Saturday, August 9, 2008

Does Preparation Become Excessive Perspiration?

A tennis pro colleague of mine called to my attention Thursday’s Boston Globe article about Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia. For those of you who don’t know, Pedroia happens to be hitting extremely well these days. He also has a pre-game regiment that many major leaguers may not want to admit for fear of receiving an accusatory, “Why aren’t you doing that, too?”

The All-Star second basemen in Beantown thinks nothing of personal records or Manny-esque drama. Rather, he prepares for games with focus and a drive to enhance performance for the betterment of his team. And that mindset helps set him apart.

As does Ray Allen’s, although his pre-game plan borders on clinically obsessive-compulsive (see Jackie MacMullan’s April article). Think Nomar tightening and tapping in the batter’s box, only expand the scene to the entire day (check out Ray's itinerary from Men’s Fitness). Allen’s awakenings may cause some folks to fatigue just thinking about his schedule, one that specifies the type of bread and ounces of water he consumes after his 200 pre-team meeting warm-up shots.

Some players think nothing of their teammates’ rituals while others have joined in the action. But when does preparation to this extent become unnecessary? I suppose it’s really just up to the athlete (especially one who gets paid and has time to participate in long-winded activities that consume the entire day).

My long-time friend, Mike Gambelunghe, was a two-sport star in high school and college, and he would often go out to the field on game day mornings and visualize the action. He then proceeded to eat his favorite meals and watch game film. MIT All-American Jimmy Bartolotta wears his special shooting shirt, listens to his personal playlist on his iPod, and has other idiosyncrasies in his routine to create comfort as he prepares for basketball contests.

There is no exact equation for preparation, although production of a good sweat is key for getting the mental and physical juices flowing. As the body warms up, the mind warms up -- and as long as an athlete is gradually getting into the ideal competition zone, who can criticize?

Performing at the top entails understanding ones own limitations and cues – if an athlete can create a credible routine that works, then credit that person with a clap and a dap. Even if others believe it may be excessive.

Players want to be pushed. That is why they keep going back, day after day, putting themselves in a situation where they will be asked to run more, jump higher, and possibly be chastised in front of their peers. So, prepare to perspire. Just make sure it’s controlled and conducted in manners that minimize the chance of injury or other health issues.


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