IN THIS ISSUE:
In the movie, “Karate Kid”, the adolescent hero spends a mere summer doing physical chores and following his sensei’s directions of “wax on, wax off” and miraculously, by the end of the summer he’s an awesome fighting machine with all the skills of a master practitioner. Leave it to Hollywood to give you a distorted picture of struggle and accomplishment. A black belt in just under three months! Understand one important fact about sports and life. There is no free ride out there! There is NO easy way to become successful. Without hard work, dedication and a high tolerance for frustration and setbacks you can never EVER become a champion. If you say that you really want it, then you have to be able to back up that want of yours with ACTION. Far too many athletes and their parents seem to lack a basic understanding of what’s really necessary for athletic success. I want to revisit this topic in this newsletter.
ATHLETE’S LOCKER – “Put your actions where your mouth is”
PARENT’S CORNER – “What do you really want for your child?”
COACH’S OFFICE – “Today’s athlete is just different!”
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES – “I’m going to the Olympics!”
“Put your actions where your mouth is!”
Do you have an athletic dream? Do you have a goal that you REALLY want to achieve? Is there something you desperately want to prove to all those people out there who’ve doubted you? Well hold on to the bottom of your chair right now because I’m about to provide you with a multimillion-dollar strategy for success! You can even use this strategy outside of sports to help you successfully reach your life dreams. You can use it within your sport to help you make the team, get that cut, qualify for Nationals or learn and master new techniques. This strategy is so important that I devoted a whole newsletter issue to a related aspect of it last year (July-August 2000). This strategy is so powerful that with consistent use, you will always be plagued by success. Good results will stalk you in everything that you do, hunting you down over and over again! This “secret” success strategy can be a great equalizer for you and will often make up for physical limitations of size, strength, speed and skill.
The funny thing though, is that while this powerful success generating technique is available to EVERYONE out there, only a precious few will make consistent use of it. Many athletes will occasionally take this technique out over the course of their careers and use it. Usually you see this happening towards the end of the season with important games or championships approaching. Unfortunately without CONSISTENT use, this strategy loses its’ power and effectiveness. It is, in effect, totally worthless when used in this “hit or miss” way.
Now you may wonder why everyone in the world wouldn’t want to use a strategy that absolutely guarantees success? After all, wouldn’t EVERYONE want to BE LIKE MIKE?
While everyone may want the success that a Michael Jordan has, most athletes, perhaps upwards to 98%, are not willing to DO WHATEVER IS NECESSARY to get there. You see, this success strategy is very simple and very non-glamorous. It’s the four-letter word, WORK. That’s right, your million- dollar success strategy is nothing more than a willingness to consistently pay your physical dues, to bust your butt, to push yourself outside your comfort zone, each and EVERY DAY! Your success strategy is nothing more than tons of sweat, fatigue, frustration and hard work!
Now before you tune me out here because you’re fast losing consciousness from boredom, hear me out! I know you’ve heard countless coaches, teachers, parents and anyone in the know tell you, “THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IS HARD WORK!” Perhaps you even think that you are working as hard as you can. However, the fact of the matter is that very few athletes consistently push themselves on a daily basis to go that extra mile, to run a little harder, sweat a little more, train just a little longer, and work just a few more repetitions on those weak points.
Want to get good? Then you have to be willing to BUST. You have to be willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES. Forget about what everyone else on the team is doing! If they’re dogging it or going at half speed, so what? They’re just like everyone else out there. If you really want to stand out, then you MUST stand out in your work ethic.
You have to be willing to step outside of your physical, mental and emotional comfort zones on a daily basis. You have to be willing to push your envelope, to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Success is that simple and that difficult at the same time. That’s because it’s TOO HARD for most athletes to do what I’m suggesting. Oh, once in a while they’ll work their butts off. Now and again they’ll get motivated to step the pace up and sweat just a little bit more. But to do that all day and EVERY DAY, NO THANK YOU!
What do you think separates the best from the rest anyway? Do they have more talent than you? Not necessarily! Are they more physically gifted than you? Occasionally. Are they in much better physical condition than you? Most definitely! Do they want it MORE than you? Ah Hah! There’s the key!!! You see, the very successful athletes work harder than you on a more consistent basis because they want it more than you do! If you truly want to be successful, then your biggest obstacle is that person you see when you look in the mirror! If you want it badly enough and are willing to go after it on a daily basis, then ultimately you will lift the level of your training and performance to go to the next level.
What does this really mean? Well, it means you can’t blow off training for the next two weeks because you have to go on vacation with your family. It means that you can’t skip important practices because you have an opportunity to see a great movie, play, concert or just hang out with your friends! It means that you can’t back down from heavy training because you’re just too tired or because everyone else is goofing around.
