For some athletes success comes naturally.
Hahahahahaha!!! Cough!!! Sputter!!! Hack!!! Snort!!! Hahahahaha!!! OmiGod, I can’t stop laughing!!!
NOT!!! WRONG!!! SOUND of the buzzer going off!!! PENALTY!!! PENALTY!!!
No, no, no!!! NOOOOOO!!!
Don’t fool yourself. Success only SEEMS to come naturally. Success involves work; wooooooooooorrrrkkk!!! Talent can give you an edge; a head start but it doesn’t get you success.
Please pay particular attention to the word, “seems” because THAT is the truth. Success only SEEMS to come naturally. Success; even the kind of success which we “perceive” of as genius is the result; the culmination of ENORMOUS amounts of hard work; from LEARNING to execute a skill properly and then repetition upon repetition of BOTH the correct information and correct mechanical execution and a process which involves above all else; perserverance; going through the process over and over and over again of … (let’s call it …) “Skill” INFORMATION and EDUCATION. Repeat skill information. Execute skill. Adjust and execute skill properly.
Prepare. Perform. Adjust and correct. Perform again and again and again. Adjust and adjust and adjust and even (Oh man … I know you do NOT want to hear this but …) Fail and fail and fail and adjust and adjust and adjust.
When I trained and rode professionally for a living, I would occasionally get compliments on my riding; things like: “You are a wonderful rider. You have a terrific “seat”, etc.
“Thank you,” I would say, always grateful to hear nice things but I would always finish my reply with the truth. “Thank god you can’t see all the blisters and bruises and broken bones and the times I fell off” and also, “You tend to get pretty good at something if you do it about fifty hours a week.”
(See above). Excellence in performance ALWAYS takes this same path. ALWAYS.
In fact, I will tell you from over thirty years of teaching, training, and coaching that almost 100% of the time the (so-called) “talented” individuals (and I am talking about human and horse) are the most difficult to coach and teach.
They won’t listen and they won’t work.
In addition to horses, I have also coached sports. The leading strength and conditioning trainer in the world right now is probably Mike Boyle of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Boston.
Boyle says that “ talent and work ethic are usually INVERSELY related”; i.e. the most talented athletes work the least.
DON’T BE ONE OF THOSE. The truly great ones; (using basketball as an example) Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Earvin Johnson; all had talent AND work ethic.
Anyway, that’s a story for another day. Let’s go over that “learning path” or sequence.
Knowledge; “skill” information and education. Learn HOW to perform the skill correctly.
This is a bit like 2 + 2 = … WHAT? Well of course the answer is 4 and you reacted immediately with the correct answer. Why? Because you have heard the answer over and over and over again your entire life.
Do NOT skip this part of the equation or rush through it. Remember it is NOT ENOUGH that your mind remembers the correct answer. Your mind then has to TRANSLATE it to your body and unfortunately your body is … sorry … stupid; REALLY stupid. Almost 100% of the time your body; IF UNINFORMED AND UNDISCIPLINED AND SCHOOLED will take the quick, easy, shortest (and laziest) path in order to accomplish a task. The body has to be shown what and how to do something. Repeatedly. Moreover consider that your body does not perform ANY task WITHOUT thought. So the more you THINK about doing something correctly …and TELL yourself to do it correctly … guess what? That’s right … the more you will DO it correctly.
Your body will follow your mind.
Execute the task (i.e. the “expression” if you will … of the aforementioned knowledge) correctly.
Repeat correct execution of task.
When I am teaching mechanical skills to youngsters I always give them the “shoelace” example which goes like this …
When you were really little you did not know how to tie your shoe laces so you had to have your mom or dad do it for you but … at some point your folks probably taught and showed you how and little by little you learned and DID it until now you DON’T THINK about it. It is natural; REACTIVE. You do it correctly WITHOUT thinking.
Before I tell my own story I will remind you remember that I rode horses since … forever; played three sports in college, after college I ran in AAU track meets and played semipro baseball for a very long time but to this day you know what one of my greatest athletic achievements was?
Riding a bicycle.
We lived at the bottom of a huge winding hill; probably close … I’m not kidding. It had to be a 45 degree angle and a good 200 yards long. Every summer I would see my dad suddenly bolt off the lawn about a dozen times and run out to pick up some kid who had crashed at the bottom of the hill. There were even a few incidents involving cars. Thankfully no-one got seriously hurt but my parents did not allow us to have bikes until I was almost eleven.
I was mortified. All the other kids were tooling around town and here I was … walking; a complete social outcast. I was embarrassed and even ashamed to tell my friends why I didn’t have a bike. I didn’t want them to think my dad was a knucklehead. (I didn’t … of course … realize at the time that my parents’ decision was based on being protective).
Finally my folks agreed that we could have bicycles and we earned them … another good “life lesson” … by shoveling walks and cutting grass.
Then the fateful day arrived when we got our bikes and …
I couldn’t ride the darn thing. I had never been on one before. Man, I thought I was an outcast before … Holy mackerel, after all that work, I’ll have to throw the darn thing away and keep walking.
I started practicing … I’m not kidding … in the driveway … in the dark. Boom!!! I fell down. Boom again. More falling and getting up and trying again and pushing with my feet but gradually … slooooowly my sense of balance came to me and then one day … it worked. I stayed on without falling off.
Better than getting a walk off hit in game seven of the world series, scoring the winning touchdown in the super bowl, or first place in the National Reining Horse Futurity.
At least it sure felt that way at the time.
As we get older we lose that innocence, that perserverance, the sheer joy of piling up miniscule achievements until we triumph.
How about THIS miraculous athletic achievement; WALKING.
Think about it. Think how difficult that is? What is it that enables us to succeed. 1. We don’t care about who’s watching. 2. We don’t care about how many times we fail. 3. We’re not competing with anybody but ourselves … and gravity.
It’s still in us you know? Waiting to be called upon to get us over that hump.
Sit down and write out everything you “love” about your activity/sport. Close your eyes and feel the emotion of your “love”. Get up and take your gear … whatever your gear is … and go to the park and “play” your sport.
Just for fun. Don’t worry about the mistakes. Just have a good time. It it’s tennis, go to a court and just “hit some balls”. If it it’s baseball/softball, go get a tee and “hit some balls”. Get a basketball … “shoot some buckets”.
Go have some fun. Feel the joy again. Put a smile on your face and some good feelings in your body and then …
“Climb back on the bike.”
Uh, sorry … I meant horse.
As Samuel Beckett once wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
If you are struggling with a performance issue that just isn’t responding to more instruction and hard work, then call me now and let’s fix it. I’ve got a systematic process that takes care of any interference you have to your ultimate performance potential that you have seen short bursts of…and want to see it show up in competition consistently! Call me or email me right now while you’re thinking of it!
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All of us could improve something with our mental approach to our game. Sometimes we need help but don’t know who to ask … or how. Contact me and I can explain my sports mental toughness programs and you can learn how to quickly and easily improve your own mental game or that of your son/daughter or the players you coach.
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