Sacrifices of an Athlete
Today’s athletes are becoming more and more demanding with increases in TV access, large sneaker contracts, full ride scholarships and the demand for a starting spot on the team. In order to become an elite athlete there are quite a few sacrifices and decisions an athlete needs to do in order to call themselves elite. I see and hear many kids saying they want to be the next Lebron or the next Adrian Peterson. In order to become great you must become a master of your trade. Malcolm Gladwell explains in his book Outliers that in order to call yourself a master you must perform 10,000 hours on practice alone. That is a long time! To become a master you must practice day in and day out. You must be willing to sacrifice your time and attention to something that doesn’t have an instant reward but for something that will reward you months or even years down the road. This is why so many athletes quit. As humans we want instant gratification and want to reap rewards now.
When we look at what it takes to become an athlete it all sounds pretty crazy. I’ll use football as an example because that’s what I played. The football season started in August. We woke up and had practice at 6:00am. It was dark outside and the coaches used to bring their cars on the field and turn on their headlights. The grass had enough dew on the ground to get you soaked. Nothing worst then playing in wet football pants! Practice was for 3 hours, then another practice in the afternoon then another walk through in the evening. We did this for weeks. While our school friends were sleeping in bed, we are grinding and hitting. I missed many parties, family events and sleep. In addition to things I missed, sports took a toll on my body. Lots of running, weight lifting the wrong way and contact drills. This was the era before Code Red days because of heat, concussions and how many 2-a-days were allowed. Football was for men and if you complained you were off the team. If your parents wanted to complain the coaches would set them straight too! Football was a sport that took lots of sacrifice.
Sacrifice and being the best have seen to become synonymous. I have many past and present athletes tell me how they want to be the best but when it comes down to it they only want to be the best when it is convenient. Don’t tell me you want to be the best but there is this house party this weekend that you have to go to. Don’t tell me you want to be the best but I just got my license and there are some things I have to do.
Being the best doesn’t start 2 weeks before the season. There is no off-season in today’s sports. You have to be eating right year around. You have to stay strong and be in good cardiovascular health all the time. Being the best doesn’t mean you are the fastest guy on the team. Doesn’t mean you have the highest points per game or the fastest pitch. Separating yourself means you are open to learning. This means listening to your coaches and understanding what they are trying to instill in you. Being elite means you don’t care about going out on Friday nights during the off-season because you’d rather be in the gym training. Being elite means when everyone else around you quits you dig deeper. Being elite means when you get knocked down or miss the game winning shot you get back up and tell yourself that it’s not going to happen again. It’s putting hours in the gym training harder than the competition, mastering your specific position and looking your opponent in the eye on game day and seeing that he has already been defeated before the whistle even blows.
If you want to be an elite athlete in today’s sports, you have to make more sacrifices then the next guy. It starts with looking in the mirror and asking yourself “Is this really what I want”.