Rituals

In the book, The Carolina Way: Leadership Lessons from a Life in Coaching, hall of fame coach, Dean Smith discusses the importance of rituals. For him and his team, rituals played a vital role in promoting teamwork and skill development. However, there was one season where he noted one ritual in particular that seemed to be having a negative impact.

"...for many years we ended the practice before a game with the ritual of putting six players at one end of the court and six at the other end. Before they could leave practice, each of the six players at both ends had to make two consecutive free throws, If five made them and the sixth missed, all had to start over. During the 1978 season I stopped the drill after we determined it was producing negative results. Because players didn't want to be responsible for keeping their teammates on the court long after practice had ended, they tried too hard to make their shots so their teammates could go home. In the process they put too much pressure on themselves. For some of them it carried over to the games. We had unintentionally planted a seed that wasn't productive because the players thought too much about the consequences of missing...

We changed and at every practice had each player shoot fifty foul shots, all of which were recorded by our managers. The shots were taken at different intervals during practice. That was more effective. Our North Carolina players made most of their clutch foul shots, that much I know. They concentrated on their personal ritual, not on the consequences of making or missing."

Coach Smith also spoke of how he encouraged each player to establish their own routine when they were at the foul line. It didn't matter what their routine was, but what was important is that each player went through his same motions every time they took a free throw, whether in practice or during a game.

"Their minds would be on the ritual, not the outcome. It helped relieve the pressure of the moment."

May you find and evaluate the proper rituals in your life that promote good habits and social connectedness. May the thought of any outcome be lost in your mind during critical moments and trust your practice will lead to success.