Time Out: Dec. 30, 2009

by John Bernhardt
Former late night talk show king, Johnny Carson, understood the importance of preparation. “Talent alone won’t make you a success. Neither will being in the right place at the right time, unless you are ready. The most important question is, ‘Are you ready?’ counseled Carson when advising young comedians about the road to success.
Carson’s advice is much the same as what area athletes hear from their coaches in every sport season. Experience has taught coaches that to be prepared is half of victory. No team ever really actualizes their given talent, but the better prepared teams come far closer to maximizing their natural gifts. Coaches desperately covet practice time as they scramble to get their squads ready to compete in interscholastic competition knowing that the best prepared teams have a leg up on their competitors.
Sunday’s New York Times sports section featured the defensive growth and prowess of New York Jet cornerback Darelle Revis. Greg Bishop, a writer for the Times, is touting Revis as possibly the best defensive player in all of football. According to Bishop the foundation of Revis’s success is intense preparation.
Revis’s preparation covers three areas. Part one of the Revis magic comes through memory, memory forged from extensive study of game tapes. As a rookie, Revis claims he didn’t understand the difference between watching tape and studying tape. At the earliest stages of his career, Revis simply watched game tape. Now in his third year, Revis studies tapes 60 to 90 minutes every day, analyzing the tapes to unearth the body language of every receiver he is assigned to cover. Watching the tapes over and over, Revis claims he can almost always find physical signals his opponent will show that tips off his receiving intentions. Revis uses that information to disrupt his opponent’s receiving patterns all game long.
Like it is with every professional football player, part two of Revis’s preparation involves muscle. Revis maintains a brutal off-season training regimen that includes lifting monster truck tires, pulling sleds and tackling Arizona’s most daunting mountain trails in the blazing heat.
The final part of Revis’s preparation involves mindset. Two words sum up the talented Jet cornerback’s relationship with his coaches, “Teach Me.” Revis’s hunger to learn allows him to maximize his coaches’ instruction keeping him on an accelerated program perfecting fundamentals and technique and mastering football knowledge.
Revis’s three-part prescription would be medicine for any local athlete preparing before or even during a sport’s season. Too often in modern times, young athletes downplay the value of preparation. Participation on youth sports’ teams that rush youngsters into game play with little or no real practice preparation builds a mindset that devalues practice, preparation, and the acquisition of game skills. When athletes reach high school with only game-playing experiences during their younger years, they clamor to scrimmage during practices and rarely take skill acquisition seriously. In addition, these young people often struggle to listen well and maximize the coaching they receive.
The good news is that with a focus on preparation, young people can make huge leaps of progress in short periods of time. Rather than only looking to play in summer leagues or on AAU teams, youngsters should balance their preparation by devising and following a daily practice plan that develops game skills and improves conditioning.
Once the season starts, athletes looking to leapfrog ahead need to listen carefully to their coach’s suggestions and try to follow them to the word. Listen to your coaches’ instructions even when they are not directing them toward you, and try hard to internalize what he or she says. Then work to repeat the instructions over and over at game-like speeds until they become instinctive moves, muscle memory reflexes that don’t require conscious thought. That focus and attention to detail will put any young athlete on the fast track to improvement and game success.
It was President John Kennedy who advised many years ago, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” Preparation is the foundation of success.