A lot about being an athlete revolves around the word routine. Outside of the actual performance on the field, most of an athlete's life deals with a routine. Whether it's sticking to a routine, or practicing to make difficult things seem routine, or tweaking a routine to improve it, the word routine keeps popping up. The better an athlete can stay within the confines of a routine the better they can deal with unexpected things that might be thrown at them. Look at it this way, if you are trying to remember a phone number and then someone tells you four more numbers to remember then that task becomes more difficult. But, if that original phone number is already memorized (in other words, part of a routine), remembering those extra four numbers will now be pretty easy. Well, it's the same thing in sports. The harder you work to make things second nature, the better you will be able to cope when those "extra" things that will inevitably happen in every game.
The idea for this post came to me because of two things at practice today. As I woke up this morning I looked outside and saw that it was pouring rain. Now, as a native southern Californian, the mere sight of rain usually disrupts my normal routine. Most SoCal people shut down their lives on the few days a year that we see a sprinkle. But today it didn't affect me. I got to the field, though soaking wet, and went through my normal routine. I lifted a few weights, did a few arm exercises, ate some breakfast, and was ready to go. And as I stood under one of the covered areas of the facility doing my arm bands it really hit me, "hey this is pretty cool". Personally, I am huge into routines and like get myself into good habits. So, as I watched the rain hit the asphalt I thought to myself that my day was surprisingly unaffected by it. At that moment I was just really appreciative that the Phillies provide us with the facilities necessary to get into a good routine and stick to it. It might seem trivial, but to an athlete who is trying to get better every day it's huge.
The second instance at practice where the idea of routine hit me might be a little bit of a stretch, but try to stay with me. Like I said it had rained earlier in the day, and after practice we had to condition. Today was a semi-light day of 8 poles followed by pick-ups. So, as I was running my poles on the warning track I noticed that the inside path on the track was muddy while the outside path was much dryer. Now, having the weird psychological/philosophical brain that I do, this got me thinking about routine. I likened the condition of the warning track to people's path in life. While the shorter path on the track might look as if it will get you to where you want to go with less work, you'll get "muddy" in the process. If you take the longer path, it might be a bit more difficult but you will come out the other side "cleaner". Trading less running for getting "muddy" is like trading doing less work for better chance of failure. While, trading more running for being "clean" is like doing more work for better chance at success. In other words, in life and especially in sports, there are no shortcuts. You have to put in the work to get the results. The harder you work within the confines of your routine, the "cleaner" and better prepared you will be for what life and sports has to throw at you.
Whether you buy in to my babble or not doesn't really matter. Because I buy into it. And that's what a routine is all about. It is something that YOU know YOU can do every day and believe will make YOU better for the ware. And as an athlete, routine really is the name of the game.