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Developing Routines as an Athlete Could Make You a Champion

Oct 9, 2007
If you watch the professional athletes they all have routines whether it is pre-game routines, during the game or post game routines. Some will say that they are superstitions but there is a difference. Developing routines allows the athlete to find consistency and can help the athlete to maintain a controlled state whether they are winning or losing.

Routines are important as they are all individual and are designed by the athlete upon knowing what is comfortable and what works for them. Athletes on a team may have to work together as a team and they may have to warm-up as a team but a good coach will also allow each individual to go through their own routines.

For example: Some coaches may use the "psyche up" method of loud music and yelling to get their athletes pumped up or highly energised for the game. However, this doesn't work for every athlete and can in fact have a negative effect on some athletes. Once again, coaches with teams want to unite their team by having them perform the same tasks together, this is fine to a certain extent, but just remember that your team is comprised of varying personalities and individuals and to allow them to have some time to themselves.

This comes down to having good communication with your athletes and knowing about each individual and how they respond to group tasks. The coach with the "my way or the highway" mentality often forces his players to become robotic and fall into the military way of breaking down the individual to become nothing more than a controlled follower. This is required for the military but in sports you want your athletes to be able to make their own decisions as well as react to certain events that will best fit into the game plan or tactics drawn up for them by the coach. Respect their individuality!

Coaching or playing an individual sport is quite different as you are not faced with multiple athletes. It is a lot easier to allow an individual to do what is best for them.

Superstition or routine? If you ever watch Russian tennis champion Maria Sharapova you will notice her routines. The most common one that I noticed was her routine in between games. Following each game and prior to going to sit down at the change of ends she will go through this routine without fail as it helps her to maintain consistency and a feeling of control no matter what. Winning or losing, she follows this routine.

Follow the last point of the game she will walk to the corner of the service box, take a step inside the box before making a right angled turn towards her seat. If the last shot of the rally takes her out of court she will then walk back into the court and go through her routine.

Every tennis player follows some routine prior to serving the tennis ball. It may be bouncing the ball two or three times, straightening their hat, rolling the balls around in their hands as Ivan Lendl did, or bouncing the ball on the ground with their racquet as Boris Becker did.

These routines allowed the player to gain consistency and control over the pace of the match. It allowed them to be in control and focus on the next point.

Superstitions are more like obsessive compulsive actions that occur when an athlete believes that by performing that action it will bring them good luck. Most superstitions arise by accident. If an athlete eats a certain meal before a game and they win, then they may eat that same meal before every meal just because they thought that it brought them good luck. As soon as they lose then they stop eating that meal and change. Superstitions can start and stop quite quickly however; routines are developed so that they can stay with you through both winning and losing.

As a coach you shouldn't try to force your routines on the athlete, instead let them develop their own routines and then work with them on making any minor adjustments if needed. Once again, it comes back to recognising that each individual is different and responds to differently to certain things than other athletes.

Routines should be developed during practice and be included into every session. Don't try to incorporate a new routine when in competition as it will take you out of your comfort zone. Practice is for working on and perfecting skills; competition is for putting these skills into use instinctively!

Tips for athletes in individual sports:
Develop routines that you are comfortable with
Allow your coach to help you adjust these routines as long as you still feel comfortable with them.
Practice these routines on a consistent basis
Develop pre-game warm-up routines
Develop pre-game stretching routines
Develop pre-game routines for relaxing and getting in the UPS
Find a quiet place where you won't be distracted by others
Know when to switch on and when to switch off
If losing, make sure that you are performing your routines
Maintain control of the game or match
Make sure that your routines are within the rules and guidelines of the sport

Tips for athletes in team sports:
Communicate with your coach about your individual needs
Incorporate your own routines in with the team orientated tasks
Allow your team-mates to see that it is important for you to follow your own routines
Know when your coach wants you to participate in the team tasks
Get to the stadium early if needed to give yourself time to prepare
If travelling to the venue as a team the use the time on the bus or plane to prepare
Keep a notebook to track your progress
Keep it simple
Routines have a purpose as long as they don't take over
Preparation is just one of the keys to success
Keep superstitions in check

Remember that routines should be developed and practiced during your training sessions. Whether it is prior to kicking a soccer ball, hitting a baseball, shooting a basketball, hitting a tennis serve or throwing a ball; you must first be comfortable in incorporating your routines into your overall game plan. This is often an overlooked component of becoming a successful athlete. This is just one more key step to acting and playing like a pro.
About the Author
David Horne is a former professional tennis player who has created several online sports web sites including Global Sports Zone which is the Ultimate Sports Directory for all sports fans! You can also visit the global web site for Tennis Coaching at Global Sports Coaching
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