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What does it take to become a champion? The secret is so simple and so basic yet is overlooked by most. Success in and out of sports is directly related to how willing you are to venture outside of your own comfort zone. It’s not the natural talent, the physical gifts or the training advantages that separate the best from all the rest. It is instead the simple habit of “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” that drives an athlete to do just a little bit more than everyone else, to go a little harder, run a little faster, make that extra sacrifice, etc. These athletes and coaches are never satisfied with simply doing a good job. They are continually looking for the competitive edge, for a better way, for a new angle that the opponent hasn’t yet thought of. Simply put, these individuals don’t just do their best. They are successful because they do what ever it takes! In this issue we will explore something that everyone knows about yet precious few take advantage of: The secret and quiet power of hard work.

ATHLETE’S LOCKER – “Don’t do your best! Do whatever it takes!”
PARENT’S CORNER – “Support your child to make
that extra effort.”
COACH’S OFFICE – “How to raise your skills to the next level.”
DR. G’S TEACHING TALES – “Shake it off and Step up.”


“Don’t Do Your Best. Do Whatever It Takes!”

Let’s start with something basic here. You may not have the strongest arm. You may not have the fastest legs. You may not have been blessed with the same natural talent as your opponent. Perhaps you don’t have the high caliber training facilities and great coaching opportunities that your competitors have. Your technique may be unorthodox. You may be physically limited by your size. All this notwithstanding, you can still become a champion and out-compete your opponents. How? You ask disbelieving.

Simple! Well, maybe not all that simple. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get there. You have to be willing to out?work your competition. You have to be willing to do all the little extras that most people don’t want to do. You have to do the sweaty, uncomfortable things that many athletes avoid. When practice is over, you have to keep going in one way or another. You have to keep looking for other ways to get smarter, stronger, faster, and better conditioned. The secret to success is tremendously boring. It’s all about work. It’s all about the investment that you’re willing to make. You have to be willing to invest more than everyone else. While this success secret is available to all, precious few will really take advantage of it today or ever. Why? Because far too many athletes view getting to their goal as just too much work.

In fact, while you’re reading these words, 95% of the athletes out there are looking for ways to cut corners. They are complaining silently or out loud about having to push themselves and practice so hard. They’re watching the clock and counting the seconds until practice is over and they can head for the showers and relax. They are resenting their hard working teammates for taking things too much seriously and going too hard. These athletes are kidding themselves into believing that they’ve done enough today. They’re fooling themselves into believing that they’re really prepared. They are lying to themselves!

Think about it! If this is what the majority of your competition does then you have it made; so long as you are willing to do whatever it takes, so long as you are willing to keep your head in practice and see the hard work as an opportunity, as a challenge, as a stepping stone to your dreams and goals, so long as you keep on keeping on regardless of what’s going on around you.

I like to show a video in some of my workshops of steel head trout trying to migrate up a stream to get to the headwaters to spawn. It almost seems like an impossible task. The fish have to face steep inclines, waterfalls and raging currents going against them, virtually impassable barriers. Each time they try to scale these obstacles they are thrown back. Yet they continue to try, over and over again. I ask the athletes watching whether they think the fish are doing their best to make it upstream. The answer I usually get is, “absolutely!” The bottom line here is that these fish aren’t doing their best! They are, in fact, doing whatever it takes! This is what making it in sports is all about: Doing whatever it takes to be successful! Chances are good that on any team you can look around and see these other kinds of athletes who have a lousy work ethic regularly outperform you. They may even hold a starting position while you have to sit the bench. You may bitterly complain to yourself or to whomever will listen that it’s just not fair when you work so hard and they do little to nothing! Don’t go down this road! Don’t whine about the unfairness of the situation. A lot of things are unfair in sports and life. These ‘athletes’ are simply lucky to have been blessed with superior physical gifts and talents. They are not true competitors and sooner or later their bad habits will catch up to them. No one can ever achieve a worthwhile success in anything by putting out a half-hearted effort. It just doesn’t happen! Instead, you must ignore them. Your job is to take responsibility for your training and to focus only on you. What’s really important here are your habits, not theirs!

