Why It's Tough To Stick To The Game Plan

Why It's Tough To Stick To The Game Plan

“Don’t think about what can happen in a month. Don’t think about what can happen in a year.  Just focus on the 24 hours in front of you and do what you can to get closer to where you want to be.” — Eric Thomas, former professional American football player

I once hiked to the top of Potato Chip Rock via Mt. Woodson Trail, a 6.9 mile hike in Poway, California -- truth be told, I was very hesitant trekking because of all of the horror stories. But getting to the top was one of the best rushes I have ever felt. The amount of times I wanted to stop and turn back around was crazy! I had never felt that exhausted but, this was another type of pain I had not experienced, and after 3 hours I knew I would do it again, just to get better.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. If you began your craft around six years old, your hours will become more frequent by eight or nine because you are playing on one or two teams and practice a few times a week. Therefore, by the time you are twenty, if you are an elite athlete, you will have practiced about ten thousand hours.

Whether you practice that much or not will depend on if you enjoy practicing. Extraordinary players love to practice because practice brings improvement, increases confidence, and gives them experience. But, as you can see, 10,000 hours is a lot of time to dedicate to your craft which makes it extremely difficult to stick to the game plan -- it doesn't matter if we're talking high school, college, or even professional ball.

When I think about appreciating the progress and stepping outside of my comfort zone, I recall a story I heard about Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at about 29,000 feet above sea level. Most people do not know how you climb Mt. Everest -- but you must have extraordinary habits, practice meditation, train for years, visualize being at the top, and be truly grateful for the opportunity.

Let me give you a synopsis of the process:

As I stated, Mt. Everest is 29,000 feet above sea level, which means there is a third of the oxygen in the air. You and I would only last fifteen minutes before fall unconscious. Because the air is so thin, when you begin your trek up the mountain, you must be acclimated to the altitude and wear an oxygen mask. Even with that, you can only take about four steps before you are completely exhausted! This would be like doing back-to-back shuttle-runs under 30 seconds...and that’s just four steps!

It takes ten days to reach the Base Camp. From there, you climb the icefall (the most dangerous stage) to Camp 1 for a day. Then back down through the icefall to Base Camp to rest for a day. Then, back up to Camp 1 for a night, and back down to Base Camp. Then back up to Camp 1 for a night, and up to Camp 2 for three or four nights. Then you must go all the way to Base Camp to rest. You then go back through Camp 1 and Camp 2, and spend a night in Camp 3. Then you must go back to Base Camp for two weeks before making your way to Camp 4 and to the summit, which takes thirteen hours. After two months, you will have climbed Mt. Everest.

After reading that story, think about your process and how there are times where you hit a slump and times when you are at a high. Appreciate your meticulous training, both mentally and physically, both highs and lows. Celebrate your accomplishments. Your preparation to being extraordinary should excite you to continue your journey long after you complete your summer training. By embracing who you are, you took the steps necessary toward greatness. Appreciate your opportunities, your advantages, and your disadvantages.

The only way to really appreciate and love what you do is if you find the work meaningful. If you are going through this process dreading every bit of it, then find another hobby. See and understand the relationship between effort and reward.

There will be people who discredit the hours you spent on your craft or write you off as being “born with talent.” They will not understand that everything you have done is because of your desire to be a special athlete. So use those people as teachers -- not everyone will appreciate your work ethic, but most will learn to respect it. Take advantage of every opportunity; even your disadvantages are an opportunity to be successful.

When I was a freshman in college, I wrote, “I wasn’t. I am not. But I will be” on my playbook, notebooks, and textbooks. I truly believed there was more to me than I was showing. Roughly four percent of women play in college, and I wanted to be a great one, but I wasn’t sure how I would do that.

Every day I learned as much as I could. I focused in school and even harder in practice. As a young player, on a team of veterans, of course, my opportunities were limited. My coach played seven of the fifteen or so girls on the roster. When I got my chance, I was so afraid of making a mistake that I made a mistake every time. I was timid. I could not think straight during practice.

Basketball had gone from the easiest and most fun part of my day to the most stressful and difficult part of my life.  

I dreaded practices more and more. The only part I enjoyed was being on the practice squad, which put less pressure on me and gave me fewer reps with the starters. I felt like I had gotten worse through the season; all I was doing was studying plays and opponent personnel, watching film, being a practice player, and creating scouting reports.

It took me all season to realize that although I was not getting sufficient playing time, I was gaining knowledge and wisdom through the upper classmen and my position coaches. This was the most important process of my journey: gaining the wisdom to be the player I wanted to be.

I needed to learn how to follow before I could lead by seeing the player I would develop into. When you envision the best version of you, your mind and body will harmonize, and you will attract everything necessary to becoming the best player you can be. You have to be patient with yourself. You have to appreciate the process.

And maybe then you will be able to climb your version of Mt. Everest.

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