Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whether They Agree Or Not

Growing up as an athlete, I was taught, and instinctively believed, that 100% intensity and focus should be applied to everything we attempt.

I've always had high expectations for myself, and as a coach, have these same expectations for my students. If you want to be truly great at anything, being committed to sacrifice, no excuses, and a willingness to do what they're not, is critical for success. To separate from the pack means to do more, sometimes do it differently, but always work harder than your opponents.

This can be difficult for some to understand, as it often feels and sounds a bit "cut throat." Many view this type of intensity and sacrifice as unnecessary for success, and damaging to self. By definition, sacrifice means to give up in order to receive. Sometimes, we may have to let go of the things we wish to hold onto the tightest. This is how we separate - knowing most won't sacrifice what's needed to achieve their goals.

I recently shared my opinion on a few professional athletes, expressing my disappointment with their mental toughness. Some agreed with my assessment, but many didn't. Those who disagreed believed I was either too hard on them, or just flat-out didn't think I knew what I was talking about. I respect and appreciate all opinions, but what I DO know is competition at a national level, and pressure strong enough to make you gag on your own breathe. I've felt it, many times overcoming, and other times falling victim. Now, I study this sometimes paralyzing pressure full time, teaching how to react positively and confidently to it's affects.

When I'm assessing an athlete, whether a student or opponent, I instinctively look into their eyes, looking for an intensity that can hardly be described. It's a look that shows no fear, and an arrogance that believes they will succeed no matter what obstacles arise. When the great ones are at their highest peak of concentration, their eyes can burn a hole through you, and all peripheral vision becomes non existent. Pressure situations makes these hyper-focused athletes perform at a higher level ... they actually want and need the pressure to excel.

I was critical of a few professional athletes because I didn't believe they showed this intense focus on a regular basis, which has resulted in far too few championships. I don't know whether it's because they haven't been taught, or simply choose to believe it's not important enough, but something's not clicking for them under pressure. I tend to compare all athletes, professional or not, to the two greatest of all time: Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. They were on top of the "mental food chain," and are still the best examples of how to take your game to another level when pressure is at it's most extreme.

You don't have to be a pro athlete to give the same effort and attention to your craft. Be willing to sacrifice and become totally dedicated to propelling your skill past your competition. Work harder and longer than THEY do.

Teachers, never be afraid to voice your concern if you believe more can be done where less is currently taking over. It's my opinion that more can always be achieved, and we shouldn't ever, ever settle for less! Push past comfort zones, and help others fight through theirs... whether they agree or not.


Rettakat said...

Excellent! I think if I had consistently had this mind set, I would have achieved my goal by now.

I've bookmarked this to re-read. I'm going to sleep soon, and plan to think on it as I drift off! I've decided it's time to BE that person that is mentally tough... not just the person that WANTS to be mentally tough. Big difference.

Thank you for another needed kick in the... you know where. :-)

Dayne Gingrich said...

Awesome, Loretta! Keep making conscious decisions, & allowing ur subconscious to marinate on them!