When I hear the word "routine", I tend to think of certain things we do consistently and without thinking. I just looked up the word in the google dictionary and it seems I am on track.
"noun: a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program"
We all our routines, our "sequence(s) of actions regularly followed." Even the most free-flowing of people end up with specific free-flowing routines. Whether we realize it or not, we are creatures of habit. Or better yet, a collection of habits that often lead to specific fixed programs or routines.
We do not always realize what those routines are or even realize we are in the midst of them. Sometimes we cultivate a specific routine on purpose. Sometimes we don't. But we all have our routines. And they shape us much more than we might care to admit.
Because this is true, if we want to improve at anything, it is vital for us to cultivate wise routines. Whatever your goal may be, the key to reaching such a goal isn't just work, but the right kind of work in the right kind of way. And in my experience, the right kind of work always involves the best kind of routines.
Interestingly enough, the definition for routine as an adjective is this:
"performed as part of a regular procedure rather than for a special reason."
I have to say, that may often be an accurate description, but there is no way it has to be an accurate description. The best routines aren't just procedure. They are specifically developed for a special reason, for a long-term goal. In life, work, and play. Routines can just happen, even will just happen, but if we want to be at our best, we want to take control of them to make them happen.
What does this mean for the young player? A lot, but we can start with two simple things.
1) You need to be clear about your goal.
2) You need to develop routines that, when implemented consistently, will help you reach that goal.
I'll give you a personal example.
From a very young age, I was very clear about my goals. I wanted to win a state championship, play Division I basketball, and to play in the NBA. Simple enough. Obvious enough. Not easy. Some didn't even think it possible. But I was very clear.
But the key to my development was the cultivation of some very specific routines in pursuit of that goal. I ended up with plenty, but there are two in particular that I believe shaped me more than any others.
A form shooting routine and a ball-handling routine.
Those may not sound profound, because they aren't. But they were essential to my development on so many levels. For starters, my Dad was a high school coach and he told me over and over that if I were to do those things daily I would become a great shooter and a great ball-handler. If I was serious about my long-term goals, I would do those things and find success.
And guess what? I believed him. It really was that simple. He knew that in order for me to be the best version of myself, I had to become a great shooter and a great ball-handler. Period. And that apart from consistent work on these two things, that would never happen. No matter how much I went up to the park. No matter how much I played. Those two routines were essential.
He gave me other advice, but as I remember it, he rehearsed these things consistently. Then I would go to various camps and hear much of the same thing. So I would do them all the more.
They worked. But one of the important things to note is that they worked not simply because they are the end all, be all of shooting and ball-handling. There is much more to our routines than that. I tend to think that they worked, because they enabled me to become a specific kind of worker. They taught me to put in the consistent work for a long-term goal. To note incremental improvements. To trust the process. To master the small things. To never be bigger than the simplest of drills. And so much more.
They were key routines not simply because they made me better in and of themselves, but because they set the tone for everything else I did and even how I identified as a player. "I can shoot. I can handle. Because I always put in the work." There are few things as powerful as that.
As the years went on, I developed more routines, but I never gave up on those first two. I adjusted them, but never gave up on them. They shaped me more than I can even say.
So young player, what are your goals? And if you are clear about those goals, what are your routines? Have you chosen them? Have you developed them?
Choose wisely, because they will develop you.