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Beating the Odds

Staying Entertained

If you’ve flown recently, you may have seen a screen directly in front of your seat, showing previews and inviting you to — for a price — “stay entertained.”

“Stay entertained.” That pretty much sums up life today. Whether it’s a TV show, an IPod or a cell phone, we have devices that invite us to “stay entertained.”

Yet entertainment stands in the way of quality. If you have any big dreams whatsoever, you don’t need entertainment; you need struggle.

I just got back from the New Mexico Track and Cross Country Coaches Association clinic, where hundreds of coaches gave up their weekend to learn just a little more about their craft.

You can bet that none of the speakers promised ease or comfort. It doesn’t work that way. If you are trying to squeeze one more half-inch out of your leap, then you don’t need entertainment, you need deliberate practice. And when you mention deliberate practice, the word “demanding” comes up.

But here’s the paradox. To teach and coach effectively, you must be part entertainer. You must find a way to connect with the people you’re coaching. With humor, with stories, and with your body language, you must inspire, motivate and present a vision of what that athlete can be. When I watch great coaches make presentations, I feel their power to mesmerize. They have developed the ability to hold attention.

Jets Coach Rex Ryan is a perfect example. He has his team playing for the AFC championship today against the Indianapolis Colts. His personality has inspired his team, given it confidence. But you can bet that the workouts have not been comfortable. Besides motivating his team, Ryan has prepared it to play a crashing, bashing, defense.

Another such coach is former Olympic discus thrower Carla Garrett, now a strength and conditioning specialist in Tucson, Arizona. I met her on the trip to New Mexico, and she is a spellbinding individual who can recite stories from the Olympic and Division I level. Her message is compelling, too. Garrett says that to join the elite level, you must become selfish not only with others but with yourself. You can’t see the movies that others do. You can’t spend time the way others do.

As the saying goes, you must give up what you want now for what you want most. Whether you aspire to the Olympics, the Super Bowl or excellence in your program, that puts entertainment low on the list.


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