There are two well-known schools of thought when it comes to training for sports.
“Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.” – Herb Brooks
Success comes as a result of experience and planned activity, but not necessarily hard work. If you enjoy it, it is not considered work.
Regardless of which school of thought someone is buying into, the actions that take place after the thought are the same: performing an activity until success is reached. Whether or not someone construes that activity as hard to accomplish or easy to accomplish, should not effect the outcome.
However, it will effect the outcome if the person does not enjoy hard work.
One good exercise to use with youth sports’ athletes is to ask them to define what the word “work” means. According to W. Timothy Gallwey, their definition is likely to reflect their age and experiences. For example, a young child could list work as a task completed that results in allowance or as “something fun to do with the people you love” (taken from the book “The Inner Game of Work” on p. 83). On the other hand, high school and college students may define work as associated with stress, difficulty, and fatigue (p. 83).
Exercise: What does work mean?
A 12 year old youth basketball player, Adriana Bayron, from North Bergen, NJ, states that hard work is, “when you give everything you have to a certain job and you don’t let anything stop you. You give 100% effort until you cannot work any more.”
A 13 year old youth basketball player, Khay’la Latimer, from Teaneck, NJ, states that hard work is when you, “never let something stop you from becoming what you want. Pushing yourself to be the best and putting in hours of difficult, long work. It is the activity that comes from the motivation that pushes someone to do better.”
Coaches then look for negative connotations with the word “work.”
Adriana did not necessarily associate “hard work” with anything negative. She associated it with effort, perserverance, and responsibility.
Khay’la associated it with the motivation to get to a desired result, which is positive. On the other hand, she also associated it with the word “difficult” and “hours,” which are negative.
Next, coaches must have youth athletes make a list of what they consider in their sport to be “work.”
Adriana Bayron said, “getting around defenders to get open during a basketball game. It is also hard work to box out a bigger opponent, use fast speed while dribbling, have quick feet, or a fast first step.”
Coaches can analyze this information by connecting it with their players’ definitions of hard work. For example, by Adriana saying that hard work is, “when you have to give 100% effort” and she says hard work in basketball is, “boxing out a bigger opponent or using speed while dribbling,” she has identified that for her, she needs to give 100% effort during those activities. In other words, for her, those skills do not come easily and she needs to give more effort. The fact that she does not associate a negative connotation with it is a good thing.
Khay’la said a part of basketball that is hard work is, “Shooting drills to perfect shooting off the dribble and spot up shooting. You have to do a lot of shooting drills that will make your shot be the best it can be.”
Her response can be analyzed as shooting drills are difficult and time-consuming because her definition of hard work included, “putting in hours of difficult, long work.”
If coaches want to explore their player’s mindsets more fully, they can also ask them, what does not require hard work in your sport?
During this study, 20 youth basketball players throughout Bergen County were asked, “is the spin move hard to do?” and 18 of them responded, “yes.” Khay’la Latimer on the other hand feels the spin move is easy. It did not require her “hours of difficult, long work” because she enjoyed doing it. Therefore, the time spent to learn it was just “time spent.” Khay’la also says the Euro-step does not require hard work because, “I really like the move. I like how it’s a fake one way and then a step in another direction.”
This gives incredible insight to coaches. If a player enjoys doing something, the task is no longer considered work. Even if the same amount of time is applied to learning and perfecting a move, the perspective the player has about practicing changes from hard work to an enjoyable activity.
Coaches must establish what players find enjoyable and try to re-create these types of drills as much as possible.
Adriana said, “something that is not hard is passing because it is easy to do and helps create a play. Another thing that is not hard and is fun is when you practice with your teammates outside of organized practices or games. You are getting better, you help your team get better, and it is fun.”
Coaches can use this information to analyze why Adriana feels that working out with her teammates outside of organized practice is more fun. Perhaps there is added stress to an organized practice or maybe there are drills added to the practice structure that she does not enjoy.
Coaches must use these types of questioning exercises to learn what their players consider to be hard work and what they do not. They need to learn what their players think negatively about and what they enjoy. When these factors are identified, coaches can help players to think positively about all aspects of their sport. They can also use it to re-think how they communicate with players about certain skills. By helping players to enjoy all aspects of practicing they can eliminate burn out.