Routines Help Make Useful Behavior Automatic

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

Some psychologists believe that over 90% of our behaviors are automatic habits or unconscious, learned behavior patterns. This is why parents and first coaches in a sport play such a critical role in introducing positive behaviors. If you learn how to do something the right way at the beginning, you don’t have to fix mistakes later, because you always do it the correct way, without any conscious thought. John Wooden was famous for teaching his Freshman basketball players the correct way to put on socks and tie sneakers. As a coach, if you invest the energy at the front end, you have the opportunity to create a positive routine for your athlete’s entire career. These routines will become automatic and help the athlete avoid all kinds of challenges that many athletes struggle with.

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.

 

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