What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

A topic that has interested me a lot this year is how to identify and develop talent. Recently Vern Gambetta shared a good article on his blog about a counterintuitive article recently published in journal Sports Medicine. The abstract describes the article best:

[T]he vast majority of [talent development] systems expend a great deal of effort maximizing support to the young athletes and trying to counter the impact of naturally occurring life stressors. In this article, we suggest that much of this effort is misdirected; that, in fact, talented potential can often benefit from, or even need, a variety of challenges to facilitate eventual adult performance.


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4 replies
  1. Jim Haberkorn
    Jim Haberkorn says:

    Hi Martin,

    As a subscriber to T&FN I am seeing your name and your blog pop up more and more in their Top Headlines column. Way to go publicizing the sport of hammer throwing. I never realized I was dining with a celebrity when we went to Tres Kilos in Zurich that night . All the best, Jim

  2. Neil
    Neil says:

    What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

    I don’t know much about pop culture, but I’m guessing that the stupid line above came from a movie. The problem in this world is that most people aren’t thinkers. I teach in the public school system, and encounter lazy minds every day. The students hear something and without thought, they repeat it like it came from the Bible.

    Cancer, concentration camps, chemotherapy, a tour of duty in a war zone, working 80 hours a week for 7.5 years (one of my accomplishments)… should I go on? These examples don’t stoke the images in my mind of people who have been strengthened by life’s events. No, I would say that a great majority of people who have gone through these events have been weakened by them.
    Let’s get to a key principle of life. Athletics and tough times don’t build character, they reveal character. In fact, each person only has so much that he/she can endure. Even the toughest guys have a limit. The great teacher and doctor, Hippocrates, laid out a principle in his Hippocratic Oath to, “do no harm.” I wish coaches would honor that oath. I don’t think that coaches are too easy on their athletes; I find that many times they over-work them, trying to make them tougher. That will never happen. You can’t change how the person is wired. Tough times don’t build anything.

    The genetic gifts of a person extend to the way he/she thinks. I have always said that, “winners think differently.” The Bible states in Proverbs 23:7, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” How do you see yourself in any given situation? This characteristic guides people to success or failure more than height, weight, speed or any other physical attribute. When it’s first and goal and the football is 6 inches from the goal line, some players on defense are thinking, “I’m going to create a fumble, run the ball 99 yards for a touchdown, and be a big star.” Other players, sadly, are thinking, “We should let them score, and then maybe we can win the game with our offense, cause we’ll never be able to keep them from scoring.” Winners never quit, and quitters never win. Here’s another thought. Did you ever see a large family of great athletes? The youngest child, when questioned about his athletic ability has one of two responses. “Of course I’m going to be great. I’ll be better than everyone else in my family.” The other response comes from a boy who has a different way of sizing up his chances at greatness. He doesn’t see the genetics of his family flowing down to him with great success being inevitable. His focus is on the pressure and the consequences of failure. His response is, “I don’t know why I should even try. I’ll never be as good as them. He sees the negative. Of the two lists: Why I should succeed & Why I will fail, it’s his natural thought process is to focus on the second list.

    In conclusion, winners will win and losers will lose. You can guide their training, and help them with technique, but you or any other life-event can’t stop them from being who they are


    • Martin
      Martin says:

      I think you are completely misunderstanding the article and overreacting here. Bringing concentration camps into the conversation shows that. As a coach you just have to realize an athlete will eventually hit hard times and preparing for that will help. We can help athletes learn from past failures, and help put them in situations that might also test them a little (but not at the concentration camp level). If you don’t agree that we can prepare athletes to overcome, I just have to disagree from personal experience. Until age 18, I was of the type that would run away from a challenge and quit. Then I learned from my mistakes and now face them head on. Other people can change to. Despite chronically choking in the post-season, Lebron James turned it around this year to win a NBA title and be named MVP of the finals. People can change in many ways, not just physically and coaches can help them along that path. Coaches should help them along that path. Sometimes this requires encouragement, and sometimes it requires challenges. In both instances the coach should be helping them through it.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Earlier this week I discussed one recent article Vern Gambetta pointed out on his blog recently. Today I would like to discuss another that focuses on a topic of great interest to me: periodization. […]

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