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How to Train Your Athletes to Practice like a pro… Even if They’re an Amateur (INTENTION & RETENTION)

sign that reads amateur with an arrow pointing left and professional with an arrow pointing right and choose wisely written underneath on a blue sky background


  • In my 10+ years of coaching both amateurs and pros, I’ve noticed some key distinctions between how they approach practice and training.. And as a result I’ve also seen the patterns of where amateurs fall short.

  • Almost all these distinctions boil down to 2 main categories: Intention and Retention. In today’s post I dive into these concepts with examples.

  • Focusing on creating an intentional practice plan and ensuring information is retained will give your athletes vital life skills and confidence to practice, think, and train like a pro.

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At the end of the day, every coach dreams of taking an athlete from ameteur to pro. 

We coaches live for those “a ha” moments, when our athletes finally overcome an obstacle and take their game to new levels.

In my many years of coaching both amateurs and pros, I’ve noticed some key distinctions between how they approach practice and training.. And as a result I’ve also seen the patterns of where amateurs fall short. 

And, after thinking about this topic, I’ve narrowed down what I see to be 2 main categories that these differences fall under: Intention & Retention. 

My goal here is to help you identify areas of improvement for your athletes and maybe even new coaching tools and perspectives for your repertoire.  

As always, I hope you enjoy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this advice by shooting a message to 👊 



What’s the main difference between a pro and an amateur when it comes to practice and/or training? 

Amateurs just do things. They show up and practice.. something. They go through the motions and hope to improve incrementally. 

In contrast, pros (and their Coaches) make a practice plan… and they stick to it! They know exactly WHAT they’re going to do and WHY. Then they do what they set out to do, and REFLECT on how it went. 

Pros intentionally push their body to the limits, plan for recovery time, always have a clear goal in mind, and are always asking what they can do to improve and build upon what they’ve done. 

Pros understand that innate ability and/or raw talent can only get you so far. They focus their energy on improving areas of their game where they fall short, rather than focus on what they are already good at to boost their ego. 

As a coach, your job from day 1 should be to co-create this INTENTION with your athlete(s). 

Don’t be content with vague goals and aspirations – I challenge you to push your clients to create an action plan with clear, quantifiable and aspirational goals with accompanying deadlines. 

And then, once these are set, STICK TO THEM. 

It’s also important to get your athletes on board with the plan. Bring them into the conversation and help them establish a clear WHAT, WHY, and HOW. 

Then, from there, be purposeful and organized with every step of the training regiment. Store everything in one, easy-to-access place (ideally CoachNow) so that everyone knows exactly where to post, review, and communicate.

When they meet their goals, have them reflect on how it felt to set a target and meet it. Ask them what they learned in the process and how they can ensure that their progress is retained and built upon. 

When they miss their goals, ask them to reflect on what they could have done differently. I.e.

Who or what was the cause of the “failure” – was the goal itself unrealistic, execution lacking, or was the plan insufficient? How can you restructure the goal-setting process to avoid that mistake in the future? 

And remember, failure isn’t a bad thing – it sows the seeds of future success! 

In short, encourage your athletes to set their intentions and implement planning, reflection, journaling, and open communication. These skills will not only serve them well in their sport, but also in all areas of their life. 

Plus, imagine how valuable it will be for them to see their progress months and years down the road! 

Giving them this greater context on their athletic journey will inevitably improve performance, and have them taking ownership of their own development like a pro.


I’ve talked about retention quite a bit in the past (for example, here and here), but I only do so because it’s crucial for success in any coaching relationship. 

The reason is simple: if your athlete doesn’t retain the information from a session, time is then wasted reviewing and repeating, rather than progressing.

As a fun turn of phrase, I often say "Retention = Retention". 

In other words, if you can help your athletes remember more, they'll practice more effectively, and get better faster.

And, of course, when they see the results they get with your coaching, they’ll stay your client. 

When it comes to information retention, I’ve found that many coaches are stuck on the notion that some athletes just retain information better than others. 

But that’s simply not true. Memory and information retention is a skill. 

And, like any skill, it can be trained. 

All you need to do is reinforce what is taught  and provide clear documentation around the key learnings from your coaching sessions. 

In other words, try offloading the heavy lifting when it comes to their memory – make the excuse “I forgot” unacceptable by giving them EVERYTHING they need within their shared CoachNow Space. (and, remember, be sure to do this DURING the session so you aren’t giving yourself another task to procrastinate in the evening). 

At first, they will likely need to refer to the posts religiously when practicing. But trust me, if you up the expectations and take away excuses, it will train their memory... They will retain more and always have what they need to review at their fingertips with CoachNow. 

And, to reinforce their memory even more, try keeping the camera rolling when you are improving their technique or drill. When filming, ask them leading questions at the end of the movement, e.g.:

How did that feel? In your own words, why are we doing this? What do you want to improve upon next time? How will you make it happen? 

Psychologically, BOTH the learning moment AND rationale for WHY it’s important makes the memory MUCH more accessible down the line. Use “putting them on the spot” to your advantage!

Before I close this section, I’ll also mention: The single easiest way to ensure retention is to film video recaps of your sessions.  

But I’ve been talking a bunch about that recently so I’ll just leave some links if you want to learn more: Using “Video Recaps” to Increase Retention and Showcase Progress, The Two Coaching Killers, 3 Key Ingredients to Level Up Your Live Coaching Sessions, PODCAST EPISODE: The Magic of Video Recaps. 

In closing, this post is not about whether or not your athlete(s) PERFORM like a pro… or amateur for that matter. 

It's about instilling vital life skills, confidence, and a proven framework to practice, think, and train like a pro,regardless of their results. 

That said, I can’t wait to hear about the RESULTS in your coaching business when you instill the value of intention and reflection into your athletes!

Here’s to the importance of intention and retention! 

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