Sports Psychology: All Ages

Hard Work

Posted September 07, 2011

By Doug Hix

In the past 12 years I have trained hundreds of professional athletes, including over 200 NFL athletes. One of the values I have found all successful athletes share is the value of hard work. Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals is a four time MLB All Star, three- time Silver Slugger Award winner, National League Batting Champion, and NLCS MVP among many other accomplishments. He says, “Working hard at anything you end up doing in life is important. Being willing to go the extra mile, and do the extra things has helped me to get to this level of baseball. I think that is important if you want to play sports or pretty much any facet of life. If you are willing to work harder than anybody else, you usually can achieve great things.” Athletes that play 10 years are rare; players like Matt Holliday who make an All-Star team or are selected as an All-Pro are even rarer. So when I talk about successful athletes, I am referring to the athletes that have excelled above all others.

The value of hard work was originally found in the Bible. Proverbs 14:23 says “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” It says that all hard work, not some hard work, brings a profit. Sometimes that profit may not be what you envision. For instance, you may work extremely hard to get a college scholarship, but you do not receive one. Does that mean all the hard work you put in was in vain because you did not get the scholarship? Absolutely not! One, you learned how to discipline yourself to work hard towards a goal. Two, your body is probably stronger than ever before. Three, you have taught yourself how to persevere. Perseverance is another value shared by all successful individuals. If you hope to obtain anything of value in this life, it will not simply be handed to you — you must persevere to get it. Tony Gwynn Jr. of the San Diego Padres and son of MLB great, Tony Gwynn, shares, “My father told me that the work you put into this game, the work you put into anything is what you will get back.”

Learning to develop the value of hard work takes hard work. It will not come easy. Most of the stories I hear from the athletes I work with, or interviews with other athletes, tell just how difficult this value is to cultivate. While many learned this value from a parent or coach, it was not easy to make this value their own. Once they adopted this value into their lives, it became very clear to them that they could never have accomplished their goals without it. One of my favorite stories is the story of David Eckstein of the San Diego Padres. David Eckstein has played ten years in Major League Baseball. In those ten years, he has been named an All-Star twice, was a two time World Series champion, won the Babe Ruth Award in 2002, received the Heart and Hustle Award in 2005 and was the 2006 World Series MVP. This is the pinnacle of success. And all of these accomplishments were earned by a man who is only 5’7”, and 175 pounds! What does David Eckstein have to say about hard work? “Have dreams, have goals, and want to accomplish things. But it starts with dedication and hard work. In your life things are not going to come easy. Just make sure you go out there and give 100% in whatever you do and I guarantee you will be happy with the results.”

I am convinced that learning to work hard is the most important value for a young athlete. I have that confidence based on what the Bible says and because of what I have observed in every successful athlete and every successful businessman. Learning to develop the principle of “hard work” does not come easy, and it cannot be passed from one person to another. You must focus intently to develop it. How can you adopt the value of hard work and make it part of your lifestyle? You must set goals that will challenge your work ethic. For example, set a goal that you must make 100 baskets a day before you can go home or cleanly field 50 ground balls and then you will start to develop your work ethic.

It is also critical that you challenge your goals with regards to work load. If you find it too easy — raise the bar and expect more from yourself. Set goals for yourself that will help you monitor your progress. It is important to note that it is not enough to simply go through the “motions” of working. You must actually be doing hard work.

A great example of a hard worker is Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers. While he developed his hard work ethic in high school, it is his professional hard work ethic that astounds and impresses his colleagues. Most professional athletes will do extra work on their own, either before or after practice. A lot of the top NBA players may stay after practice and make an additional 20 to 30 shots from various spots on the court. Kobe puts up hundreds of shots on his own — three, four or even five times more than his teammates! Jay Triano, an assistant coach with the Raptures, witnessed Kobe Bryant’s work ethic while coaching the U.S. National team. In a 2008 article by Dave Feschuk, Triano said, “He’s not just going through the motions when he’s shooting jump shots. They’re game shots, at game speed. And the repetitions … over and over and over. Like, three-point shots. There are a lot of (NBA) guys, you’ll watch them make 25 from each spot. He’s like, 100, 200 from the corner every night. And you’d think he’d be done and he’s going on to the next spot. And he goes back and he shoots fadeaways and he shoots ‘em off the bounce. I was just like, `Holy smoke.’ You get tired throwing the ball back, let alone shooting it.”

Follow in the footsteps of the most successful athletes I know. Buckle down and discipline yourself to work hard.

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