To the Hustlers.
I figured it out when I was 14. That was my freshman year of high school. Until then I had only been trying to keep up. I was raised in a family of four boys. They’re all older, talented and are largely responsible for stretching my limits as a person. When you have older brothers, you strive every day for some goals that are legitimately unattainable in the short term. Until freshman year I was always the slow one. I was the weak one. I was always trying to keep up or catch up. I never saw my brothers and their friends as 8 years older, bigger and stronger. I saw them as the regular competition. They were better but I was taking them on at full steam. They were my first challengers and my first coaches. They were not accepting of excuses in either role.
I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t whine. I couldn’t cry. These were infractions. Infractions came with penalties. The easy punishments were things like dead legs or a whack with a sand-filled sock. Physical pain was tolerable, almost easy. Ex-communication was the death sentence. They warned me every so often that if I broke any one of these three rules, they would not play with me and I would never be invited back to the Saturday morning football games.
So what was the “IT” that I figured out?
I had developed a knack for hustle without really knowing it. Basic pain and fatigue were not excuses for slowing down so when my football coach told us to take a couple warm up laps, I felt no inclination to stay with the pack. I really couldn’t understand why they weren’t keeping up with me and the 4 other guys in lead. I definitely wasn’t the fastest outright but when pain and fatigue were the only barriers, I chose the most painful option. This made it started looking like I was finishing first more often.
At the beginning of my sophomore year, coaches really started to notice my work ethic and named me captain. This position probably LOST me more popularity than anyone could expect. I didn’t understand leadership but I DID understand flat out WORK and a ‘no excuses’ mentality. Imagine someone being put in a leadership role where they are in charge of how much work gets put in but they have no regard for comfort, pain or fatigue. “Slave driver” was a pretty accurate title. The coaches left captains in charge of warm ups and when it came time for up-downs, pushups, crunches and leg lifts I was merciless. In my mind, busting your ass was the only road that led to victory.
I’ve since learned a lot about leadership, personalities, cohesiveness and getting the most out of people who come from different backgrounds. I’ve become somewhat (very somewhat) more compassionate. I’ve had to understand that hard work does come in many different forms and facial expressions but it is still the underlying necessity. This has all been part of a coach’s education but it has also been an undeniable part of trying to be a great teammate. I’ve come a long way in my sport and I still have a long way to go but I have made some observations in my pursuit.
Here is a list qualities that don’t win popularity contests but DO win medals:
Regardless of what professional athletes say, some part of them is arrogant.
Success is dependent on which half of arrogance you fall under. One half thinks they are already awesome and don’t need help. They think they are good enough. They are unteachable and unfortunately stuck. The other half thinks they are innately awesome and don’t accept their own failures as their final reality. When they fail, they are shocked so they work, study and learn until expectation meets reality. You have to think you are capable of the amazing in order to strive for it.
They are lonely and generally unpopular in their pursuit.
The level of work and dedication required to obtain elite status does not play to maximizing on your social life. There are many admirers of the results but so few who truly understand and appreciate that you can’t and won’t stick with the herd. They’ll wait at the finish line to high five you but they definitely won’t run the marathon. Your friends want you to be just like them so they’ll tempt you into late nights and bad diets. Just remember, “There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” You have to push yourself beyond where others willing to go and you have to make unpopular choices.
They can “take the hit but keep moving forward.”
You cannot begin to calculate the numbers of defeats a professional will suffer. Remember that when you constantly test the edge of your ability, you fall again and again. The large majority of people get hurt and then put up walls or end their pursuits entirely. Some people start businesses but lose big and never dive into entrepreneurship again. Some people fall in love and get hurt so decide not to open themselves up to the world again.
People fail in public and in private everyday. Athletes fail on a stage in front of everyone. They also lose in private. It happens in the gym when they don’t make their time or break their squat record. It happens in warmups when they miss a routine serve. Their lives are FILLED with disappointing and infuriating moments. When the universe is screaming at you and giving you concrete evidence that you CAN’T, what do you do? The great ones flip the universe the bird, pick themselves up, and forge on.
They are inherently weird and lie in the far reaches of the bell curve.
To attain greatness in any endeavor, you must have such an addiction that it totally consumes your life. If you’re not OK with that, you won’t reach the pinnacle. I’ve heard the stories from people who “have been playing for years” but haven’t hit the next level. How many hours of FOCUSED practice come with a year? If you played club and had practice 2 times a week for 6 months a year and had a tournament every other weekend, you played about 140 hours of volleyball (assuming you were a starter and made playoffs in each tournament). By the way, sitting around at a tournament does not add to your rep count.
If you want to get ahead of that curve you are going to have to put A LOT more hours in. Here’s a fun exercise; count how many hours you spend playing or studying volleyball, then count your Facebook+Instagram hours… So you know, this article counts for volleyball since its success oriented ;). When they are in season, Division 1 athletes put 20 hours a week into their sport. Do the math. That 7 weeks is equal to your one year as a club athlete. Professionals have no NCAA limits and are the ones who go above and beyond that. Pro’s are far from average in their dedication.
They are addicts.
If they aren’t doing it, they are certainly thinking about it. It keeps them up at night and wakes them in the morning. Volleyball dominates their news feeds, and you better believe youtube suggests a volleyball video every time they sign in. Youtube and search engines do a great job of feeding the addiction.
To everyone who pushes themselves at a rate that makes others uncomfortable. DO. NOT. STOP. You will live in places that they won’t even have the chance to visit.
Test your limits. Live beyond average.
Article courtesy to Volleyball Camp Hermosa
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