Students of Sport: Ode to the Athlete
*All opinions are my own.
Every writer experiences the dreaded “writers block” from time to time…Mine has been going on for a few months now. If you know me though, you know I like to put a positive spin on things. So I’d prefer to call it, “caught up in other passions” like coaching, recruiting the future, training as a post collegiate runner, and learning to surf, to name a few (insert smiley face).
And it’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about…I’m always making mental notes from lessons learned and things to share with you all. My problem was just finding the time to sit down and start typing…from there it’s easy and words usually do start to pour out as they are meant to, in an organic fashion. Similar to running, we often procrastinate getting out the door when motivation is low. I’m sure most of you runners though can agree the hardest part of training is just getting out the door. I guess Nike is right in that way, “Just Do It”…they really nailed it on that one.
It was the other day at practice that one of our athletes asked when I would put out a new blog and kindly reminded me “it’s been awhile”. It made me smile from inside out, a funny turn of the tables…the athlete keeping the coach accountable. It also made me happy to know at least someone reads my stuff and that’s what I’ve always said, “to inspire or reach just one person with my words is why I will keep writing”. He wanted a shout out in this for being the one to get me going again but do to our Universities rules and regulations I cannot mention his name.
You know who you are though…and I thank you for giving me a swift kick in this direction.
But what to write about? I want it to be good. I thought at the time. That’s usually my problem, there is just so much I want to say and share and learn myself from sifting through my thoughts. I started wondering why I’m like this, always thinking, wheels always turning. My boyfriend Noah shared a funny story about an old friend from Virginia who once said (in a strong southern accent), “You know when a person gets real quiet in a group, and seems to be deep in thought? Well that’s not me. Nope. If I’m quiet, I sure as heck aint’ thinkin. I’m just bein’.” I thought that was perfect, and is exactly what makes the world go round. A never ending web of different personalities and different takes on life.
It then dawned on me, a big reason why I am nothing like Tyler. And nothing against Tyler, in fact, there are many schools of thought supporting his approach. Some would suggest he is enlightened in that way. Like the teachings in the book “Be Here Now”. Anywhoo, my cerebral light bulb blinked wildly…
It’s been over a decade now of hitting the trails and roads, thousands of miles, some (faster than others) with myself and my thoughts. Or myself, my training partners, and all of our thoughts, bouncing back and forth like a mental volley session. Not to mention those familiar silent moments that loom over a running group from time to time. And even then you know everyone is thinking about something, unless you are a Tyler type of course. But that’s pretty much all you have as a distance runner, and your stride and pounding heartbeat.
Steve Scott, the head coach I am blessed to work with and three time Olympian/25 year American Record holder, explained to a group of 3rd graders whom we spent time with the other day, that to reach his greatness he has run over 100,000 miles! “That’s three times around the world if you think of it that way” he told them as they stared at the legend wide eyed.
And because it was an athlete who told me to get writing, it was an easy decision at the time to make this blog about just that…the student of the sport. Excellence is a choice. And not all that chose, will excel. It takes a certain something, the X factor if you will. The ability to go the extra mile. But what exactly does that mean? How does someone ordinary, transform to extraordinary?
So we may not all become Olympians like Coach Scott, or perhaps you will, but you definitely won’t get there or become a top competitor in your sport and conference from being average. And average isn’t bad, but average students don’t get into to Yale or Harvard. If you are a student-athlete, and you chose to chase your dreams of becoming great and being your best, then you need to know that YOU are the one responsible for getting there. For being great, being an elitist. And it’s all about the things that happen away from game day.
So I challenge you this…understand that you truly are a student of your sport, and students that care do not settle for A’s and B’s, A+ is your standard, for everything. You want your athlete report card to be impeccable. The more you practice perfect, the more you adopt patterns that will set you up for success. Muscle memory man, it keeps you excellent. And excellence isn’t easy, just like becoming an Olympian or NCAA All-American is no walk in the park, but it is possible. And it could be you.
