Practice. We talkin’ bout practice

Some people remember where they were when JFK was shot.  Other remember where they were when OJ was in a high speed chase on the LA freeway.  I remember where I was when Allen Iverson gave what many would consider his most memorable press conference.  I was in my dorm room preparing for a History of Sport when Allen Iverson went off on the media.

“We talkin’ bout practice man.  We not even talkin’ bout the game, the actual game, when it matters.  We talkin’ bout practice.” The gist of the outburst was the media harping on Iverson for his commitment to practice.  Iverson took offense to the comment, saying he puts everything on the line when it matters…the game.



Yesterday, Chris Carr ’82, a world renowned sports psychologist came to campus to speak with all our student athletes.  Dr. Carr’s point was practice does matter.  And it’s not always the physical part of practice that we walk through, but more often the mental aspect of the sport day in and day out.  Iverson gave his heart and soul to the sport of basketball on game day.  He was focused and mentally tough.  To Dr. Carr’s point, how good could Iverson have been if he poured that same devotion into a strong mental focus for each practice?  For swimmers at the college level, they all have the physical ability to conquer every practice.  Therefore, most of the mistakes in practice are mental.  College students have a hard time focusing day to day on excellence and improvement in the water when there are exams around the corner, howework that overdue, and any other issues that one might encounter.  Dr. Carr stated that in order to be great, to achieve excellence requires a focused commitment to improvement.  A swimmer must have the ability to block out all irrelevant outside factors that don’t matter at practice or a meet.  A swimmer must have the determination and strength to sprint the last 25 faster and hold their breath off that last wall and take the extra underwater kick.  A great swimmer will not only envision improvement and success but will consistently put forth the effort to be a better racer and practice swimmer.  This effort must come from the mind.  You need to ignore your body and listen to the mind.  To ignore the pain and dig deeper in practice will make doing the same in a meet not a choice but a habit.

And with that, I turn to you Mr. Iverson.  Allen Iverson, my boy, is often revered for his mental toughness during games.  AI was often able to put the pain aside on game day because he was a determined and mentally tough player when the lights were on.  I still wonder to this day how great Iverson could have been if he felt this way about practice.  So as the season begins a new this fall, give it your all in every meet, but remember we are talkin’ bout practice.  We are talkin’ bout practice both physically and mentally.  We are talkin’ bout choosing to be better, and that takes a lot of practice.

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