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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Young athletes: never give up is still an important approach to live by

After a recent NCAA football game between Notre Dame and Southern Cal, players from the winning team said after the game that Notre Dame players had essentially quit toward the end of the game.  They stopped playing hard because they knew they were going to lose anyway.

In other words, they quit.

I have no idea if this is true, or not.  Here is a link to one of the articles in that spoke to the allegations of Notre Dame “giving up” and how their coach responded:

I do know that it seems to be a natural human tendency in sports, at all levels, to kind of “throw in the towel” when things don't go well, to not play as hard because the cause on that given day seems lost.  Athletes won’t usually admit it, but observers can sense and see less intensity, a loss of intensity that seems to go with knowing you are “out of it”.  It's probably natural to want to take the easier way out.

That said, one thing I’ve often tried to remind young athletes that I work with professionally is simply this:  while it’s not easy, it is indeed important to work your tail off until the game is over, whether the “win-loss” outcome has long since been determined our not.

There are many important reasons to adopt this approach, but here are a few to consider:

  • Any sport you play, at whatever level, presumably you do it because you love to play.  The “score” in a particular game may be discouraging, of course.  But that reality doesn’t have to hinder your joy in competing, of being on the field of play, of giving your all, your personal “best”.
  • Sometimes, miracles do happen.   When you keep fighting, breaks come often your way.  What appears to be a certain loss every once in a while turns into a remarkable come-from-behind victory.  It happens in life, and certainly happens in sports.
  • You owe it to yourself to be proud of what you do, to feel that, when you leave the field of play, you have done everything you can do play your best on that day.  Even if teammates are downhearted or they may seem to be “giving up”, stay positive and encourage them.  Be a true leader yourself.
  • In everything that you do, you represent not only your team but your Club or school, as well as your family and yourself.  Playing hard and to the best of your ability to the end of a game or event does justice to the legacy that you represent and are a part of.
  • On a very practical level, picture this.  You are playing in a game for your Club or school.  Your team is getting hammered.  But you continue to play hard, make plays, right to the end of the game.  What you did not know is that there is a scout, a coach, a college recruiter in the stands that day.  They were looking at another player, but they could not help but notice a player on the losing side, the one who simply refused to give in, to quit, despite the score, despite the lack of enthusiasm from teammates.  That scout/coach/recruiter makes a note that “we need to find out more about the kid with character” on the “losing” team.  That kid was you.

 Again, there are all kinds of reasons to live by one of the old-fashioned mottos:  never give up.  I could list many more.  Readers can add their own thoughts.

But for the young, aspiring athlete, you just need to pick one.  And then just do it, as the expression goes.  Maybe your reason is simply this:  because it’s the right thing to do.

Never give up.