I was at a swim school conference a few weeks ago and one of the speakers, I believe it was John Chappelear, author of The Daily Six, who asked the above question. His point was that many people in our society today want to BE someone or something. They do necessarily want to do the work to BECOME that someone. If you google the phrase “10,000 hours of practice”, you get an abundance of articles that highlight the theory that to become the best at something you need to practice that skill for 10,000 hours.
Occasionally I see a frustration in parents of young athletes that their child is not excelling or improving at the same rate as other children in the group. I wonder what their child does away from the practice fields or basketball courts or swimming pool. I am certainly not advocating for a one dimensional focus on athletics or academics. I grew up playing basketball, baseball and swimming. Multi-sport training is great for developing the well rounded athlete. But what I am suggesting is that athletic performance or even academic performance will be enhanced by more practice. And as parents, we need to occasionally tell our children that they are losing games or not getting picked for teams because they, the child, are competing against kids or teams that have worked harder than they have to get to where they wanted to go.
I have spent thousands of hours on soccer fields watching our daughters play that great sport. Two of them excelled to such a degree that they received scholarships to play at a Division One university. Our youngest daughter has battled through shoulder surgery and a recently cracked tibial plateau from playing soccer limiting her ability to practice or play. What is her choice of television when she has some free time? An international soccer channel on our local cable outlet! At dinner, I get updates on English soccer teams, such as Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal. We sat down one Sunday a few weeks ago and instead of the NFL, we watched the NCAA Womens’ Collegiate Soccer Championship between Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina. She wants to learn and get better. She reaches beyond practice to see how great players play. Now, I am waiting for the day, I am at a soccer game, after the competition is over, the referees and coaches are gone, the parents are drifting to their cars off and the girls from both teams get together and say
….. Let’s play again, NOW!
No coaches, no referees, no parents, just them, their soccer ball, playing a game they love for fun.
Finally a quote that hangs on the wall in our office:
The fight is won or lost,
far away from witnesses.
It is won behind the lines in the gym and out there on the road,
Long before I dance under those lights.