Back in the 1970’s the Olympic world was divided into two camps, West and East with the Cold War front and center in the arena of competition. There were big stakes involved from an ideological standpoint. What better way for competing systems of living to demonstrate their superiority without wading into Armageddon.
During this period the East Bloc countries dominated the wrestling mat. Now for you guys that have never wrestled competitively, each round may very well be the toughest couple of minutes in sport. Well, there was this young man from Iowa named Dan Gable. He dreamt of Olympic gold but faced the hard cold reality that the competition was near impossible to overcome. He was not deterred. He trained and he trained and he trained. Each session when he was at his physical and mental end he visualized his opponent training and would not quit. When there was nothing left, he pictured his opponent ending his workout and he trained on. The results, well as the story goes, he wrestled his way to the gold medal round and won without a point being scored on him along the way.
It is now mid-February. The last game of the season was played over 75 days ago. Some programs are cruising, some sleeping and some have taken a page from Gable’s life. The “off-season” would do well to be renamed the “get better season” or “opportunity season”. We cannot play one another but we can sure as hec compete against ourselves and fight those inner battles to be our best. Samurai did not suddenly transform into superb warriors on the day of battle. They were guided by “Bushido” which is the warrior’s way, code of living, actions and training. On game day this spring and in the fall, there will be no lies when players and teams line-up across from one another. Sloth and travellers of the easy road will be revealed as will those who met their inner challenge to get better.
In AA ball this year there will be teams who are gifted with classes of great athletic talent and those who will struggle in that area. There will be examples this year of the latter defeating the former. If your team has it all on paper this year, they had better have it all in their hearts.
Players and coaches alike, stop and take a look at your program. Which direction are you heading? If you don’t like what you see around you do you have the fortitude and importantly, the time to steer your direction upwards? The league is going to be lights-out competitive this year and if you close your eyes and picture it, there are some groups of gridiron warriors who are forging their minds and bodies for the battles ahead.
Now the focus of this message has been the physical but make no-mistake, it is a truism for all facets of the program: Organizational structure and integrity, supporting feeder programs, finances, playbooks, drill packages, program evaluation, self-scouts,facilities, practice and personal equipment etc. No item can go unnoticed or be considered too mundane. On game-day, the players and their coaching team will be the sharp-end of the sword but the thrust behind that sword, the force and the wielding grace that makes it truly lethal will be the work at all levels that has gone on in the months, weeks and days prior to that moment of truth.
Your opponent will always have a say and the only thing you can control is yourself. An old military axiom to finish: “The more sweat on the training field the less of your blood on the battlefield”.
Players and coaches alike, a tip from ol'Gridiron. No matter how physcially gifted, talented and accomplished you currently are, picture yourself going into a future contest against your mirror image, your identical twin in life. Now, when you pull-up tired and weary, when you want to have a loaf day, picture your mirror image still training, plowing through tiring and mundane, finishing an extra hour of work. Rise, rise and compete with yourself. Get better. Regret is the most expensive thing in the world and time is short. Give what you got now and then go find some more.
Round 16 weeks til Spring Jamboree ain't it?