This member of the month article is a little different. Instead of pointing out those deserving members, we didn’t want to offend anyone if we left them off the list. Thus, after you finish this article, if you’re honest, you should know if you’re our August member of the month. We’ve been blessed with quite a few level 3 athletes over the last 4 years.
With the high school fall sports seasons quickly approaching, the timing of this article couldn’t be better. If you’re an athlete or a parent of an athlete, please read it with an open mind.
Last night, I was watching ESPN’s All Access with the Ohio State football team. During the episode, head coach Urban Meyer, one of the top college football coaches in the country, pulled one of his top players to the side during practice to “discuss” his lack of effort. Although you would assume Urban would have taken the typical approach used by many coaches and screamed at him, he didn’t. Instead he simply said, “Be the kind of player I want to coach. Be the kid that gets me excited to come to practice at 5 a.m. Be the kind of player your teammates respect and admire. Be that person every practice.” And that was it.
Over the course of the last 4 years, I’ve had the pleasure of training quite a few high school and college athletes. After spending countless hours with them (as well as having 5 coaches in my family and being a former athlete), the above scene resonated deeply within me. After a little contemplation, it became quite clear. High school athletes clearly fall into 1 of 3 levels.Although it may sound uninspiring at first. It shouldn’t because the question is not what level you fall into. The question is how do I get to level 3 and stay there.
Level 1 – The Wannabe’s
These are the athletes that at times make coaching miserable. In fact, many of good coaches have been fired because of them. He wants to be good, but but he doesn’t want to put any effort into it. In fact, he struggles with dedication so much that he routinely has trouble just showing up for scheduled practices or team meetings. On the flip side of that though, he would never miss a game.
And to make matters worse, his parents are usually blinded by his apparent lack of dedication and drive. They’re the parents that run to the coach as soon as their son/daughter isn’t playing. They’re the ones that run to the administration as soon as “playing time” is decided by focusing on winning and their child isn’t part of the winning gameplan. They mistakenly believe everyone should play no matter the score or record. They completely dismiss the merits of dedication, hard work, and talent. They believe in a sporting society that’s built on socialism.
The good news is that there’s hope. He does have a slight spark/inclination to be good. We just have to figure out how to ignite.
Side note: We’re specifically talking about high school varsity athletics. Little league is a completely different story, and should be a completely different focus.
Level 2 – The Almost’s
This is the most common high school athlete. He’s great at showing up. He’s great at listening to the coach. The coach usually refers to him as a “coachable kid with a good attitude.” If he’s asked to do something, he does it. Unfortunately for him, practice stops at practice. He puts in exactly what is required and not an ounce more. At times, it seems as his parents want it more than he does. Sadly, it’s often true.
Coaches usually have a love-hate relationship with him. They love that he shows up at every practice and team meeting on time. They love that he listens to everything they say, and does exactly what they say. However, they hate the fact that he’s never going to reach his true potential. They hate the fact that if he just had a little more fire and really pushed himself, he’d succeed beyond his wildest expectations. They hate the fact that they feel guilty because if they just had more one-on-one time to really push him, he’d be so much better than what he is. Unfortunately, the coach has 20+ other athletes to worry about.
His parents are even worse than the wannabe’s parents. It’s not because they’re more vocal, but because their argument for playing time is sound. Their child does show up for every practice. Their child does listen to the coach and does as he is asked. However, just showing up and doing as your told doesn’t guarantee success in the real world. I don’t automatically get a promotion because I show up to work every day and do exactly what I’m told. A child doesn’t automatically get an “A” in calculus because he shows up everyday and does his homework. It’s that little bit of extra that makes people extraordinary.
The good news is that these athletes with the right plan and a little bit of motivation can reach level 3 rather easily. Someone just has to take the time to give them a reality check, yet at the same time, create a success plan that they can envision.
Level 3 – The Freaks
This is the ultimate athlete. This is the athlete every coach loves to have. This is the kind of athlete I love coming into the gym and training until 9 or 10 at night even after working an eight hour day at the pharmacy. I don’t mind giving up my weekends to train him because I know by the end of the session, he will have motivated me to be a better coach, a better person. He’s the reason I built the gym. He justifies the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on athletic training seminars, certifications, books, and DVDs.
He may not be the most athletic. He may not even be the best player on the team. But no one works harder than him. If a coach had to pick one player to go to war with, it’d be him. He has the fire. He has that determination. He understands what he does after practice separates him from everyone else.
As coaches we love him because we don’t have to constantly watch him when he practices to make sure he’s giving 100% because we already know he’s giving 110% every second of every practice. When we say do 6 repetitions, he does 8. When we say sprint for 30 yards, he does 50 yards. When we throw a challenge at him that we expect him to fail, he smiles and gladly obliges. He wants to fail because he constantly wants to get better. He knows the only way that happens is by training at the very edge of his talent.
It’s these athletes I feel sorry for. Parents expect them to share playing time with their children even though they’ve worked harder, spent more time practicing, and are usually more talented.
The Last Word
My hope is that this article encourages, not discourages you. The underlying theme throughout this article is that you have the power to be as good (or as bad) as you want. You are responsible for your success or failure. Your potential isn’t limited by your genetics, your sex, or your family. You’re only limited by yourself. Luckily for you, that’s the only person you have to answer to too. You have to look at yourself every morning in the mirror, no one else.
So the question becomes, how do you want to be remembered.
Side note: “He” was used throughout this article. However, from my experience, I’ve met far more “she’s” that fit the level III profile than “he’s.”