Lebron James Probably Measures his Practice

Ever since I saw my first Stockton-to-Malone pick and roll in the 1997 NBA Finals, I was obsessed with everything basketball. I went outside that very night and shot hoops until my mom forced me to come inside. I had the idea in my head that if I practiced as much as I could every day, then I would be able to be just like my basketball hero Karl Malone. After all, practice makes perfect. Right?

No!

What I learned later was that practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Additionally, as Coach Morrison, a former basketball pro who played for years in Europe taught, measured practice makes perfect.

As a kid it seems easy. Practice for hours every day and you become like Lebron James. But Coach Morrison taught us that merely playing for hours and hours does not mean you’ll become good basketball players. Not only did you need to practice in the right way by doing the right drills, but you needed to measure your practice quantitatively to give you a benchmark and track your progress. He gave us all worksheets to track how many shots we made in each drill, which enabled us to see our progress from day to day and week to week. By measuring my practice, I was more encouraged to practice harder and smarter, and it gave me a stronger desire to improve.

In contrast, I also had another coach who required metrics in our practice. However, instead of measuring shots made in certain drills, he had us measure the number of hours practiced. At first I didn’t  mind this requirement, but it soon became apparent that this was highly ineffective. Whenever I would get really tired, I would slow down and become sloppy in my practice until the required amount of hours were done. Instead of having the benchmarks of progress and areas of needed improvement that the previous way of measurement gave, this new way of measurement not only was annoying, but didn’t help me to become better.

From this experience and many others, I became a believer in metrics. Through measurement, we become more focused, efficient, and better. However, the caveat is that we have to measure the right thing! If we don’t measure the right thing, than you become like me in the 9th grade, lazily shooting hoops in the gym waiting for it to become 6:00 when I can go home. Put simply, metrics become a hindrance when they don’t help you accomplish the actual objective and you’re measuring the wrong thing.

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