Design practice environments that stretch athletes just beyond their comfort zone. Some reports suggest that placing athletes in activities that are 4% beyond their current skill level is just the right amount of ‘stretch’.
Ensure the proper amount of stretch by making workouts ‘hard fun.’ A hard fun practice includes novelty, unpredictability, and complexity, and strikes the right balance between an athlete’s current skill level and demands of the training activity. Training that includes these characteristics prevents complacency, boredom, and off-task thinking and behavior.
Arrange high failure, pressure training conditions that increase athletes’ pattern recognition and decision-making ability. It is normal for athletes to fear failure. Yet, it is widely recognized that failure is a normal and critical ingredient for achieving long-term success. The most successful coaches deliberately create training environments where failure is inevitable. Steven Kotler, in his book The Rise of Superman, aptly refers to it as “the ability to keep cool when all hell breaks loose.”
Support and encourage athletes through the struggles they will face in a very challenging training environment. Simply putting athletes in unpredictable, high failure training activities without a clear plan for providing strategic feedback will only lead to heightened anxiety and frustration. Before placing athletes in high pressure training situations, be sure to plan for how and when to provide feedback and support. The simplest and most effective way to recognize small gains and athlete effort is to give regular and immediate feedback.
Counter-balance high pressure practice environments with fun and predictable activities. The path to excellence rests equally on ability and durability. The gains achieved from training under pressure will quickly be lost unless practice activities also are included that allow athletes to recover and prepare for the next challenge.
--Adapted from asep.com