Show up, don’t quit, ask questions

Once again, my three-part “success” formula seems to make more and more sense, not just in real life, but in athletics. Last Saturday, my brother-in-law, Craig battled the stones, weights, and cabers for nine hours in Payson and announced at dinner: “Next time, it will be different.”

Last night, after finishing the 100-rep challenge, Vance Morosi told me: “Let’s do it again in three weeks, but this time, I’m using more weight.” I wanted to say: “Let’s talk about this in two days when the pain sets in…but…”

If there is a key to success in sports, I would argue it is “show up.” On the internet forums, we often see the question, or one similar, “How long does it take to…learn the Olympic Lifts/get a 400 pound bench/add fifty pounds of muscle.” The answer is always the same: start doing it. Get off your butt, click off the computer and get in there and try it.

Craig could have had me outline the history, basics, and throwing theory of the Highland Games. Or, he could have written a check, bought a kilt, walked on the field and learn on the fly. Both methods have advantages, but there is no question in my mind that the second works better. Now, Craig can “hear” the importance of the history, the basics and the theory.

A young man I met at a family party (a son of a friend of a friend) told me he wanted to play football. “What school? When you do start off-season training?” He told me he “wanted” to play football. I told him to call the school the next day and ask for the football coach’s name and get going now (he was a transfer). A few weeks later, I saw him…he had lost a lot of baby fat and walked a little taller. He had been training with the team three days a week since that phone call. He no longer “wanted,” he “showed up.”

We can talk about the merits and mistakes for hours about the wisdom of the 100-rep challenge. In fact, I remember a post a year or so ago when Kim Woods (perhaps the “founder” of this challenge) lamented to Brooks that doing this was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Yes, it is bad for you. I ripped three calluses off and I think my thumb is infected. I can’t shrug my shoulders about 100 reps in the power clean. Yet, when I train again, my thresholds will all be higher…my ability to withstand pain certainly…but, most important, my mental intensity will be higher.

Don’t talk about it, philosophize about it, or discuss it. Do it! Show up! Get involved. Write the check, phone the coach or whatever you need to do to get involved.

Every so often on these forums, someone asks “how long does it take to learn the O lifts?” I lifted in a meet THREE WEEKS after I first saw someone do a snatch in real life. I weighed 185 (I had already added twenty-something pounds of bodyweight from snatches, cleans and jerks) and snatched 187, my first bodyweight snatch, and Clean and Jerked 231. Jim Schmitz came up to me after the meet (Jim would later become our Olympic Team Coach) and told me that in one year I would snatch that 231. Actually, nine months later, at the National Junior Olympic Meet, I snatched 231 and Clean and Jerked 308 at 202 pounds bodyweight.

I had read Strength and Health for years, I knew the names of the great O lifters, I had cut out pictures of O lifters and pasted them on my walls, but none of it mattered until I “showed up” in Dick Notmeyer’s gym.

Once you start showing up, you have to hang in there! “Instant gratification isn’t fast enough” is the mantra of most gym members. Well, the learning curve in sports is an ugly one. If I learned one lesson in coaching, it is this: “the athlete quits the day before the great leap forward.” Frustration, injuries, losing and failure are all opportunities to learn more in sports…and life. John Powell once told me that he never learned ANYTHING before two hours of throwing. He credited his lifetime best season and throw to a failure at the first world championship. It is what you do with failure that makes you a champion.

At last week’s Highland Games, I walked over to our tent after an event that nearly killed my wife. I told a fan who asked if this ‘stuff’ was safe: “If it were easy, everybody would do it.” Education systems across the United States have failed over and over whenever they allow the students to “get by;” raise the bar, raise the standards and students will soar. Lower them…give ‘em an extra chance…make an exception “this” time…make everybody “feel good” even if they don’t perform well…give them candy for doing what they are supposed to do…this is the formula for failure.

Don’t quit. Something got you on this path, stay on it. The lessons learned in the struggle, the fight, carry over into life. I used to tell my Sophomore football team: “If you quit now, you will quit in life. And, By God, I won’t allow that!” Failure begets failure, that is true, but the triumph over failure is much more important.

Finally, I think there is a time and place for the third secret of success: ask questions. But, struggle through it on your own for a while. Learning the exact physics of the snatch with a broomstick will have some value, but very little. Load up the bar, miss a few times, fight it overhead, get crushed…then ask. At the John Powell Discus Camp, I have found that by Wednesday, after the athlete has literally thrown thousands of times, the questions that they ask are simple, direct and clear. When one struggles first, the questions have clarity… “this or that “here” is wrong”…not some “armchair” theory question.

Hats off to all the Craigs and Vances who leap into the challenge!

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