Coach Tip Tuesday: Good Athletes Practice Specific Skills. GREAT Athletes Practice MANY Skills.

Posted On:
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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Coach Mark Sortino putting this week’s tip into action by practicing his bike handling skills.  He is working on his turns, using a very small circle of cones as his reference point, and making a tight turn around those cones.

I will make all of you this promise: In a world that is changing every day in ways we cannot predict, I will continue to give you something you CAN predict. Coach Tip Tuesday is here again, just like it has been for so many Tuesdays before today!

Many of us have different routines and schedules right now.  Like we talked about last week, this may lead to the temptation to do MORE in terms of training time or volume.  I definitely am recommending that caution be used when adding additional volume.  But something that we can ALL consider adding to our training schedules if we have extra time is skills practice.

Over the years, I’ve learned this simple truth:

Good athletes practice specific skills.  GREAT athletes practice MANY skills.  

How does this pertain to you? Well, this means that you need to practice ALL skills, even if you think you know what you're doing. I cannot tell you how many times someone has said to me, “Oh, I’ve been riding/running/swimming forever, I can’t imagine that I would need to practice that” or "I did [insert thing here] one time, so I'm fine and don't need to incorporate that practice into my training."

That’s definitely the wrong line of thinking. The best athletes I’ve ever encountered practice skills, day-in and day-out. They don’t EVER think that they are “too far along” for the basics. One of the athletes I work with, Jacquie Craggett, has been swimming with a Masters Swim group for more than THIRTY years. THIRTY years of swimming with this group for 2-4 times per week. Each time she swims with them, she tells me what they covered. And guess what? After THIRTY years, she still does drills and focuses on skills EVERY SINGLE DAY. Not only does she do them, but she relishes the opportunity to practice skills that she might be a bit rusty at.

We should all be like Jacquie. I certainly hope to be someday! To have spent THREE DECADES honing a craft and still humble enough to come back to basics each time she does something is to be admired.

Jacquie is not alone in this.  The best athletes in the world -  the professionals, the Olympians, etc. - are the best in the world precisely because they stay humble and focus on “sharpening the axe” by practicing their skills.  And they do not limit themselves to just the skills they like or think they need work on.  They work on ALL of them.

So, this week, I challenge you all to practice MANY skills.  Here are some suggestions: 

If you are fortunate enough to have access to somewhere you can swim (quite the commodity in this current situation), I challenge you to incorporate the swim drill that you hate most (because what you hate most is almost always what you need to work on most :) ) as well as some drills you haven’t done in a while.

If you are able to get outside and ride your bike, I challenge you to practice your braking, ability to ride in a straight line, turning, and obstacle avoidance skills. Don’t think that riding in a straight line is hard? Just line up some cones very close together and see how “easy” riding in a straight line is then. ;)

If you’re going out for a run, practice lifting your legs, driving your legs forward, turning your legs over at a faster cadence, and remaining relaxed throughout your entire body as you run.

Skills practice is one of the areas I always see “low-hanging fruit” in for athletes.  SO many athletes do not practice skills regularly.  Set yourselves apart from the crowd, my friends.  Aim to be GREAT athletes, and embark upon that path by including MANY drills in your exercise routine. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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