Unfortunately, I wrote this article prior to the heartbreaking NFC Championship loss the Packers suffered to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that took place earlier this week. I decided not to edit this first paragraph because the pain is too real and changing it could leave us with an introduction that sucks the soul out of every reader, just like the Packers did to mine this past weekend. With that being said, here we go…
I am a hardcore Cheesehead - GO PACK GO - The Pack are on my mind, and energy levels are high, knowing that the boys from Lambeau are steamrolling through the playoffs. Rodgers looks great, team chemistry is through the roof, and all three phases are clicking and ready for this Super Bowl push. Aside from my green and yellow fandom, I believe many people will be able to relate with me on the fact that I am also a fan of great leaders; leaders who have paved the way for future generations. There is no doubt, Vince Lombardi has helped lay the foundation. To start off this article, I want to break down one of his most famous quotes…
“Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”
The first thought that came to my mind was, 'I suppose that seems logical.'
But as I thought deeper, my question is this: if we practice perfectly, where do mistakes occur?
If mistakes don’t happen, where do we learn?
If we don’t learn, where do we grow? How do we improve?
“Perfect” doesn’t seem ideal when it comes to seeking growth; when it comes to seeking improvement.
Now, we don’t know Lombardi’s true intentions, and depending on the context, it could be very valuable. It’s possible that Lombardi was more referring to the intent at which practice is being conducted. Are you truly present in the practice? Are you giving it your full attention?
If you are hitting a 5 iron on the range, are you taking each swing with maximum focus and intent? Or, are you simply swinging away to get through the bucket of balls?
When you read, are you giving the book your maximum intent, or is your brain elsewhere?
Now, Lombardi also said, "Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence." Therefore, it is my personal belief that he was more hinting at the intent to which practice is being completed and the fact that we should always be seeking growth, improvement and betterment. Never be satisfied. Either way, I'll move on.
The central reason I brought up the quote is that too often I have seen it utilized in a strength and conditioning or team sport setting in regards to human movement and drills.
‘We need perfect shin angles when we accelerate’
‘We need zero valgus while squatting’
‘We need 90 degree joint angles’
‘We need perfect execution’
'We need perfect reps. If not, we are wasting them'
‘We need 12 yards on our comeback route, not 12.5’
‘We need to eliminate false steps’
Do we actually?
I was an accountant for a year after graduating college. I have a very analytical mind. I like numbers. I like patterns. I like order. I loved when the financial statements agreed with the underlying detail - It was perfect! But guess what, that’s exactly what was wrong with the accountant in me.
I strived for perfection. I strived for cleanliness. I strived for stability. Only to be shoved off my foundation when something went awry or volatility became present.
What does the accountant-strength coach look like?
Perfect squats. Perfect lunges. Perfect shin angles. Load the body in biomechanical advantageous positions. Why put extra stress where it is not needed? Why create a messy environment? Or elicit messy movement?
Because… mess is stress, which creates growth.
Mess is stress.
About a month ago, I published an article discussing adaptation and the importance of stressing the body to elicit adaptations. We were made to adapt, and without a large enough stressor, we can’t.
While stressors come in many different shapes and sizes, it is important that we understand that additional stress is placed on the system when we build a messy environment - or are placed into one.
A sporting environment presents the largest mess (and therefore creates the largest stressors). Intensity is at an all time high. Emotions are running wild. Adrenaline is off the charts. But yet, you need to find the peak of your performance capabilities in these environments.
A large enough stressor will place physical loads on the body, and will further present psychological, mental, and intellectual demands that need to be adapted to. The messier the environment, the larger the struggle, the greater the demands placed on the body, and the more stress will accumulate. However, understand that stressors are good. In fact, they are necessary. To a degree, we need to struggle, we need mess, and we need stress in order to grow.
We need imperfection, in order to strive for perfection.