Wednesday Nov 02 2011
By: Jim Linsdau Placer Herald/News Messenger Sports
In covering sports one often hears the phrase, “working hard.” It might strike the novice as odd that those playing games would be referred to as working hard, but that is what’s required to play, today. Of course, hard work has almost always been synonymous with athletics. Virtually all sports, with the exception of bridge, require physical exertion and mental concentration. Years ago, when athletic games weren’t the science they are today, those with great physical ability could compete without putting in the countless hours of practice sports now demand. Contemporary coaches are no longer guys from the school of hard knocks with little more knowledge than how to “whip players into shape.” Getting players into shape is still a big part of every program, but it’s only the beginning. Then comes the endless grind needed to achieve excellence. And excellence is the engine of winning. Today’s coach has to know his or her sport from top to bottom. They have to be able to evaluate players and translate that knowledge to fit the skills of their athletes. Then, they must gain the trust and buy-in of those players; no small task. Even individual sports, such as running, swimming, wrestling, and golf mean hours of training if one is going to compete. Team sports take it to another level requiring teamwork and cooperation, along with personal development. Those additional hours of sacrifice aren’t just for the marginal players, but for the exceptional, as well. Examples are true champions like football’s Payton Manning, basketball’s Michael Jordan, and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. They do not wear the symbols of excellence in their respective professions simply because they were gifted; they worked extra, long, hard hours to get there. Even on the prep level, it takes no less effort to earn a league banner to hang in the school gymnasium. Such achievements do not guarantee those who participated will go on to be millionaires, but it does indicate their willingness to give all they had in pursuit of being the best. Championships are not common, and careers in sports are rare, but the memories that come with knowing one was a part of something special can last a lifetime. Winning is great, and one can learn to be a winner, but there is no simple formula for victory. If there were, no one would lose and we would all be winners. But then, how would we measure how far we’ve come; what did we accomplish? For all but one there is only knowing each gave his or her best for the opportunity to be No. 1.Each faced the competition and made their opponents earn their successes, just as they earned theirs. Because all anyone can control is the commitment, dedication, and willingness to work hard.