So here is your future athlete report card, if you are trying to reach your true potential…
|Attitude||This is first because it’s that important. Excellent attitudes make excellent athletes, which make excellent teams. 1 sour apple can spoil the bunch.||A+|
|Mechanics||Achieve proper technical form during drills, ask your coach to demonstrate if you are unsure.||A+|
|Drills||Using your proper mechanics, you never get sloppy or skip your drills, no matter what. Drills are critical for muscle memory.||A+|
|Warm ups||Know your body/how long you need to warm up to be ready. Everyone is different.||A+|
|Practice||It’s simple, be there. 5 min early is on time. The key to success is to win the practice. You need to mentally/physically prepare for hard days like you would prepare for competition.||A+|
|Cool down||Do not wait, and do not skip. Do not make your coach remind you to do this.||A+|
|Rehab||Incorporate injury prevention techniques like core work, band walks, ankle mobility/strength, etc. into your routine and perform them as you would in the training room with your AT scrutinizing every movement. If you are injured this is 10 x as important.||A+|
|Cross Training||Injuries happen, but they do not mean you have to throw in the towel. Check with your AT or PT on what you can do to maintain fitness.||A+|
|Leadership||Are you a vocal leader or a lead by example student athlete? Both are great for team culture.||A+|
|Sportsmanship||Encourages teammates, cheer during other’s events if you aren’t competing, congratulate/recognize other athletes after competition. Look out for teammates who could be struggling with something non-sport related.||A+|
|Diet/nutrition||Ask yourself “will this cleanse me or clog me?” For example, a double cheese burger from a fast food joint isn’t very cleansing, the way an orange isn’t something that will clog you. A poor diet makes your body’s engine sluggish. Treat your body the way you would a Ferrari.||A+|
|Sleep||8-10 hours. Make your sleep consistent and aim to be in bed around 10 pm. This is to stay true to your natural biorhythms||A+|
|Recovery||The fancy term is called “law of super-compensation” if you care to research more. Essentially, exercise itself does not raise your fitness level. You raise your current level of fitness by how well you recover (nutrition, sleep, rest, no alcohol, etc) after you have stressed your body from a hard session. This course in your student athlete studies is easiest to sabotage thus resulting in overtraining situations, injury, or illness. The earlier you learn the value of proper recovery and keeping it quality, the further you will take your athletic ability.||A+|
|Stress||Stress raises cortisol, which increases inflammation, which leads to illness/injury. Learn to time manage and find time for yourself too.||A+|
|Strength/Conditioning||Strength is power, just look at the bodies of professionals…you can always see muscle definition and it doesn’t happen from simply running, or dribbling a ball all day. I guarantee 99.9% of the best athletes strength train and take it seriously.||A+|
|Time management||Keep a daily planner, avoid procrastinating large projects that will over stress you. Block out time frames to work on your studies. One all nighter can throw off your whole week of training.||A+|
|Heart||Which athletes go down in history as legends and leave the biggest legacies? The one’s with heart. Everyone admires and respects the athlete that put’s their heart and soul into their sport, fuels up on their own passion and love for it, and give’s their best day in and day out.||A+|
It was the year 1976 when a young and gifted Steve Scott was sitting in a Eugene, OR hotel lobby, eating pancakes. He had just finished his sophomore year at UC Irvine with countless accolades already under his 19 year old belt, including running for a spot just the night before on the US Olympic team at the prestigious Olympic Trials. If you don’t know who Steve Scott is, I encourage you to pay Google a visit. Steve however, was born with some excellent genetics that carried him far in his young competitive career.
But not far enough…at the time.
Steve set a personal record in the semi finals of the 1500 meters with an impressive final time of 3:40.4 securing his spot in the final race. But after Tom Buyers took the pack out in a 52 second 400 meter, he didn’t have the strength to finish higher than 7th place, missing the Olympics by four spots, finishing the grueling race with a final time 3:48.9. And if you ask him now, he will tell you with a smile on his face how happy he was to just be there and to be missing a wedding rehearsal he was less than stoked for.
It was mid-sugary-munch on his “much earned day off” when the three men who made the official team walked through the front doors of that hotel, clad in short shorts and sweaty from some obvious hard work…
“What did you guys just do?” The rookie Steve Scott had asked them.
“We just ran a nice little 15 miles” One of the men replied.
“Fifteen miles?!” Steve asked in complete shock.
“Well yea, it’s what we have to do to be our best”
And that was his moment…the moment everything changed. Because one thing Steve knew then, was that he wanted to be as great as those guys, and his frequent time off, lower mileage, and simply relying on his God given talent, was just not enough. Today he is still number 2 on the all time American 1500 meter list and world record holder for the most sub-4 minute miles…136 to be exact. I’d say things worked out pretty well for Coach Steve Scott.
So the moral of the story is that Dean’s List does not happen overnight. Make small achievable goals, always have fun, and let your excellence unravel.
Peace, love, running,