Keep in mind here that success is about regularly stepping outside your comfort zone. It’s about pushing your own limits. Stretching the envelope so-to-speak. It’s about GETTING COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE. If you’ve read this newsletter before you’ve come across those words several times. They’re worth repeating here because they are your formula for success. They are your ticket to your goals. The more you put yourself in a position where you challenge your own comfort, the more you refuse to be satisfied with the status quo, the faster you’ll progress and develop as an athlete and a person. What does this really mean?

Let’s start by taking an honest look at yourself, specifically your weaknesses. Most athletes don’t like doing this. They don’t like working on their weaknesses because they’re not good at them and it’s not fun to be incompetent. They don’t like how it makes them feel to be inadequate at something. Guess what? You’ll always be limited by your weaknesses, so enthusiastically grab the opportunity that your weaknesses present you. Working on and strengthening your shortcomings is the fastest and smartest way to bring your training up to the next level. Don’t take the easy way out. Get in the habit of going the extra distance. Don’t be satisfied with doing just enough to get by because when you do, you’re just simply lying to yourself. Get comfortable being uncomfortable! Think about what your competition is doing and then do that much more. Don’t just do your best. Do whatever it takes!


“Support Your Child To Make That Extra Effort”

When I was a junior tennis player I regularly got a very strange and frequently upsetting message from my Dad. He continually discouraged me from spending so much time practicing and competing. Despite the fact that I was an excellent student, had no problems with my grades, (straight A’s through junior and senior high), and had tons of friends, he felt that I invested far too much time in the game. If I played 4 tournaments a year, that was way more than enough. I needed to be, according to him, more well rounded.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t a very good learner when it came to my Dad’s life lessons. I never did get to achieve that well rounded state of being he wished for me. Despite ongoing parental resistance, I continued to waste my time playing that silly little game with racquets and balls, stunting my growth as a contributing member of society. Had I listened to my Dad I wouldn’t be the social misfit and societal burden that I am today. Worse yet, because I pursued tennis so aggressively, I went on to develop a bit of a career as a teaching professional, corrupting the lives of unsuspecting children and adults with the game that I had become so addicted to. Oh well, we all have our ugly little secrets!

When I think back to my experiences in junior tennis, I wonder what would have happened to me if I had had parental support? If my Dad had encouraged instead of discouraged me, where could I have taken my tennis? If he had gone out of his way to get me some decent coaching (I had six months of formal tennis lessons in all the years that I played) how good could I have gotten? If he had taken me to more tournaments and shown some excitement for my accomplishments, would I have played with more pride and confidence? If he had encouraged me to train harder and to dream big dreams? If he had let me know that he was proud of my stick-to-itiveness?

Despite his non-support I was ranked in New England as a junior, played number one in high school and went on to be the top ranked player in my college and twice conference champion. With his support could I have taken it to the next level?

Well you know life. We’ll never really know the answers to these questions. We can speculate and come up with some good guesses. With parental support I certainly would’ve gotten much better. I would have accomplished more. I would have had access to better coaching and developed more confidence. I may even have had what it takes to get to the pros. Truth be told, it doesn’t really matter what could have been. At this point that’s nothing more than ancient history! Despite the non-support, I still managed to have a very successful and rewarding career. My tennis shaped my life for the better. It gave me a living and made my life richer even though I was truly achieved well roundedness. What does matter, however, especially if you have young kids involved in sports, is what you may be able to learn from my story.

When in the hands of sane and appropriate adults, (parents & coaches) sports are a wonderful vehicle to teach your children some invaluable life lessons, lessons that will set them up for later success in most everything that they do. Your job as a parent is to provide the right amount of appropriate support and encouragement. To be successful, your kids really need your blessings. They need you to provide the opportunities, the safe environments to learn and master new skills, the perspective about where sports fits in with everything else, and your help to make sure that the sport stays fun. And most of all, they need you to encourage them to go that extra distance, to put the time and effort in that’s necessary for them to achieve some success.

