We’re Talking About Practice
We have seen a video on ESPN over and over through the years. It is an interview with Allen Iverson. Over and over he says “it’s not the game, it’s practice.” Making the point that in his eyes practice isn’t as important as the game. His response was to a question about him missing practice. By downplaying the importance of practice he also downplayed the role of the coach to the team.
In my experience of coaching I found that practices were much more important than the games. You might think that what I just said makes no sense. Obviously the results of the games are what people look at. With that being said, unless your team is far more talented than the opposition, it is the practices that bring continuity and sharpen up team play! Practices paved the way to how my team performed in the games. I found that during games I sometimes didn’t have much control over what happened. But if I had my team properly prepared they could overcome whatever the other team threw at them.
The movies that we see are finished products. We don’t see behind the scenes of how many times the actors blew their lines in practice. We don’t see how many hours they had to rehearse their lines to make it just right. We don’t see how many times the writers changed the script to make it more audience friendly. We take all of that stuff for granted yet without the rehearsals we wouldn’t be seeing the quality finished product that makes us laugh, cry, or just feel good!
They say that practice makes perfect. That is a saying that just isn’t true. As long as we are talking about humans we will not have perfection. Along with that I’ve heard the saying “perfect practice makes perfect.” While “perfect practice” will not give perfection we could say “perfect practice makes improvement.” What does perfect practice mean? If we were talking about sports it would mean having the right technique. For example if I wanted to improve my bowling score I could practice more. However, if I were using a wrong technique all of the practice in the world may not improve my score. On the other hand if I were shown the right technique and practiced always using this technique I would get better. Why? Because perfect practice makes improvement!
When my son was 9 or 10 years we signed him up to go to a one day basketball shooting camp. The instructor at this camp was a well known instructor who had worked with Dennis Rodman and had him making a respectable percentage of his free throws. He told a story that remains with me to this day.
There were two high school teammates who had distinctly different work ethics. The first guy was always trying to get by on less. If the coach wanted him to shoot 25 free throws he would do as little of the 25 as possible. He might start shooting and get up to eight and when the coach turned his head that number might shoot up to 18. He ended up usually shooting half the number the coach wanted. On the other hand the other teammate was always wanting to do more. When he was done with his 25 free throws he would often be seen after practice getting another 25 in. He was the type of person that whether anyone was watching or not he knew the score. He knew he was putting the work in. He was at peace with himself knowing he was doing everything he could to be the best that he could be!
As it turned out at the end of a big game teammate #1 got fouled. His Team was down by one point. You guessed it, he missed both free throws and his team lost. Of course as a dad sitting there I thought to myself, what a great lesson. That kid deserved what he got. He didn’t practice and put out so he wasn’t prepared. A couple of games later teammate #2 got fouled in the same circumstance. His team trailed by one. Of course I was expecting to be told that he made both of his free throws and his team won. Wouldn’t that be the storybook ending for the lesson that hard work pays off? Doesn’t the guy who practiced his heart out deserve to be rewarded for his efforts? I was stunned when the instructor told us that teammate #2 missed too. He didn’t come through and his missed free throws were cited just like teammate #1. There was a vast difference though as the instructor pointed out. Player #2 did everything he possible could do to prepare for that situation. He didn’t cut corners and he didn’t look for the easy way out. He did even more than the coach required. This illustrates the point that nobody is perfect and you never know how things will turn out. Even though the same results occurred in both cases, there was one clear winner and one clear loser comparing these two teammates in the instructors eyes. It was a matter of being prepared. Player #2 was and player #1 was not.
Jack Van Impe is called “The Walking Bible.” That’s because he has memorized so many Bible verses. One of his favorite verses is 2nd Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Jack is so prepared that when his wife asks him a question on his TV show he quotes 3 or 4 Bible verses that back up what he is saying. It is so impressive that he does this off of the top of his head that you may not realize that it took hours to prepare behind the scenes!Why has he worked so hard in his efforts to know Gods word? It is because he knows that by being prepared he might lead souls to the Lord. He does everything in his power to make sure that he has the answers that the Bible gives.
How many of us Christians wonder if something is in the Bible? How many of us think something is in there but don’t have any idea where it is? How many of us wish we knew the scriptures better but don’t take the time to make it happen? How many of us fail to come through in the clutch in our Christian walk and witnessing because we have cut corners? There’s a saying “Do your best and let God do the rest.” My question to you is are you doing your best?
Yes Allen Iverson, we are talking about practice. We’re talking about being prepared. There is a saying that goes “How you practice is how you will play.” It’s the behind the scenes stuff that determines if we are a success or a failure. Our legacy will not be made with one games success or failure. Our legacy will be determined by our character, extra effort, and determination. We were not told any other information about teammates 1 and 2. For those of you who remember Paul Harvey, he used to have commentaries called “The Rest of The Story.” He would tell us a vague story and then surprise us with the famous person the story described. If this were one of his stories I would bet my last dollar that teammate #2 would be the surprise famous person. He demonstrated the qualities that would lead him to success. Success doesn’t mean we never fail. But failure is not final for God. Failure may be a bump in the road for great things to come. Great things that the discipline of hard work and practice makes possible!