Now I’m not saying that you have to become a champion! I’m not saying that you can’t participate in your sport for the soul purpose of having fun. I’m not even saying that you have to be serious about your goals or even have goals. However, what I am saying is that if you are talking the talk, then you have to start walking the walk. If you’re not willing to consistently do whatever it takes to get there, then stop kidding yourself and everyone around you. Stop telling people what your goals and dreams are and what you want to accomplish because you REALLY DON’T! Because if you really want to become a champion then you will be willing to train like one, EVERY DAY, not WHENEVER YOU FEEL LIKE IT!
The secret to success is in your hands, not in your mouth. The secret to success will separate you from all your competitors. The secret to success is so simple to understand yet so difficult to consistently use. Do you have what it takes to become a champion? Can you honestly put your actions where your mouth is? Are you willing to walk the walk?
“What do you really want for your child?”
Do you know what it really takes for your child to be successful in his or her sport? Is this what you truly want for your child? Do you want to do everything in your power to support his/her athletic dreams? If your child’s success and happiness is truly important to you, then I have a few words of advice.
Understand first, that in every sport, real success is dependent upon hard and consistent effort. Your child needs to really work at the sport on a daily basis in order to go anywhere. Having a “hit or miss” attitude towards participation, “sometimes I train, sometimes I don’t”, ”today I don’t feel like it, tomorrow I might,” will not take your child as far as he/she could go in the sport. This is important for you to understand so you won’t be surprised when their performances are sub-par and their improvements are minimal after this kind of inconsistent training.
Along this same line, some parents can’t understand why their child didn’t have a good meet, match or race. They complain that the child worked very hard the last week or two before the competition and wonder what went wrong. Perhaps the coach screwed up? The fact of the matter is that you or your child should never expect peak performance if he or she only worked hard right before the competition. You can’t reach your true potential in or out of sports without consistent, hard work over the long run. There is no substitute for this! NONE!
Having said this, however, you have to be able to understand where your child really wants to go in the sport. What goals does he/she have, if any? What are his/her athletic dreams? Is his/her participation less serious and more recreational? Perhaps your child participates just because it’s fun and they like hanging with their buddies. Maybe they have no real impetus to become great. Perhaps they could care less about making a travel or high school team and might not even be able to spell “college scholarship.” Keep in mind that your child’s goals and wants should have absolutely nothing to do with what you want! In fact, your dreams and aspirations for your child are totally irrelevant to this discussion! Make a conscious and concerted effort to keep your ego and your goals out of this equation. Parents who mix up their own desires with their child’s end up causing a lot of problems for all involved.
Let’s say, for example that your child is less serious about the sport and his/her main reason for participation is the socializing and having fun. If this is the case then it is not really necessary for them to consistently work hard and make the sport a priority in their life. Instead, it’s perfectly fine for them to take a hit or miss, just for fun attitude into their practices and competitions. In fact, for most children, this is probably the healthiest approach that you can have to sports. It’s just a game, it’s not larger than life and they have no plans or interest in becoming a professional athlete and supporting you in your early retirement. Sports for this kind of child is just simply a way to constructively spend his/her free time (hopefully) learning some very valuable life lessons and mastering some new skills, (assuming that the child is being coached and surrounded by appropriate adults). Your child can strive to do his/her best instead of striving to be the best. In short, it’s OK for them to just have fun. They will still get some very valuable things from their participation. Besides, it’s far better for them to be involved in sports in this relaxed kind of way than spending all their free time “mall cruising” or just hanging out.
However, suppose your child is motivated to pursue an athletic dream. Perhaps they do have an important goal they are going after and they are very serious about hitting this target. If that’s the case, then your job is to support their hard training. Make it easy for them to get to practice on a daily basis. Make it easy for them to CONSISTENTLY work hard. If you’re planning vacations, time them well. Talk with the coach about when the best time off would be. Understand that having your child take a week or two off at the wrong time may seriously interfere with the successful pursuit of the goal. Try not to put your child in the emotional double bind of having to choose between you, the family, and his/her training/coaches.
Also understand and support the notion that reaching a big goal will not always be fun and games, For the serious athlete this is not always a “walk in the park.” On the contrary! There is much hardship and sacrifice necessary if one is going to successfully turn a big dream into a reality. Simply put it will not always be fun for you or your child. Be sure to remind your child of this and support the process and the coach. Don’t be encouraging your child to bail out just because things start to get hard. However, even though it may not seem fun to your child, this does not mean that they are not passionate about or loving their pursuit. Keep in mind that as long as your child is filled with passion for the process, you will never have to worry about him/her.
