Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Kid in the Gym

Tonight the importance of practice was driven home.

After a run on the treadmill at the city gym, I walked a lap on the indoor track to cool off.  The track is on the second floor of the gym and circles the exercise equipment and looks down on the basketball courts.  As I walked by the second court, I noticed a kid shooting baskets by himself.

The kid was no more than 13 or 14.  He would toss the basketball in the air with a spin, grab it on the bounce, and drain a basket from beyond the 3-point line.  After he drained one, he would move a few feet to his right and repeat the process.

Spin.  Bounce.  Shoot.  Swoosh.  Move.

Again and again.  While I walked around the court, the kid drained five 3-point shots in a row.  Each was taken from a different point.

I thought, "This kid's going to be awesome when he gets to high school."

Then, I wondered how many baskets he sank before he could hit five 3-point shots in a row.  I wondered how many shots he would take tonight.  He was by himself.  Spin.  Bounce.  Shoot.  Swoosh  Move.  Again. And again.  And again.

He was barely in his teens and it was clear he must have practiced thousands of hours to reach his current level of proficiency.  This was for a game.

How much do you practice for business?  How much do your people practice.

Once, after a presentation at a sales meeting, one of the salespeople came up to me and asked how I seemed to know what was coming next, before the slide appeared.  I brushed off the question with a joke, but the real answer was practice.  Before I gave the presentation at the sales meeting, I gave it over and over again with an audience of none.

How often do your salespeople practice their presentations?  How about your technicians and plumbers?  How easy do you make it for them to practice?  What can you create more practice opportunities?  Is it role playing?  Is it creating and recording scenarios for them to respond to when driving to and from appointments?

If we're professionals, we should practice at least as hard as a middle school athlete.  So think about it.  How can you help your people practice?


  1. There's so much good to what you say here Matt, I don't know where to start. But Green Bay comes to mind.

    Well, actually it was Vince, then Green Bay. With Vince's belief on perfect practice in mind...

    One way for the manager to help is via feedback and coaching towards their coworkers daily activities. If the coworker is not repeating mistakes, they have the opportunity to grow, develop and get better.

    With two daughters who played basketball from middle school through high school, eleven years apart, we were around the game (and one very elite program) for around fourteen years. The most successful girls were those who had the internal drive and desire to go out every night and throw down four hundred shots in practice.

    The most successful coaches were those who supported and integrated the talents of those star girls into a team chemistry. Bad coaches over coached and attempted to change the girls' game (the talented ones). (The extreme negativity that we've witnessed in kids' coaching over the years is a topic for another discussion).

    For truly great leaps and bounds in performance, hire those who practice on their own. Hint: RSES members who pay their own way. Then ASK THEM how you can help them practice. I've found over the years that, in a technician's case, these types of techs like to hang around others like them. Who knows, maybe if the tech gets that you truly care about his practice and development, he'll encourage his buddies to look into your company.

  2. Dave, I always ask the kids I coach, "What went right?" "What did you do well?"

    For improvement, I ask, "How can we be better?" And, "What do we want to do next time?"

    The idea is to keep them focused on positive performance.