The Cycle of Development: Performance, Evaluation, Training, Repeat
There is a cycle of development for athletes. It goes performance, evaluation, training, repeat. Performance refers to official games or competitions. During a game, you try to play your best and try to win. After a game, whether you win or lose, it is time for evaluation. This is when you evaluate your performance. This is when you think about how you played, review stats and film, and determine what you should work on more in practice. Many athletes, especially at the lower levels of sports (high school and younger), don’t focus enough on this step of the cycle. They go from performance to training without really thinking about how they played. This is too bad, because evaluation is very important. You can’t just randomly practice and expect your performance in games to improve. You need to practice with a purpose. Your practice needs to be designed to help you improve as efficiently as possible so you can perform better. To do this, you need the information gathered from evaluations. If a QB watches film and notices that he misses most of his intermediate throws, then he will know what he needs to focus on in practice.
When you repeat this cycle over and over again, you performances will gradually improve. With every game, you get more information to evaluate. With this info, you can train better. With better training, your performance improves. Trust this process.
Remember, each part of the cycle is strengthened if you do them consecutively in the same order. Sometimes people train for too long of a period without competing in games for a long time. They may think they are getting lots of good training in, but they may be wrong. Once they finally perform in a game, they may discover a weakness that they didn’t know about. When you play games more often, you get more constant feedback to help you train better. You don’t get as much feedback if you take too long of a break from competitions. Furthermore, you get rusty mentally if you take a long break from competition.
Secondly, athletes sometimes play too many games back to back to back without training in between. This may keep an athlete mentally sharp, being so used to pressure situations, but they will lose out on the improvements that you can only make in practice. Like I said, your development is fastest when you repeat the cycle in order: perform, evaluate, train, repeat, without staying at one step for too long.
There is a 4th part of the cycle that I want to talk about. I call it recording or journaling. It can be very helpful to journal what you do after each practice. Have you ever played a great game then asked yourself, “Wow, I played so well. What did I do during practice this week that helped me play so well?” Or maybe you’ve asked yourself, “What should I practice on today? Have I practiced serving lately?” If you make records of your practices, then you will be better able to answer these questions. You will be able to draw correlations from your practices and performances. You may discover that when you focus more on situational drills in practice, you perform better. Or you may find out that you haven’t practiced bunting baseballs in 2 months and you should practice bunting more. Recording/Journaling is very similar to evaluation, it is just linked to your training instead of your games. But together, evaluation and recording/journaling are very important, and greatly increase your improvement rate if done well.
If you want to reach your potential as an athlete, I highly recommend you focus on all of the steps of the cycle of development. With practice, you’ll master the cycle.