In my last post I described the need to coach my kids through college prep, using the analogy of a football game. Well if we are still in pre-season, I need a game plan, a set of plays that can be used for practice and in the game.
The game plan needs to be made up of the following:
1. Conditioning. If we are going to endure 60 minutes of competition, we need to be in top shape. Muscle, endurance, and agility. Reading, writing, critical thinking, presentation.
2. Practice, skills development, running plays. With the body fit and strong, we need to work on stringing these skills together into a flow that mimics how they will be used. When given an assignment, what do you do first, second, and so forth? Break it down into the steps and sequence, and drill it into a repeatable process that becomes second nature. A test is put on the calendar: How many days until the test? How much material is covered? How much study per day, leaving days for review and practice testing? Etc.
3. Scouting, studying films, understanding the competition. What is coming up that we need to prepare for? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how do they match up to ours? What do we need to practice, drill, and focus on, so that we are ready? What is our plan?
4. Scrimmage, practicing game time scenarios. Practice, practice, practice. Doing things over and over will build neural networks in the brain, so the play is automatic. With the play automatic, the brain is freed up to take in new information on game day. Are their weather conditions that will affect my play? Is there something new the competition is doing that I did not expect? Did the quarterback just call an audible play?
5. Game day. This is where it all comes together. All of the prep and practice, studying and memorizing. Time to amp up the emotions, get yourself in the right positions to execute as you have planned, and enjoy the battle! Don’t hold back and leave it all on the field.
6. Post game analysis, results discussion, and correction. This is the crucial step that we miss. Once the game is over and the results are known, what did we get right, and where did we end up short? What can we learn for next time? Was it something about our overall fitness, practice, research or execution? Or was it that the competition did something that we weren’t expecting? Did the environment throw us off? Whatever happened, celebrate the winning points and learn from your mistakes. Come out of the post game analysis knowing all the right answers and adjust the game plan as needed.
7. Repeat. Once we’re done with one game, there surely is another one on the schedule. We must get ready now for the next challenge. Take a day off somewhere in this cycle, but know that we must keep going throughout the whole season, doing all of these steps again and again, getting better and stronger each cycle.
The school year is a season, and there are some weeks off and much needed breaks. But the season is not over until next summer and we have to remember that. One test does not a season make. Seeing all of the tests and challenges together in a year long schedule, and including all of the work between games and off-season will make for a strong team, who can take on any challenge while constantly getting better.