Learning is doing it right again and again

By Shanta Crichlow

Chapter 5 – Scrimmaging Doesn’t Make a Great Player


“Drills-work” might not be among the top five favorite activities athletes have to do at practice. Drills are those repetitive exercises and motions used to develop form and execution. The point is to repeat a motion correctly over and over again so that it becomes fused into the athlete’s muscle memory. Drills are directly or indirectly tied to actions the athlete is expected to execute during competition. They are less than impressive. The repetitiveness can be mundane and can feel like “just another thing to do”. Drills are however critical to the athlete’s development; they get to the heart of the matter and allow the athlete to dig in and focus on one skill at a time, give attention to developing that skill, get it right and remember it.


Give an athlete a choice between running drills and playing a scrimmage game, he’ll probably choose to scrimmage every time. A scrimmage at practice is where teammates face off against each other in a game that counts for nothing more than bragging rights. Scrimmaging is fun, it’s literally playing the game. I used to enjoy an unadulterated race with teammates every now and then. Scrimmages are also purposeful in that they allow the athletes to implement what they’ve been learning in a game-like setting. They should be used to test the athletes’ progress. A scrimmage with another team is as close as athletes get to the real thing with very little pressure. It’s a chance to execute all of their learning at once as though they’re in an actual game.


But scrimmaging is not what makes a great player. Where scrimmaging is for practicing the implementation of what the athlete has already learned and tweaking any “bugs”, drills are for learning and honing that execution. There’s little time (if any) during a scrimmage for in-the-moment correction or to kill bad habits and instill good ones. Drills are dedicated time to do the same required motions correctly over and over again until the body can execute it with little thought. That is how greatness and excellence are generated.


Life beyond athletics is basically a scrimmage cleverly disguised as a full-on championship game. And, the need for drills-work is disbursed all throughout. When I talk about doing drills in life, I’m talking about really “digging in” and being intentional with the changes and improvements that you want to make. Whether learning a new skill, starting a new business or job, trying to develop a new personal habit, replacing an old habit, adopting a new mindset, etc., we learn through repetition.


Challenging tasks can become victories with a little drills-work. We can set aside time to practice the change we want to make again and again. We can also incorporate drills-work into our day-to-day by (1) taking advantage of every opportunity to apply what we’re in the process of learning and (2) catching mistakes on the go and make corrections in the moment (e.g. when you make and mistake, stop and correct it, don’t just keep plowing forward). The key is not to get discouraged when we don’t execute correctly at the start (We’ll explore this further with nugget 8 – Don’t Get Tired of Doing the Wrong Thing). That’s the whole point of this type of required practice; mistakes are allowed when doing drills. We can mess up, correct the mistakes and start again.

With drills-work, we are free to progress well focus on improving one skill at a time. We know that we’ve mastered an action when we execute it consistently, over time (hopefully) with ease. When we’ve reached the point of consistently executing that skill, form or technique correctly, we can move on to the next. 


Drills-work is a useful tool on the spiritual journey as well. We could choose to scrimmage our way through our life with Christ — hoping that all of the emotional tools and scriptures we need will be readily available when we need it. But there is some intentionality involved even to that method. There are some life circumstances that require our “drilling into”. Sometimes we have to drilldown in prayer (Luke 18:1-8), drilldown in faith (1Kings 18:41-44), drilldown in action, keep seeking, keep asking, keep knocking (Matthew 7:7); and keep memorizing the truth that is written in God’s Bible about whatever we might be facing. Make it your personal drills-work to equip yourself to do things right even before it counts.


Drills-work takes time. It might seem impractical in our fast-paced society to invest time into developing a skill. It’s tempting to try to push through and scrimmage your way through life. Choose instead to hone your skills and improve your way through life. When you find yourself stuck while trying to learn something new, consider turning it into a “drill-workout” until you’ve mastered it. It’s about persistence. Be ready to put in the extra effort both in the moment and behind the scenes on your own time. Honing one’s athletic skills is never done during games and is rarely done during regular practice time. You have to make the personal choice to incorporate drills into your every day because Scrimmaging Doesn’t Make a Great Player.

    1. What new skill, mindset or habit are you hoping to adopt and need to drill-in to make it happen?

    2. When might you be scrimmaging when you should be doing drills work? Give me your example of each.

    3. When can you set aside time to do drills-work and how can you incorporate drills in your day-to-day to accomplish your goal?

    Leave your comments below and continue this journey with me. We’ll harness insight from the sports we know, love, and play and implement them in life beyond athletics. We’re all still going pro even if it’s not in our sport.



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