The path to athletic success and life is a journey. In my 53 years of coaching, I have seen a profound changes in how we prepare the athlete for the road. In the last thirty years there has been a trend that has accelerated over the last ten years to spend an inordinate amount of time preparing the road for the athlete. We try to remove all obstacles in the way and make the road as straight and smooth as possible so the athlete can easily reach their goal. This has resulted in fragile, fully adapted athletes unable to deal with adversity in sport and life. It has created entitlement and unrealistic expectations of the athletes’ abilities and capabilities. On the physical side the athletes are not prepared for the rigors of competition. Recovery has assumed more importance than work. We are managing workload so finitely that the athlete is never allowed to get uncomfortable.
It is beyond my capabilities to speculate why this has occurred; I will leave that to experts beyond my pay grade. Suffice it to say that I am not an old coach yearning for the good old days, because I still have enough of my faculties to remember the old days and understand that a two-hour football practice in 100-degree heat with one cup of water did irreparable harm. We know, the lessons we have learned from experience and research that we can do better, the pendulum has swung so far that we are now doing our athletes a disservice.
Instead, I offer a simple solution that will not be easy. I am confident it will work because I have seen it work and I am seeing it work today. Let’s start out by talking about the journey and the road to the destination of athletic excellence. It is a long road with many obstacles and occasional detours. Sometimes the road is smooth and other times it is rough and unpaved. There will be detours and road construction. Sometimes you will get lost and need to find your own way back to the main road. It is all part of the journey. At times the car will break down, it may be just a flat tire that can be quickly repaired, or it may be a blown engine that takes longer to repair. Simply you do what you must do to keep moving forward to your destination.