, and thus like many things I'm working on finding my focus.
Early in my career (though it still feels early in my career) I would often go to the gym just trying to get through practice, or make it to the next lift, or dream about the next day off especially on the days when everything was hard. I wanted to get better without really thinking about how I could get better and breaking down what I needed to do to get there.
Easily frustrated when things were not perfect, I stopped focusing on the process of learning and growth and expected results. Well tough news Shanice, but the physical side of things is only half the battle.
I happened to join in on the Victoria Titans U16 team practice this January and I was immediately amazed to see a few things. Before they started practice they were given time to think about their goals, reflect on their own, and focus their minds for the next two hours. Genius, right?
This wasn’t exactly something I was doing in high school, but it became part of the training routine with the National team, so I was beyond excited to see them take the time to find their focus. (Plus it was competition day where they played 3v3 so I thrilled with everything going on in that gym).
Before every single practice for the last four years we were given 30 seconds. 30 seconds eyes closed to focus our minds on the task ahead, maybe create a goal for practice, and to leave our distractions at the door. Once those 30 seconds were over, we stepped into the court, cheered and committed our energy into hard work for the next 2-3 hours.
No distractions. No bull-shit. No letting yourself off the hook.
Pure diligence in our purpose to work, and get better.
Some days this was more difficult than others. Maybe I woke up too tired, or my body was extremely sore. Or maybe I was home sick and dreading the thought of another 3 hour practice. But, the days when I was intentional were the days that I had my best practices. Sometimes I physically sucked through everything, but having a focus on the process of things allowed me to leave the gym feeling a little bit lighter with a reason to reflect and to let go.
When it’s something you do every day it's easy to go through the motions of the routine. But, after sitting back these months I really appreciate the lessons I learned about approaching each practice with intent and working towards achieving the next goal. Telling myself what I want to accomplish and then thinking about what I need to do in order to get there.
It is still crazy to me to think about how much the mental side of things can get the better of you when you fail to train them. But, when learning a skill it's all about your intent, doing things with purpose - the right way, and should continue to be that way no matter the level.
Here's my 3 tools.
Create a single goal before every practice. It could be physical, technical, tactical, mental, whatever it is dedicate your time to focusing on doing that one specific thing. Example: being stopped on defence. But the focus here is simply on that being stopped. Not the contact or the outcome of the dig, but were you stopped every time on defence regardless of where you were?
Breathe. When things aren't going your way, or maybe the frustration level is rising because a task is difficult to complete, take a moment to focus on your breath. Need a moment of clarity? Breathe. I can't tell you how many times someone has told me to breathe over the last few weeks of learning. It can be such a powerful tool. Example: serving used to stress me out, so I incorporated one big breath into my serving routine to calm me down and think about the action of serving rather than the outcome.
Check in with yourself and evaluate. I like to keep an honest training journal where I ask myself a few questions. What did I do well today? What went wrong? How can I correct that? What can I do better tomorrow? Just a quick 5 minute reassessment of the day and a refocus for tomorrow. The most important thing here is to be REAL with yourself.
So for now as many of my training sessions are individual it's my goal to make sure each action is purposeful. Making the right footwork, learning through every step, thinking through my actions to create new habits. Bringing my thoughts back to my breath, and reflecting on the work I've put in.
I'm not focused on the quantity of my work, I'm focusing on the quality of the work that I'm putting in.
Set your intention.
Take time to breathe.
And Find Your Focus.