Part II: Baseball, Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Etc. - Riding The Wave of Inconsistency

XVI Mediterranean Games - Day 6 - Artistic Gymnastics

In continuation of Part I, so would there be a change in the "wave of inconsistency" in team sports if team sport athletes brought to their training table the same perception, attitude, and focus that a very consistent individual athlete brought to their table?

I mean does it really matter whether the skill set a person is working on is for a team sport or individual sport? Is there really any difference between the effort and focus one needs to train or compete a double or triple axle in skating, a 2 ½ somersault with 2 twists in diving, a return of serve in tennis, a free throw in basketball, or a pass in volleyball?

The skater could easily take off or land on the wrong part of their blade or catch some bad ice causing an error, the diver may have to contend with a stiffer board than what they are used to, the tennis player may incorrectly predict the speed or kick of the served ball, the basketball player may not put enough arc on his or her shot, and the volleyball player may not accurately judge the wobble in a floater serve.

So then, the real difference centers around the fact that in passing a volleyball, shooting in basketball, or returning a tennis serve - the athlete will likely get another

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Clippers

shot at it while the diver and/or skater will not. They could easily be out of the running with one mistake.

This is also true in a sport like gymnastics, no second chances.

This makes me wonder if this is the reason for the wavy, inconsistent play you see from many a team sport athlete. That because there is likely to be a second chance, focus is much more easily lost.

Maybe even training and practice are looked at differently by team sport athletes. Maybe many - most, with the exception of the very consistent, don't carry the same focus into their training that a successfully consistent individual sport athlete does.

And maybe they don't carry the same perspective that their successfully consistent individual athlete counterparts do in competition, that every single movement - every single skill - does count and that the better you do each one, the higher your chances of succeeding regardless of what everyone else around you does.

That always working toward perfecting your skill set is what will bring to the athlete the consistency they are seeking. This is true for any skill they perform even with the knowledge that absolute perfection is impossible.

Womens Gold Contest RUS v CHN

So again, what would happen if a team sport athlete brought into their training, practice, and competition the same perception, attitude, and focus that a successfully consistent individual athlete has to bring into theirs?

What would happen if the importance of quality of one's skill set (not just the quantity) took on the same level of importance that it does for their successfully consistent individual sports counterparts?

Would those athletes be able to perform their skill set at a consistently higher level than other team sport athletes that continued on the path that most of them seem to follow?

Case in point, I have seen a volleyball player literally drop a serve-receive pass right on top of a setter's head when the chips were really on the line. Say on championship point where one mistake would have caused an immediate loss.

And I have seen it done many times in pressure situations like that. This is not something exclusive to volleyball either. Many of you know of a few athletes in other sports who consistently do the same thing, that when the game is on the line they simply perform better.

It is this same perspective, attitude, and focus that these specific team sport athletes bring to their position in pressure situations, time and time again, which leads to the consistency that the best individual athletes seem to possess and train with on a regular basis.

That is what they, the individual athlete, must bring to their table if they are to consistently handle the pressure they are always under when they compete. If they don't, they are no more consistent than their team sports counterparts who seem to always ride that wave.

Olympics Day 10 - Diving

A diver must contend with a board, their body, and the pool, a skater must contend with their skates, their body and the ice, a gymnast must contend with the event, their grip, and controlling their swing or momentum, the basketball player must contend with their competitors, the basketball, and scoring baskets, the libero on a volleyball team must contend with the volleyball, their body, and what they must do with that ball.

So you see, all athletes are much more alike than they are different. They all have an environment they must adapt to, contend with, and try to impart control over.

The only real difference between athletes is in the quality of what they are willing to bring to their training and competitive table in order to help them consistently perform at peak levels.

Sports News - January 15, 2009

And herein lies the conundrum that so many team athletes are faced with. Do they continue to ride the wave of inconsistent up-and-down thinking, accepting that that is just the way it is, or are they willing to learn from their successfully consistent individual sports brethren and make a choice to be different and become the difference?

Yes, it is true that just because one team athlete takes on the attitude explained above that their team could still not succeed. But what are the chances of the team succeeding without that change? And what if that change encourages the same change in others, then what?

I leave you with that last open-ended question.

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