What You Practice

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by Staci Stallings

Here’s a simple yet profound thought: You get good at what you practice.

Now maybe you have some natural talent, but even natural talent will only get you so far. LeBron James was talented, but it was practice that made him LeBron James. He didn’t just step onto a court one day and command the salary he’s making. What made him phenomenal at the sport he loves is the simple concept of practice.

Think about it.

Name anything in this life that you don’t get better at with practice. Sports. Playing a musical instrument. Writing. Reading. Bike riding. In every single one, you get better with practice.

This morning I had the opportunity to teach color guard flags to a group of students who had never so much as held a flag before. To teach them, I started out with teaching each flag position. Drop the flag to your left side. Down… two… three… four. Up… two… three…. Four. Down… two… three… four. Up… two… three… four.

See, flags is all about muscle memory. In short, the idea is to train your muscles so well, that they do the movement automatically and on beat almost without you thinking about it.

But that doesn’t just happen. It takes practice.

Later, as we were talking, I was just messing around with the flag doing moves I literally learned over 25 years ago. There was one move that when I was in band my 9th grade year (think, 25 + 8 or 9 more years ago), we learned this move.

For those in color guard, it was a windmill with a spin and a high-spin-toss. It was quite impressive, and now thinking back, I sure wish someone would have thought to videotape us because I would love to see us perform that move.

Let me set the stage for this move if you will allow me to. The song was “Fiero”—a fiery Spanish number with lots of blazing trumpets. And it was fast. Like SUPER fast. And our band at the time was crazy good, so they could play this song amazingly well.

It was our entrance number onto the field from the opposite side. The beginning of this song started with the flag corps doing this move. It was flashy and amazing, but only if it was done right.

Wait. Did I say “right”? I don’t just mean “right.” I mean “perfect.”

We had eight flag girls, fanned out from the 30 yard line to the 30 on the field. At that distance and with that many flags all doing exactly the same thing, one of us being a half-count off would be super-noticeable.

Our teacher at the time had been in flag corps herself, and to say she was a perfectionist would be a VAST understatement.

Now I came from a very small school, and our school’s claim to fame was basketball. So you can imagine how protective the school was about our basketball courts. In other words, NOBODY walked on the basketball courts unless you were there to play basketball.

So, here we are, and it’s time to practice this move and get all eight of us in perfect time together. Because we can’t practice on a basketball court, we’re outside. And it is COLD. Like FREEZING cold.

One thing you have to know is that you can’t do flags with gloves. It just doesn’t work.

While the band practiced INSIDE because it was too cold to be on the field marching, the flag corps was OUTSIDE learning to be perfect.

Because it was so cold and our hands and fingers were pretty much frozen, those flags were a lot more difficult to control. Yet, here we were. Doing this one move over and over and over and over.

When we’d get off-count, even by a fraction of a second, we’d have to start over and do each part of the move in counts of four. “SNAP IT!” she’d say. “It has to be precise! Move the flag. Don’t let it move you! Do it again!” And if someone didn’t get their hand perfectly in a fist over their belly button when the other hand was at the top of the high spin-toss, we had to start over… again.

I don’t know how long we were out there. I really don’t. I do know it was light when we started and dark when we finally quit.

I remember being ready to quit the flag corps altogether. It wasn’t worth THAT.

Until it was. Until we got rave reviews at every contest we went to. Until the guy on television at the fair said how amazing we were. Until today when I did that move, and my hand went right in a fist to my belly button every, single time.

Muscle memory. Practice.

The question I had to ask myself after I noticed that today was this: What in my life am I practicing now? Practicing even when or maybe especially when it’s hard. Am I practicing patience and unconditional love? Am I practicing diligence and encouragement? Am I practicing forgiveness and peace?

Even now I’m teaching my spiritual muscles the “counts” of how to do all of these things, so that when it counts, my spiritual muscles do exactly what they’ve been trained to do.

It’s worth thinking about in all aspects of life. What you practice, you get good at. What are you practicing?

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“There are always lessons to be learned when reading a Staci Stallings novel. I happened to read this one at a pivotal time for me. I was struggling with some issues regarding conditional love. In the novel, Charity struggles with having always felt that she couldn’t do anything “good enough”.

A Best Selling Christian Romance!

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The Easy Way Out

About the Author:

Staci StallingsA stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from. Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again. Every title is a new adventure! That’s what keeps Staci writing and you reading.

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