One Day You Will Miss Practice, I Promise
Those two-a-day practices in the heat; those after-school battles each and every day with your teammates -- I took it for granted, I must admit. Whether your sport is on 84 feet of hardwood or somewhere inside the foul lines of a baseball diamond, one day you will miss your after-school ritual. I know, I know, you have tons of homework, a test during second period, and blooming social life -- I get it. Hear me out. All of those things are just as important, don’t get me wrong. However, one day, you will finish your last practice, walk-through, whatever the case might be, and you will never get that back. The bragging rights, high-fives, clowning around in the locker room, driving your favorite coach insane -- all of that will be gone. Something that was such an important part of your life and daily routine, will suddenly vanish overnight. You may not realize it now, but here are a few of the things you'll miss the most when you move on from high school sports.
I think we all realize the time and commitment it takes from a coach when we are growing up, but we take it for granted. In all likelihood, these leaders have other jobs, financial obligations, family or personal issues, etc -- just like you. All of these outside factors, unfortunately, don’t really click until after the fact. For coaches from Little League, AAU, Junior High, Varsity, and beyond -- coaching is a personal time commitment no matter the level. The majority of coaches you will have grew up in your shoes at one point. Ask any of them and they will tell you it seems like just last week that they were going to soccer clinics or football practice. Use that to your advantage, by treating every day on the field like it may be your last. Ask questions. How would they have handled a situation? What would your team have done? I know, your coach won’t be the next Instagram star anytime soon, but you’re going to miss those guys. Even if you're convinced they give you extra sprints just to be evil, you'll long for those moments again almost immediately.
Last week I was swamped at work: I felt flustered, tired, and just nothing seemed to be going as planned. I needed a little pep-talk, something to wake me up and get my confidence back. What I needed wasn’t on my phone or on TV, no, actually it was the opposite. What I needed was a quick huddle up with my teammates -- thirty to sixty seconds to regroup, strategize, and get back to work. I miss that. Certain situations in our life seem so meaningless, but, in reality, those situations are the ones you would do anything to have back. Don’t get me wrong, I still throw out a high-five whenever I get the chance, but it’s different now. Sometimes you need a high-five as a confidence booster -- similar to whenever you missed a shot, tackle, or save. Value your teammates and the high-five as they'll be hard to come by once you're done.
Whether you're playing a sport or at the office, fundamentals are key in mastering any skill. As you get older, you realize that dedicating time and discipline to master a craft is difficult. You don’t have that 1-2 hour window each day allowing you to fail and try again -- that doesn’t happen in the real world. Life doesn’t allow you to line back up and try it again until you get it right. Obviously, some drills or exercises are monotonous, right? The same thing time and time again -- but why? As you get older, you have choices and decisions. You always have the option of being somewhere else other than where you are now -- the choice is yours. If you are fortunate enough to attend college or further your education, there will be distractions. How will you handle that? Will you be disciplined enough? Believe it or not, the drills that seem so repetitive now aren’t just getting you ready for this week’s game, but for the rest of your life.
Watching The Clock
Time is a funny thing -- days seem to go by slow, but years pass in the blink of an eye. Funny how that works, huh? I think we are probably all guilty of watching that clock during practice at one time or another. It’s not that you don’t want to be there, though, and there’s always practice tomorrow and the next day. Wrong! Think of all those seconds you wasted staring up at the clock or asking a coach what time it was -- I'm willing to bet you wish you could have those instances back. Instead of being so concerned with how much longer until practice is over, work as hard as you possibly can in that exact moment. I bet if someone came to your practice and told your entire team this would be their last practice ever, not one of you would care what time it was. Treat every practice like there is no time left and the final buzzer is about to sound. Each and every athlete is one throw, jump, kick, or shot away from never being able to practice again. This very second, there is a young athlete somewhere in the world that will never make a team, never hit the winning shot, and never even attend a practice. The next time you look up at that clock, I want you to think about that.
The bottom line is that practicing is a privilege, although I never saw it that way when I was younger. Sure, I knew I would miss the games and the competition, but not practice. Who would miss practice? Turns out I was wrong. Those hours after school or in the summer heat weren’t just preparing me for our next game, but preparing me for life.
The discipline, work ethic, and mental toughness developed as a young athlete during the time I spent at practice is something that can’t be bought. The next time you lace em’ up for practice, think about what you read today. How will you treat this practice differently? Will you wonder how much time is left until practice is over or become determined to get even better? You can treat practice like it will always be around or as if it can be taken from you at any moment. The choice is yours.
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