In addition, try to understand that you should help your child-athlete embrace the entire process, including the struggle. This means that failing, setbacks and disappointments must be accepted and constructively dealt with along with all the good times. Don’t rush in and try to protect your child from failing here. To do so would be to do them and the coach a serious disservice. Failing is an important part of the learning and maturation process of an athlete and must be faced and dealt with directly. Failing ultimately makes your child stronger and more motivated. Don’t make the sad and ultimately destructive mistake of the mother who encouraged her child to stop competing, against the coach’s wishes, because her daughter had failed “too much already.”
Remember, even though you are not the coach, your child’s athletic success and well being rests squarely in your hands. Support their dream. Make it easy for them to consistently get to practice. Keep your goals separate from theirs. Help them keep things in perspective. Remind them and yourself that this is all about growth, development and fun.
“Today’s athlete is just different!”
How many times have you heard this frustrated lament from fellow coaches or yourself? “Kids today aren’t the way they used to be. They just don’t seem to care! They aren’t motivated, don’t want to work hard and when things get rough they just back down. They’re just not as tough as they used to be! It’s like all they want to do is take the easy way out. Why when I was their age….”
So, is it really true? Are the athletes that you have to deal with that much different than those of two or three decades ago? Are they less motivated, less mentally tough and really less dedicated? Possibly, but one thing is for certain. I think that kids playing sports today are very different than they were in your and my day. Understanding these differences and knowing where today’s athletes are coming from might not only help you maintain your sanity as a coach, but will also make you much more effective with this new breed of jock.
One way that athletes are quite different today is that they are confronted with far more choices than you or I probably had back in prehistoric times when we competed. There are tons more organized sports and after-school activities now than ever before. Music lessons, singing lessons, band practice, dance classes, art lessons, the Internet, video games and then the sports practices: little league, soccer, fencing, wrestling, skiing, skating, lacrosse, football, basketball, tennis, track, baseball, volleyball, softball and on and on….
Back when you and I and the dinosaurs roamed the earth there were basically only the major sports of football, basketball and baseball. A select few played tennis and competed in other school sports, but there weren’t that many instructional leagues or organized recreational sports as there are today. In fact, when I was a kid, there was only one youth sport available and that was Little League baseball. There weren’t even competitive basketball or football programs available outside of school teams.
As a consequence of all the available choices today, athletes get pulled in frequently too many, often times conflicting directions. After all, there are just so many hours in a day. Add to this the fact that parents are starting their kids competing at a much younger age. T-ball, soccer, gymnastics, skating, tennis and you name it encourage kids who are 6 year old and even younger to participate. As a result of this very early start, by the time a child is 12 or 13 he/she has been playing the sport at a “serious” level (depending on the child’s parents and coaches) for too long. This makes that child more vulnerable to burnout and he or she may come to you as a “motivational flat-liner.” This also makes the child a more likely candidate to prematurely dropout, especially if they’ve had a bad experience with a coach or parent.
Another major difference that dramatically affects your athletes today is the exaggerated importance of sports and winning that has enveloped our culture. With the advent of televised sports and increased visibility of professional and Olympic caliber athletes in the media, coupled with the lure of college scholarships, Olympic medals, lucrative endorsement contracts and a career in professional sports, athletic participation has moved beyond fun and character and skill development into some very ugly terrain. There is far more pressure on kids today from both parents and coaches to “produce”, win and be the best. A lot of kids just aren’t equipped to handle this intense pressure and so unconsciously drop out from the competition to avoid failing. While they may continue to participate, they hold themselves back from really going all out.
Add to this, the fact that kids today live in a very different world then you and I grew up in. This is the age of computers, the Internet, virtual reality and instant gratification. Many kids are used to getting what they want when they want it. They face much less frustration and deprivation in their lives. In a funny way they are much less physically active.
As a consequence, many don’t ever learn how to handle hardship or that hard work and perseverance are necessary to become successful. They look for the instant fix and are unwilling to venture out of their comfort zone. As a result, many are unwilling to buy into the pursuit of excellence and the hard work that is necessary for true athletic success. When they fail or run into obstacles they are more likely to give up too easily and go on to something else. Worse yet, some of the parents of these athletes try to protect their children from getting too frustrated or exerting themselves too much, mistakenly believing that they are doing their child a favor.
All of these factors conspire together to bring you a group of athletes, the vast majority of which are just not as driven or motivated as they used to be. Given that a large part of your job is all about selling hard work and the pursuit of excellence, chances are pretty good that quite a few athletes on your squad won’t have a clue about what you’re really talking about or why they should work hard they way you’re suggesting.
