Habits: Make Them Good & Make Them Count

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Just about everything we do in sports is a habit. Our preparation is based on habit, our practice is based on habit, our technique is based on habit, and even strategy can be somewhat habitual. The key point is habits encompass every part of athletic performance. Yet one of the major areas of poor performance is bad habits. To correct bad habits and maximize the power of good habits there are some questions that must be answered first. How do we create habits? What makes a good habit different than a bad habit? And what characteristics are needed to create good habits?

Habits are created by repeating an action every time a particular situation occurs. This ranges from how you brush your teeth to your warm-up routine to your sport specific technique. Practice, practice, and more practice create habits. Whether the habits are good or bad is dependent on other areas. Good habits are basic things in everyday life that can make things easier, more efficient, and better for everyone involved not just the lone athlete. They do not necessarily need to be used every second of my day but if they can employ them as often as possible there can significant improvements. (The opposite is true of bad habits, the more they are used the more likely one will experience poor performance).

When it comes to creating/changing habits the individual should be proactive, manage the use of time, be confidence, and focus attention towards the changing habit. Being proactive is simply taking the initiative and not waiting for others to act first. It is acting not reacting, which many people do. It is also about being responsible for those actions that you chose to make. For example, why are you warming-up that way? How do you know it gets you ready? Is there something else you could be doing?

Habits, even if they are automatic take time and in sports sometimes there is not enough time to do every little think that feels “comfortable”. So without stepping completely out of your comfort zone, put the most important things first. To accomplish this try to organize your habits and routines with goals in mind. What are the most important actions? How can you be flexible in different situations?

Being confident and paying attention are critical to breaking bad habits or creating good habits. You need to believe you can change and also pay attention to what is being changed. There should be careful attention to detail. Every second and every inch can make a difference in sports so use care when creating habits. Be involved in your performance, pay attention to what is going on around you as well as your own actions. Changing your habits is not impossible but it does take hard work, persistence, time, confidence, and an attention to detail.

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Joe Spano

Joe Spano

Sport Psychology Consultant, Adjunct Lecturer
Joe Spano attended Boston University School of Medicine for his Masters degree in Mental Health and Behavioral Medicine with a focus on sport and exercise psychology. He has done consulting work with athletes, teams, and coaches across Northern New England. He has also spoken about the benefits of sport psychology at various conferences to parents, players, and coaches. While completing his PhD in Health Psychology he currently serves as the Sport Psychology Coach with the MAC/ Bollettieri Tennis Academy and Manchester Athletic Club in Manchester, MA.
Joe Spano

@ampedsports

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