The Practice Of…

Joe Jacobi
Feb 28 · 3 min read
1972 Olympic Canoe Slalom Venue, Augsburg, Germany (Joe Jacobi photo)

One of the most challenging transitions from sport to life-beyond-sport is the off-setting ratio of practice-time to game-time.

On the river, game-time could be an elite level competition. Or moving a huge number of whitewater rafting guests through day-long river trip. When a highly skilled river paddler navigates a complex and unforgiving river rapid, this is “Game-On!”

In all of these river situations, a LOT of practice precedes a little bit of game-time.

In our normal lives, our daily existence is nearly all game-time with MINIMAL attention to practice.

When practice is in such short supply, what we practice and how we practice become critically important.

This emphasizes the significance of strategy as it relates to practice.

A high performing athlete without a strategy is not only at a loss as to what to practice but also loses valuable energy to… worrying about not knowing what to practice.

This plays out similarly in our day-to-day lives. Without strategy, we give away the freedom of focus. And, in an unrelenting, click-bait world of noise and distraction, no focus = no filter.

We end up entangled in irrelevant or negative situations, conversations, and relationships that move us further away from our center.

On a simple level, strategy clearly aligns our attention with a purpose, which opens a path to practice.

Practice on the river has a unique twist though.

Unlike a swimmer who can perfect their game-time technique in a pool with repetition on top of more repetition, the game-time situations of the canoeing athlete, raft guide, or the skilled river paddler can not be specifically practiced. At best, these situations can be somewhat simulated.

So, how can uncertainty be practiced?

To perform better within chaotic forces and ever-changing conditions, the practice is to evolve the process of how we respond.

To put forth our best response in a world of uncertainty requires attention to habits, systems, and muscle memory that facilitate the flow of better choices performed at critical moments.

Here, we set boundaries around a space in which a range of scenarios, transitions, and mistakes are strategically rehearsed. This practice encourages us to slow down, experiment, analyze, and re-think.

Ultimately, with even just a little bit of dedicated time, such a practice builds a cycle in which strategy…

Isolates essential actions…
To be trained consistently…
In a controlled environment…
Reducing unwanted external circumstances…
Opening space for…
An evolved response that…
Raises the quality of our game over time.

With gratitude, — Joe

PS — Podcast Alert! Those of you who have connected with me on a 1–1 basis over the past few years know that it does not take long for me to gush about my experience working for Valor Performance. One of the main reasons I feel this way connects to the leadership of and friendship with our CEO and Founder, Sarah Milby.

Sarah’s belief in our mission and care for our community comes through in every conversation… including this one that I want to share with you — Sarah’s appearance on The Growth Equation Podcast with Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.

The wonderful discussion is timely relative to recent Sunday Morning Joe themes as Sarah, Brad, and Steve break down myths about managing energy and setting strategy as well as the role of coaching, which I’ll be writing more about soon within this series.

So, refill your coffee cup, find a comfortable place to settle in, listen, and learn… Just click → HERE!

The Practice Of… is a part of my continuing Sunday Morning Joe series, The Pursuit Of Contentment On The River Of Uncertainty.

Subscribe to Sunday Morning Joe HERE.

Connect with Joe:

5 With Joe Performance Coaching

I coach established and experienced professionals, who feel stuck in place, to thrive in transition and bring focus to what matters most without compromising their lives.

My personal experiences winning an Olympic Gold Medal, serving as CEO of a national sports organization, and my current “Simple, Slower, and Less” lifestyle in the Catalan Pyrenees help to form accountable and transformative collaborations that see my clients create their next and most impactful chapter.

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Joe Jacobi

Written by

Olympic Gold Medalist & Performance Coach helping leaders & teams perform their best without compromising their lives.


A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (

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