January 13, 2023
There are some athletes who play D1 sports that have clearly been blessed with amazing talent and ability. However, there are many more who were given the building blocks to success and earned their place through effort and determination. Those of us who chose this route were given opportunity in exchange for our effort and sacrifice. What follows are three of the largest lessons I learned along my path.
The US Navy Seals have it right on this one, “It pays to be a winner.” As an athlete, this doesn’t mean winning the game or being part of a successful team. It means showing up first for practice, film review or team functions. Being the first to help set up the equipment before practice and the first to clean up when practice is done. Always look to go the extra mile or take the initiative to do things that need to be done even when no one else will.
This kind of activity and mentality draws the eyes of coaches and scouts. It will bring you opportunity and respect throughout your athletic career and life, if you can be consistent. The key here is consistency. You have to live being first, all the time, by making the choice every day; constantly building the habit.
Growing up playing football I can remember taking hard hits and getting roughed up from time to time. I can also remember hearing from my parents “You’re either the hammer or the nail. Decide which one you want to be or someone else will.” on nearly every such occasion. Looking back now they were right but not just about the physicality.
In nearly every sport and even more importantly in many aspects of life, there will be times where you have to decide between the two options. Do you want to be the hammer, in motion driving forward and making choices, or do you want to be the nail, static waiting for whatever the world chooses to deal out and taking the blows. In my experience it is better to be the hammer. Drive yourself forward, take initiative and create opportunities from your effort. If you can be the one doing the pushing then you have more opportunities and options.
Single-handedly, the largest killer of long term success in athletics is injuries and much the same thing can be said of health in life after competition. Sadly, what you rarely hear of is how anyone took such great care of themselves that they were functional into their later years, it’s just not a sexy topic. Self care is the unsung hero if you want to compete at a high level for any length of time. When I say self care I am specifically talking about eating right, sleeping right, therapy for your aches and pains, prehab to prevent aches and pains, etc. A super car is only a super car if it can race around the track. If it gets beat up and run down for poor maintenance then it will still wind up in the junk yard.