My first response would have been if you’d asked me this question when I was a young player. Playing is better. I loved playing games. But had I thought about it even back then. My answer would have been the same as it is now as a coach, practice is better.
Maybe it depends on your definition of better. Does better mean more fun, or what is best for you as an athlete to improve and become the best athlete you can be?
Practicing Is Better Than Playing
It’s at the practice where an athlete gets work done. Where they not only learn new aspects of their sport but also spend time training and running drills. Time spent expanding an athlete’s knowledge of the game and repetition and skills work helps an athlete improve.
Increase Knowledge Of Your Sport
When an athlete is at practice, they learn new skills, new plays, and concepts related to their sport. Understanding the basics of attacking a zone defense in basketball, knowing how to use angles to beat an opponent to the ball in soccer, or learning when and where to hit your cut-offs in baseball or softball builds an athlete’s knowledge and confidence. And a better overall understanding of the sport will improve your game.
To improve as a player, you need repetition in the fundamental skills of your sport. You don’t get that by playing in games. This happens in practices when athletes run through drills and work on specific skill sets. Drills are repetitive and done throughout the season, with feedback from coaches to ensure the skill is being executed properly. With such practice, an athlete improves their skills, gains confidence, and is more prepared to play in a game.
Train With Your Brain
Give yourself the best opportunity to succeed, stay focused during practice. Much of your time will have been wasted if you put a lot of work into your sport but you do it half-heartedly. Quality is important. If you work hard and practice with intent, you will see better results.
Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” I think it’s a great quote, except that nobody is perfect. Still, if you make a focused effort at practice, you might get close.
Improving In Your Sport Is Fun
It is satisfying to see improvement in your play. Set goals for yourself so that you can see where you are making progress. Maybe you set a goal to get four rebounds in your next game when you average two. Practice with purpose and pay attention to your skill work, especially when blockouts and rebounds, and see what happens.
With effort, you will get good results. And it’s fun to see those results, to feel yourself getting better. And on those days when you are not as excited to go to practice remind yourself that your time at practice will pay off when it comes to game day.
Extra Practice Time
Outside of your school or select team practice you might find time to work independently or with a friend or teammate. Though you won’t have a coach’s feedback, it will give you repletion and skill work. And better yet, with a teammate or friend it can be a lot of fun.
Reach Your Dreams
If you want to become a better athlete in your sport, put in focused practice time and see improvements in your game. And then you are one step closer to reaching your dreams.