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  • Writer's pictureBaldMarauder

Mental Training - Dedicated Practice Progression

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

In the last blog we started the discussion on training the mind to train the body. Specifically, we discussed setting goals as the basis of routine development. We then discussed improving self-regulation by developing some cueing habits that can be used to prime our athletes during competition.

But athletes need to be challenged – how do we keep them interested when they can’t play?

Athletes, especially younger athletes, want to spend time playing their sport. Practicing is viewed by most as a means to an end – you have to go to practice if you want to play in the game. This is a sentiment held by many athletes at all ages – understand; we do not rise to the occasion, we fall to the level of our training.

This is a powerful idea! Athletes – you are good now, right? You play hard in games, you compete, you have success more often than not…imagine what you look like with 10 extra minutes of dedicated practice every day. Is it worth ten minutes of your day to compete an extra pass, score a late jumper, or make the game-saving tackle?

Ten minutes a day is nothing! Unless you think about that time over the course of a year; over an extra hour every week, over fifty hours every year! Take small bites they add up!

To continue on our mental development idea, I wanted to share how I build out training work-ons (programs) for athletes to improve on their technical work. The training is as much to develop the mental processes as the physical.

My Method Stack:

1) Static

2) Dynamic

3) Distractions

4) Sequencing

5) Live

In this current isolation environment, we cannot go live – at least in a team sport setting. But we can manipulate the situational phase by augmenting the space to operate, the duration of the drill, or standard that we set as acceptable. Will go into further later.

This system taxes an athlete mentally. The objective is to create stress through increased production requirements and distractions in order to ‘up the ante’ as they progress with the skill. It is unlikely that an athlete gets through the stack on day one.

Let’s take basketball as an example: we want to be more reliable from 3pt range.

Static: The first step is taking static jumpers from various positions behind the arc, making sure our technique is correct. Ground up discipline: are we jumping into every shot from an triple flexion (ankles, knees, and hips) position, and landing in a consistent area under control? Is the path of the ball following the same path up the body and releasing at a consistent angle? There are minute details of shooting I will not examine today, but hopefully you get the point and can apply it to your sport. If you have specific questions regarding how to determine best of practice movement patterns, contact us at

For every skill that takes dedicated practice to master, if you go through enough iterations you will find a better, or best method.

Dynamic: We now need to add movement to our drill by running to our spot and either receiving the ball, or dribbling into position. Can we maintain the same body position and jumping sequence when gathering ourselves from pace? Footwork is king, and will be tested the most by adding dynamic movement to your drill. Tracking the target is also a different experience when adding movement. Once the athlete has the sequence correct, we want to run through these shots at speed.

Distraction: There are a number of ways to add distractions. I like to start by putting a shadow defender in front of the athlete to make them more spatially aware. The defender’s job is not to block or push, but to occupy space close to the shooter. We can also accomplish the same task by setting up a blockade that forces the shooter to maintain a high arching shot and not fade.

Other ways to distract the athlete; time to shoot, visual and audio distractions. We can set a maximum time on an individual shot, or run through 4-6 shots in a set amount of time that forces the athlete to move at full pace. We can also use lights or cones to force the shooter to make their initial move left or right. And audio distractions – I say blue you say green, I say red you say yellow – will try to overload the athlete’s mind, forcing them to laser focus on the task at hand.

Sequencing/Multiple Distractions: This is a pre-live version of practice – the player is still in a reduced stress environment, but they will have to really work to get their shot off. If we have access to a shadow defender we would use it here as well, but it may not be a luxury we can afford in this environment. That’s okay – what we need to have is a sequence of shots in different spots that require multiple paths of movement. If the athlete is training solo – run with the ball and give it a quick toss as you approach each shooting area. We are working on focused, detailed shooting while under the mental strain of physical stress, sequencing, and audio/visual distractions.

For a three point shooter, we need to learn to shoot after running the baseline, switching directions, and coming off screens at the wing and post. We can incorporate all of that here in our final drill. Set spots on the floor you must shoot from (numbered 1-5). Each spot has a gate – baseline run, post screen, pop-out, etc. Call out the shooting spots in random sequence and go for time and made shots. This type of training is hard, but make it a challenge – have a competition, set a leaderboard, or share this with friends and see who does it best.

Ideally, we would spend 15-20 minutes on this entire progression – start to finish.

In the beginning – getting the form right from static is all that matters – don’t progress until it looks good from a standstill. The condensed timeframe helps you here: get in your allotted time and leave wanting a little more. As they progress, their pre-practice routine should include the static movement – part of their routine is warming up their ideal shooting form. Then we start adding the dynamic movement, adding mental and physical distractions, and then taxing the mental side further by adding sequencing and prolonged physical stress.

I hope everyone can close their eyes and see how this applies to their sport of choice. The point is to hold the interest of your athletes, challenge them in new ways, and create great habits that will separate them from the pack when we get back into competition!

Here is a video on working the 'through ball' in soccer - this progression stack applies to any skill that requires dedicated practice.

Hit me up with any questions on Twitter @UnrivaledESS or email me at

Check out the Process 2 Perform podcast on iTunes or Spotify if you want to hear more on athlete development - uploads every Wednesday. Have a great one everybody!


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