Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity,
To seize everything you ever wanted,
in one moment . . .
Would you capture it,
or would you let it slip . . .
One shot, one moment, one opportunity is easy. Everyone in the world has the ability to go for it, let it all out, give it their best for the big chance with no regrets. But that moment comes only with hours, days, months and sometimes even years of preparation to create the opportunity, that instant in which for a fleeting moment of time the window is open, the stars are aligned and the moment is ripe to seize the day and become recognized as the winner and even champion that you have become. The grind of preparation creates the winner, the focus and execution day in and day out creates the opportunity and knowing in your heart of hearts that you have earned and deserve the mantel of winner, of champion, will determine the outcome of the moment.
Talent is a precursor to success in any field in which physical skill is the dominant trait. However,
talent alone is greatly overshadowed by a willingness to grind out preparation in the form of quality, focused practice repetitions. Several different studies as well as a book by Malcolm Gladwell have documented many elite musicians and athletes that chose to practice basic fundamental tasks such as musical scales, core training, footwork and balance drills in order to keep the foundation solid on which the talent is allowed to flourish. This commitment to repetitive, daily basic skills is the key for successful elite artists and athletes. As legendary pianist Vladimar Horowitz was quoted, “If I don’t practice for a day, I know it. If I don’t practice for two days, my wife knows it. If I don’t practice for three days, the world knows it.” On the Today show when ask what it takes to be such a prolific writer, John Grisham responded that you must write a page a day, every day. Some days it may take five minutes, some days five hours, but you must write a page a day.
To become accomplished in any endeavor, practice is critical. But how much practice, what kind of practice? It has been theorized in many articles, books and studies that it takes 10,000 hours of focused, deliberate practice effort to become accomplished or elite in any endeavor. Your ultimate success is influenced by genetics, timing, opportunity and location. Several studies in piano, swimming, violin, diving, weightlifting and other sports have found that 10,000 hours of practice over 10 years is the minimum time required to achieve international levels of expertise. National levels were recognized at 7500 hours of deliberate practice and regional champions were crowned after 5000 hours of practice over 10 years time. This means that an athlete intent on becoming world class would need to commit an average of 1,000 hours per year, 20 hours per week (assuming 50 weeks of training) and 3-4 hours per day (assuming 6 days per week – 5 days would require a solid 4 hours per day). This is focused, deliberate practice not including competition. The intensity of training preparation will build layer upon layer of skill, one quality repetition at a time in order to make seemingly impossible execution look effortless. Practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes for perfect execution.
In today’s society another challenge is to find time to recover. Many elite athletes studied engaged in a full eight hours of sleep each night as well as a 30 minute nap between practice sessions in order to maximize recovery. Many times overtraining is a function of under recovery rather than too great a stimulus in terms of volume and/or intensity. For today’s athlete, this recovery means shutting down the laptop and phone and resting. In addition, quality nutrition is also a challenge in our hurry up, fast paced society. Fast food is also fat food if you drop the s – which means many times athletes must take time to prepare snacks and pack food and water with them in order to have quality choices throughout the day. As the athlete ages and the quality of training increases, finding time for active means of recovery is vital. From various massage styles and hydrotherapy baths to post training stretching and tempo running, recovery is the vital compenent for elite athletes in heavy training phases. In fact, recovery at the end of one training session sets the stage for and is the beginning of the next training session. When the stress of our culture, intense training volumes, lack of adequate recovery and poor nutritional choices collide, that is when injury and illness rear their heads and put the process off course for days, weeks and even months.
Desire, even passion, burning white hot in the belly of the performer day after day makes preparation a joy, not a chore. Many champions relate stories
of despair in the journey, setbacks in training, injuries, and lost opportunities in which they contemplated just quitting. Many times it was at this critical time a coach, mentor, parent or chance meeting with a person of stature in their endeavor who said just the right thing at just the right time to reignite the flames of competitive passion and rekindle the fire of preparation.
In order to become a world class performer it takes a lifestyle commitment by the athlete and their family and at least 10,000 hours of focused, deliberate practice over a full decade. It is easy for distraction, lack of will, loss of desire, injury, and just plain old life to interfere with the path to the prize. However, overcoming these obstacles is what separates a guy from THE guy, a winner from a champion. Being a winner is a daily choice. Becoming a champion is a journey, expressed in a moment of confluence of preparation and opportunity that only a few will ever experience, which is why we find it so compelling.
The way many of you cannot know,
I’ve seen death take others
But still left me here below.
I’ve heard many screams and many cried
But death refused to hear.
And in my life I’ve seen faces
filled with many a tear.
After death has come and gone
the tombstone still left for many to see.
It’s no more than a symbol of a persons memory.
I’ve seen my share of tombstones
But never took the time to truly read.
Under the person’s name
it read the date of birth, dash
and the date the person passed.
The more I think about the tombstone
the only important thing is the dash.
Yes, I see the name of the person
but that I might forget
And I also read the date of birth and death
But even that might not stick.
But thinking about the individual
Because it represents a person’s life
and that will always last.
So when you begin to chart your life
Make sure you’re on a positive path.
Because people may forget your birth and death
but will never forget your dash.
-Alton Mayden Univ. of Notre Dame Football 1989