Those who administer, coach or play school sports have become familiar with the phrase “downtime” to describe that period just before a season when coaches are not allowed to assemble players for activities that look too much like practice being conducted before the earliest practice of the season is allowed by rule.
In school sports, therefore, we often consider the downtime as a time to do less as teams – less than during the season, and even less than what is allowed teams during most of the off-season. If student-athletes are going to prepare for the upcoming season, they do so more as individuals than as organized teams during the brief preseason downtime.
In this we might look to the arts and literature for assistance; for it is in the downtime – the time away, on one’s own – that many artists, writers and other creative types have found their inspiration for excellence.
In Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, author Mason Currey describes the working habits of 160 creative thinkers. A common theme is the time these people demanded to be away from others to walk, sit and ponder. To wonder. To work through obstacles that seemed to be blocking their progress.
This is an imperfect analogy for student-athletes and school coaches, but it’s still instructive. In fact, a disconnected downtime – one without television, texting, tweeting and team drills, but with time and space to earnestly assess strengths and address weaknesses – might be central to an effective prescription for the upcoming season.