Now please be careful here! I’m not suggesting that you go out and start driving your kid, demanding that he/she spend extra time working out. I’m not suggesting that you take on the motivational job of the coach. It is not your job to push your child, not unless you’d like him/her to become a head case and a drop-out statistic. What I am suggesting is that you support their investment of time, energy and hard work. You have to understand that success is based on a solid, consistent commitment from the athlete. You can’t achieve mastery with inconsistency and half?hearted effort. Your job is to support your child so that if he or she chooses to really pursue a sport, (that is, they really want to,) you then do everything in your power to appropriately help them do it. Provide transportation, get them good sane coaching, help them find appropriate competition, be a cheerleader, offer a healthy perspective, support them when they struggle and fail, and above all, provide them with tons and tons of unconditional love.

Understand that your child needs to master the “get comfortable being uncomfortable” formula to achieve success. Hard work and consistent effort is the secret to success. However, be smart enough to be sure that this concept is used in age appropriate ways by those adults involved in your child’s coaching. You certainly don’t want youth sport coaches stressing?out, abusing or mercilessly driving young kids to the point that they kill their fun in the sport. This kind of uncomfortable from coaches yelling at, belittling, and demeaning, you should never expect your child to get comfortable with.


“Raising Your Skills to the Next Level”

Years ago I did a coaches workshop at a Division I school and was inwardly annoyed through most of my presentation by the negative comments, belittling remarks and sophomoric jokes aimed at me from the lacrosse coach regarding the material I was presenting. While I certainly don’t expect everyone to like or even buy into what I have to say, I do, however expect adults to display some common courtesy and actually act like adults. To him, mental toughness training was a complete joke and it was his job to enlighten me to this fact and point out that my work was a sham. He challenged my concepts, questioned my strategies and rolled his eyes and made disgusted faces at my stories and examples. It was, to date, one of the more infantile responses I have ever witnessed and, as you can imagine, it warmed my heart. The fact that the rest of the staff was totally into the presentation made his behavior seem all the more bizarre.

What really bothered me after I thought about this situation was that this guy was supposed to be a coach. He was supposed to be an educator. What frightened me was that he was actually entrusted in training young, impressionable minds.

Aw, c’mon Doc, aren’t we being a wee bit too sensitive here? So the guy hurt your feelings, lighten up a little! So he acted like a jerk, but I’m sure he’s still a good coach.

Well, let’s think about that one for a minute, shall we? What is a coach’s job? To teach and train. To motivate, support and encourage. To challenge. To get an athlete to repeatedly go beyond his or her preconceived limits, to do more than he/she thinks possible. To expand that athlete’s belief system. In sum, a good coach teaches athletes to get comfortable being uncomfortable in a variety of ways. That is, to regularly step outside of their comfort zone. This is, after all how you grow as an athlete and person. For example, the discomforts that grow athletes are getting used to going against tougher and tougher competition, pushing beyond the limits of physical endurance, working on weaknesses and shortcomings, tolerating tough failures, and learning new skills, strategies and positions.

Every coach knows that if you allow athletes to remain inside their comfort zone, not only will they fail to grow and improve, but they’ll actually end up going backwards! Now here’s where I really have a problem with my lacrosse friend. My feeling is that your major teaching tool as a coach is modeling. Great coaches walk the talk. They demonstrate in their actions and interactions with athletes and staff what they want to teach. Their words match their behaviors. It’s not a case of “Do as I say, not as I do” with them.

There is no doubt that one of the main things that you want from your athletes is that they be coachable. You want them to be willing and open to looking at their shortcomings and weaknesses. You want them to be open to new technique, tactics and strategies. In short you want them to regularly and enthusiastically get comfortable being uncomfortable. Athletes who carry around closed minds will sabotage your coaching, undermine the team and make your life miserable. That’s why these individuals don’t usually last very long on teams.

