Routines Help An Athlete Do The Right Things

by Sean McCann, PhD
US Olympic Committee
Performance Services
Sport Psychologist

A routine increases the sense of familiar in a new environment. Routines are portable, transferable, and adaptable. Remind your athletes that an iPod and headphones can mentally transport you from a treadmill in a hotel basement to a familiar run in the woods when you last listened to this music. Similarly, a routine can make even the strangest sport environment seem normal, familiar, and most importantly, comfortable. This is a powerful effect when the environment of the competition is full of distractions. I cannot overemphasize how helpful this has been to countless Olympic medal winners I have known when faced with the circus of the Games.

An argument can be made that a coach will end up using a great deal more energy if they don’t help athletes develop great routines. An initial investment of energy in developing good habits will create a great return down the road. I see this all the time in sports, and I’ll never forget what a great coach once said to me. “Why are all these coaches screaming form the sideline? If they had done their job in practice they wouldn’t have to say anything during a game.” If a coach develops great routines, and the athletes develop great habits, then the habits make them great players.