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We Need More Messy Practices

By Joe Crispin, 11/14/17, 10:45AM EST

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Quick confession:  I hate clean practices

I don't like nice and neat. I don't like obvious and orderly. Or simple, straightforward and predictable. I prefer a bit of a mess.

Don't get me wrong, I have a plan. And I usually stick to that plan. After all, I spent a great deal of time working on that plan. But when put into practice, I believe I am only doing things right if you see a bit of a mess. In order to really feel good about practice, I need to see plenty of mistakes. 

There are many reasons for this, but two stand out. 

First, I want to prepare players to play in actual games. I can't tell you how important I believe this is. I literally practiced in thousands and thousands of practices over the years. Too often, I believed there was not enough carryover from practice to the games, because our practices were too neat. Or too often interrupted. 

Games are messy. They require problem solving and processing information in a highly pressurized environment. On the spot. In the moment. Without the coach giving the answers to the test. If that really is the case, then how should we practice? Probably different than we often do. 

Second, you can't correct mistakes without giving them the opportunity to happen time and again. Practice needs to be the place to teach. But teaching requires mistakes. And not just any mistakes, but consistent mistakes. Mistakes you see time and again. 

Oftentimes, if you want players to learn something, you need to let them fail time and again. Not only that, but it is often most helpful to let them fail consistently enough that the answer to their problems become obvious to themselves and each other. So obvious that they correct themselves. The best answers are the ones we reach ourselves. 

From the youth level on up, I see too many clean practices. Too many stops and starts. Too many interruptions. Too few mistakes. Today, this day, let's change our approach. Create an environment where mistakes are encouraged. Where they can be made with a view towards learning and growing and maturing. It's the only way to really learn. And in the end, that learning process is the foundation to greater basketball joy.