‘We will relentlessly chase perfection, knowing we’ll never reach it,
because in the process we’ll catch excellence.’
- Vince Lombardi
Training programs for young athletes have certainly caught on nationwide, fueling not just programs like ours but also team-wide and even school-wide development programs.
This can add another advantage for athletes who have the opportunity and desire to use it for improvement.
But with the onslaught of coaches at all our local schools trumpeting the ‘you better get in the weight room!’ approach, it might be a good time to step back for a second and ask what is being accomplished by it all.
More specifically, is your program leading to excellence?
It’s easy to say yes to that question with teams or schools touting the number of wins they had last season, or the weights their kids can lift, or how many kids are ‘voluntarily’ taking part in off-season training.
But developing excellence is about far more than winning records, or a 300 lb bench, or anything like that.
Excellence is a habit, a way of approaching everything you do in order to maximize the opportunities at hand. And because it’s a habit, it spreads to other aspects of life, like academics and job performance.
Training programs, for all their physical benefits, are even more effective at instilling the habits of excellence.
- They can teach you to find a way to get a little better today than you were yesterday, and give you a blueprint to know how exactly you can do it.
- It can help you develop an almost obsession-like approach to perfecting every last detail of a skill..
- They can teach you to become fully immersed in the task at hand.
- It can show you immediate benefits to being receptive to coaching advice from those whose experience can speed up your path to the top.
- They can help you find the courage to work on the things that are hard for you, taking risks by stepping out of your comfort zone and expanding your abilities.
Having been a strength coach for over 16 years, my biggest concern with teams and schools implementing workout programs right now is not that kids will get injured, because weight training is a relatively safe activity compared to most sports.
My concern is that these programs are instilling the habits of mediocrity in our local athletes, when so many have the potential to reach far, far higher.
Based on feedback from hundreds of kids over the years (and having coached in high school weight rooms for many years myself), typically they are more about:
- Training with friends while ½ focusing on training and ½ focusing on social issues.
- Following workouts targeting just a small handful of skills (guaranteed to revolve around bench pressing and squatting while avoiding the other 95% of athletic needs)
- Athletes not taking small steps forward every day. Or worse, taking too big of a step forward too quickly in the pursuit of instant gratification.
- A complete lack of attention to detail in the execution of lifts.
Every coach, athlete and parent wants to experience success, to be on top. But very few actually achieve it.
With the ups and downs of a sports season it can often be hard to tell if a team is on the road to greatness, or not.
History shows us who has mastered the habits of excellence with their teams, and where it took them.
Football coach Vince Lombardi, quoted earlier, certainly did. So did legendary basketball coach John Wooden.
Wooden won 10 NCAA National Championships in just a 12 year period. Yet his focus was always on attention to detail, running highly structured practices that were all about habit-building.
As Coach Wooden said himself,
Every practice, training session, game, or other performance-related event we ask our young athletes to take part in should always be judged on one simple question:
Did that lead me and our team closer to excellence, or mediocrity?
When you can honestly answer ‘excellence’ to that question on a regular basis, good things will happen over time.