So what exactly is this coach modeling about being open minded and pushing the envelope as he sits there with his peers making a total jerk of himself? What kind of willingness is he demonstrating to step outside of his comfort zone? What message does he communicate about trying on new tactics and training strategies? Would he actually behave differently when he’s around his athletes? I doubt it!

Don’t be afraid of new technology. Open yourself to new ideas. Don’t be a dinosaur. Push your own envelope. Be curious about your weaknesses. Are there new and better ways out there? Go hunting for them. You want and expect your athletes to step outside their comfort zone. Help them do that by paving the way. Model this behavior for them. The very worst that will happen to you is you’ll start to grow as a coach and individual.


“Shake It Off and Step Up!”

(I found the original of this wonderful story at and made some slight adjustments)

A very old mule and his grandson were trying to make their way up a very steep and rocky mountain. They were loaded down with heavy camping gear and this made the climb and the footing that much tougher. The young mule kept slipping on the many loose stones along the path and complained bitterly each time he lost his balance. While the old mule slipped just as much, it just didn’t seem to bother him because he kept silently plugging along.

Suddenly the younger animal tripped on an unseen rock, completely lost his footing and fell quite hard to the ground. It was as if all his pent up frustration and exhaustion reached a saturation point because it came rushing out in a torrent of anger, curses and tears. When he was done, he looked up at the kindly, worn face of his grandfather and he instantly put words to the thought that had suddenly hit him. “Hey grandpa! How come you’re not complaining about how hard this climb is? I haven’t heard one bad word out of you all trip and you’ve slipped and fallen as much as me?”

The old mule looked down at the tear streaked face of his grandson and said, “Sonny, let me tell you a story that my grand dad told me a long, long time ago. Why I bet I was your age at the time too. My grand dad was an old mule at the time and this is what happened. One day he was out wandering around behind his master’s barn when he suddenly lost his footing on something soft and fell. But he didn’t fall like you did today, just a few feet to the ground. He fell a long way down. You see, he had stumbled into an old abandoned well.

That old mule was so scared and so hurt that he started to cry. He started yelling as loud as he could for the farmer to come and get him out of there. And finally, the farmer, hearing all the commotion, traced it to the old abandoned well. He looked down, saw the old mule in the well and just stood there scratching his head trying to figure out what to do. Of course the old scared mule couldn’t stop braying and crying for help. Finally the farmer went away and the old mule didn’t know it, but his master had made a fateful decision. He had decided that it was going to be too difficult to get that old mule out of that old well. In his mind, neither the well nor the mule were worth saving and so he went to a couple of his neighbors houses to get them to help him with a solution that he had come up with. The mule was panicked when the farmer left and only began to calm down when he again heard voices from above. However, what happened next left him in shock. Suddenly, from above, shovelfuls of dirt began to rain down on him, smacking his back, hitting his head and sending him into a total panic. The farmer had decided that he was going to fill in that old well and bury the mule. After all, there was absolutely no way he was going to be able to get the poor animal out of there.

As the dirt rained down and began to cover his feet, the frightened mule cried even louder. However, he soon realized that his cries were being ignored. Then the mule had a stroke of brilliance. He thought to himself, “you should just shake the dirt off and step up.” And so he did! He shook it off and stepped up. As the dirt rained down by the shovelful he shook each shovelful off and stepped up. And as he did he coached himself over and over again to ward off the panic. “Shake it off and Step up. Shake it off and step up.” And when his mind drifted to that terrible fate that the farmer had planned for him, he repeated to himself even louder, “Shake it off and step up. Shake it off and step up.”

And you guessed it. Before you knew it that smart old mule stepped over the rim of that filled-in well and was greeted by looks of amazement from the farmer and his neighbors because the animal just refused to be buried by his fear and all that dirt. He just shook it off and stepped up.”

Well, speaking of amazement, the young mule was certainly taken by that story and he picked himself up and said, “C’mon grandpa, we have a mountain to climb.” And as the old mule headed back up the mountain behind his grandson, he could hear the young animal talking to himself, “Shake it off and step up. Shake it off and step up!”

If you have a performance difficulty or you’re consistently underachieving, call me today. I can help!

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