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Beating the Odds

On Being Well-Rounded

Has anyone ever told you to be well-rounded? Many people, from parents to guidance counselors, offer these well-intentioned words of wisdom.

The trouble is that being well-rounded is not the best way to achieve extraordinary things. In fact, the two are opposite. Just think. If you spend your time becoming pretty good at lots of different things, there is no time to become world-class at any one thing.

So here’s a point of view that may make guidance counselors cringe: There is absolutely no need to become well-rounded. For evidence, must look at this weekend’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Cooperstown, N.Y.

Neither of the featured inductees — Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice — was a well-rounded ballplayer. Rice, in particular, was a one-dimensional player. His job was to slug the ball, and for a 10-year period, no one in the league did it better. But Rice was not a fast runner, and his arm and fielding were not extraordinary.

Henderson’s game had more elements to it than Rice’s did, but it was far from complete. Like Rice, he did not have an exceptional arm.

So what is the moral? If two of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived were not well-rounded, then why does anyone else need to be? Does this mean that players and coaches should stop working on their weaknesses? No. But it does mean that one weakness need not hold you back.

Too many players and coaches are overly concerned with what they can’t do instead of on what they can do. Don’t make this mistake. Develop your strengths and use them. If you’re not sure what the strong points of your game are, ask someone. Anyone but a guidance counselor.


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