by Sean McCann, PhD
US Olympic Committee
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. – Aristotle
Routines have been studied by sport psychologists for a long time, and there is good evidence that routines increase consistency of an athlete’s thinking, feelings, and sport behavior. Because of these effects, routine also produce more consistent sport behavior. This produces better results. Routines therefore, can make you a better athlete. There are a number of reasons why routines work, but you may find that many of your athletes resist routines. At the USOC, I have heard all sorts of reasons for this resistance, including:
“It slows me down”
“I don’t want to get locked into anything”
“I like being flexible in case things change”
“I used to do it, and it was helpful, but I just stopped. I’m not sure why.”
My personal opinion is that many athletes don’t develop effective routines simply because nobody ever taught them how important and helpful they are.
As a coach, you need to develop a sales pitch that gets past initial resistance and makes a compelling argument for change. One tactic is simply to list all the things that routines do for you, but both ensuring good things happen and prevent bad things from happening.
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.