Perhaps more than ever before you need to patiently explain in words and actions why you want them to do what you’re asking them to do. You have to teach them what to you seems like a very obvious lesson: Consistent, all out effort/hard work is the key to success on and off the field. This is a lesson that can’t be taught just once but needs to be repeated over and over again. This is also a lesson that you will probably have to teach your athletes’ parents. As you do this, try to maintain a handle on your frustration and trust your experience and training.
You have to help your athletes overcome the “hard work/perseverance handicap” that they have developed by being a member of their generation. You have to help them get in touch with a reason for expending the effort that you’re saying is so important to success. In other words you have to help them get in touch with or develop their own goals or personal mission. Motivating today’s athlete is all about helping them keep focused on a daily basis on WHY they are training. Your athletes and teams need to have an emotionally compelling reason to go against their generational conditioning of instant gratification. They have to have what I call a “big enough why.”
By keeping today’s athlete focused on their “BIG WHY”, continuing to sell them on the pursuit of excellence and the vehicle of hard work as their primary means for getting there, and by remaining exceedingly patient you will increase the number of today’s athletes that you are able to reach.
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES
“I’m going to the Olympics!”
When I first met him he told me he was going to the Olympics. I smiled at
him and said, “That’s Great! I think everyone should have a big dream!” “No he said, I really mean it. I’m going to make it to the Olympics!” His coaches were two former Olympic skaters and they said to me that the kid actually had the potential to go all the way. They wanted me to join their team and teach the kid everything I knew about mental toughness. I was honored. I was flattered! I was excited! I could hear strains of the Olympic theme beginning to play in my head. I could see myself written up in Sports Illustrated. “The Sports Performance Consultant and the gold medal!” We were going to be famous! Yeah Baby!! Yeah Baby! Then we set to work. Over the next two years I taught him all the performance enhancement techniques I had in my bag of tricks. How to handle pressure; How to focus and block out distractions; how to use imagery & mental rehearsal; How to rebound quickly from mistakes; You name it, I taught it!
As the competitive season of the Olympic year finally rolled around the coaches and I waited and watched with anticipation. In the two warm-up competitions before Regionals the kid didn’t do so good. It actually looked like he was too nervous and had choked. But that really couldn’t have been possible because I had expertly taught him how to effectively handle pressure? When I asked him if he had been nervous he quickly denied it and said, “No problem! Everything is under control. I was just a bit off today, but I wasn’t nervous!”
He always seemed to have a quick explanation for everything. According to him, both mess-ups had nothing to do with being too nervous or choking. Not to worry! Everything’s cool! Somehow I wasn’t convinced and I began to think back over those two years to how he responded to some of the things I had taught him. In the back of my mind I always had a nagging suspicion that somehow he just wasn’t getting it. But when I tried to address my concerns and doubts he was quick to dismiss them with a smile and a joke. When he got to Regionals he needed to place in the top 4 in order to move on to Sectionals where a good showing there would get him a shot at Nationals or Olympic Trials. At Regionals however, he looked way more nervous than he should have been. After he skated fell on a number of jumps in warm-ups his nervousness that he claimed to not have seemed to increase. He looked like he was about to have a melt down.
He wasn’t breathing very well and his hands were shaking before he stepped onto the ice to begin his short program. Then it was all down hill! He completely fell apart in the competition. He popped his big jumps, singled his doubles and fell several times. His long program was even worse! His disappointing performance earned him a 9th place finish out of the 12 skaters in his group. Not exactly Olympic material!! My dreams of making the cover of Sports Illustrated and my thoughts of an early retirement quickly dissolved!
At first, the coaches and I were quite puzzled by the kid’s extremely poor showing. He had skated terribly! But he had had the talent! He had assured us that he was ready. Then suddenly it dawned on the three of us, rocket scientists that we were. What had gone wrong over the past two years was very simple. You see, while the kid talked a good game, he never backed it up with any kind of sustained action. He never really worked at or practiced the things that I had taught him. He never really did the extra training that his coaches had stressed was necessary to take it to the next level. He never really committed to working on his weaknesses. He never really pushed himself out of his comfort zone. Bottom line: He just wasn’t motivated to truly go after it. His mouth wanted the Olympics but his body said, “no way Bud, too much work!”
Just because you say you want something doesn’t really mean that you’re willing to do what it takes to get there! After all, talk is cheap. Motivation, however, isn’t about words. It’s not about what you say you want or what you tell others you’re going to accomplish! Being truly motivated is about taking action. It’s about doing because your actions always speak much louder and more powerfully than your words.
If you have a performance difficulty or you’re consistently underachieving, call me today. I can help!