"But how do I get from here to there?" - Dr. Strange
Coaches get a similar question from athletes and parents regarding success in sports. Everyone wants to know the quickest path to achieving athletic prowess, hopping from program to program trying to get there as fast as possible. I was with a few coaches recently who were talking about a training session with a young athlete who was claiming that he had meetings with college football coaches for a quarterback position. But when we observed this athlete, many of us were very quick to point out that his fancy training clothes looked hardly worn, his hands were soft, and he honestly looked like he'd never played a down of football in his life. His training also lacked the defining characteristic that is the answer to the question above.
Grit. If you want to have athletic success, you have to have a certain amount of grit.
What does that look like? It looks like a drive or motivation that is uncommon to those around you. It's bloody hands and sweat drenched clothes. To give you an example, let me share a personal story.
Grit(n): firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger (Merriam Webster)
My brother and I were attached at the hip in high school. As wrestlers, everything we did was aimed toward being better than whatever guy stepped on the mat with us. At the start of his senior year of high school (my sophomore year), he made the goal of qualifying for the state wrestling tournament. He'd only started wrestling as a freshman, but being a natural athlete, he picked it up quickly, but still hadn't gotten close. That year we also bumped up a school classification, so it wasn't going to be an easy task. But he set his sights on it, so I joined in that goal with him.
From the day school started in August, our routine looked nothing more than maniacal. The day started as 6:15 with a protein shake and packing for school. We had a block schedule with 90 minute classes, the first of which was a weight training class. We knew the coach opened up the weight room and locker room 30 minutes before the bell, so we would get to school and do 15-20 minutes of conditioning, then enter the weight room when it was opened. Before the bell rang we have most of our major lifts done, and by the time most of our classmates were ready to lift, we were done and on our way to the wrestling room (we broke a lot of rules back then). We drilled moves and technique for 45 minutes, then showered and went throughout the school day. At the end of the day, the weight room was open for an hour or so before football practice officially started, so we met back there and did our assistance exercises and more conditioning.
People thought the two of us were absolutely crazy. We kept that routine up for the whole fall, and when wrestling season started, we kept the morning conditioning and lifting a few days a week and had team practice in the afternoon. What people called crazy was our grit. We bled and dripped sweat everyday in pursuit of our goals. My mom probably got annoyed with the amount of laundry we went through. People called us obsessed, but we continued anyway.
Grit. That difficulty of those workouts could be excruciating. I'm pretty sure we drove ourselves to tears at points. And while I've realized that training probably wasn't the smartest, it did get the job done. My brother made his goal, and I narrowly missed qualifying. But our grit and determination ended up going beyond us.
That Grit spread to our team, who ended up qualifying for the State Duals/Playoffs for the first time in 3 years. Both of our wrestling partners qualified for the Individual State Tournament. It was something that defined us. No matter how hard or painful or difficult being successful was, my brother and I spent hours in those trenches, day after day, after day. Even the weekends had some form of training. Bloody noses, lips (my braces weren't very helpful in that sense), torn calluses, and the occasional vomiting were a price that we were willing to pay.
Unfortunately, this Grit seems to be fading in many avenues of life. The athlete I mentioned above seemed to think he'd be able to go play college football having never played a snap on the Varsity Lineup (he and father only claimed meetings with college coaches), but didn't exhibit the grit in a training session that would be required to make that Varsity roster. I've seen the lack of grit with many athletes in my very brief time in the field, and I know that other Strength and Conditioning coaches have seen far more than I have in their careers.
Some just aren't willing to pay that price.
If you're truly to achieve a goal, and it doesn't seem like you're making progress, you need to start examining the price you're paying. Is it enough? How much is that goal worth? Are you willing to pay the price for it? To grind in the trenches for it? If you answer those questions honestly with yourself and are willing to pay the price, then do as Jocko Willink would say and
"GET AFTER IT."