“BLU!” I yelled from literally the top of the football stadium, a small high school venue tucked in the quiet, small, affluent town of Woodside, CA., where spectators enter above the playing surface.
He immediately recognizes my voice and locates me. My friends tease me that the lotion I wear on my bald head and arms, and my aggressive voice, make me hard to miss. But I digress. I point. He nods. Simple communication from a son and his dad, who also happens to serve as his personal trainer and coach. It’s an acknowledgement that I made it to the game after my morning UMC obligations and, more importantly, did NOT miss the play he just made, an interception that he ran back about 20 yards.
Amari knows me. He understands me. He knows what’s important to me. That’s why yesterday was so special. And that’s where today’s lesson for all us lies.
The moment described above was prideful; not because of the result, the interception of a ball that was thrown right to him. These are 11 year olds, after all. There isn’t much complexity to their game yet. No, it was prideful because of what he did before the “pick”.
He understood what down it was, 3rd. He understood how much was needed for the 1st. 15 yards. He had an idea of who the opponent might be looking to get the ball to, #4; and how, via the pass.
So on the snap, he dropped. Not like he used to, but the way we talked about last week. He sprinted to where he knew he needed to be, where he’d be in the best position for success. And sure enough he was.
But fast forward a little bit and here’s today’s lesson.
A simple run play, until it wasn’t.
Play: Sweep (or Off Tackle) Right.
- Amari is patient then puts his right foot in the ground and cuts upfield. That’s a natural reaction after doing hundreds of ladder drills. PROCESS
- He doesn’t immediately go outside, instead running vertical, leaving room for a later “bounce”. It’s instinctual now, but only after doing it the wrong way- and learning from it-dozens of times. PROCESS
- He gets through the initial wave of defenders, then bounces to the outside, recognizing he’s in a foot race. In the past he might not trust his speed training, opting to cut back or try to run the defenders over. Not this time. He does like I teach, “Trust Your Training”. PROCESS
- A lot of running backs at this age, including Amari until now, would be content here, allowing the defender to push him out of bounds. But “Ask for Dessert” is what I teach Amari. Don’t settle for 10 when you can get 12 yards. Don’t settle for a pass break up, when you can get an interception. And don’t settle for a 25 yard run and get knocked out of bounds when you can apply the strength training you did all summer and get a 55 yard touchdown! PROCESS
- When you do something-anything- long enough, you build habits. Good and bad. We’ve worked on his running form for years now. Years. And just now it’s becoming habit. If you look closely, his running motion-Knee lift, forward lean (or at least verticality), hands “cheek to cheek”- doesn’t change much; even as he sheds the tackler to stay in bounds and realizes he’s now by himself en route to a gratifying touchdown. PROCESS
- The video stops early, but as he scores, Amari pauses for a minute then tosses the ball to the ref. “We” don’t do this because we are anti-celebration or fun. In fact, Amari has a repertoire of celebrations that I’ll put up against any pro athlete lol. No, he doesn’t celebrate because he expects success. Not always. But often. And the more he adheres to the steps necessary to be successful, the more often it will happen. So it is the successful completion of the steps, 1-5 above, that he quietly celebrates. Not the result. PROCESS
And therein lies the lesson guys. It has taken time for Amari to do these things correctly. And he still has a ways to go. And he’s only 11, not having to overcome too many years of incorrect, unhelpful, or downright bad habits.
Whatever you are trying to accomplish, whatever goal you are trying to reach, you can do it. Whatever the mountain is. Be a great football player. Start a business. Finish or go back to school. Lose 30 pounds. You can do it.
Be patient. Find someone who knows the path on which you are embarking or do your homework. Then trust that if you do those steps, you will be successful. It may take more than a week or month. Probably will, in fact. Focus on the grind and not the graduation. The result you seek will be culmination of the habits you adhere to on a daily basis. It’s that simple.
So, if we can learn anything from Amari, it’s this. It will happen. We will be successful. But only if we trust the…