The Evolution of Zen Coaching

I believe it was Thomas Sowell (the economist) who said, “The beauty of doing nothing is that you can do it perfectly.  Only when you do something is it difficult to do without mistakes. Therefore, people who criticize can feel both intellectually and morally superior.”

Ain’t it the truth?

Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.”

Facts

Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do”.

Amen.

In order to achieve excellence, we have to create good habits.  Good habits alleviate chaos in our lives. The goal is consistency… doing things every day to recognize potential. Now hang in there, I am getting to a point.

I see so many bad habits out there among players, but none are more debilitating and crushing than those with the wrong mental attitude.  Unfortunately, it is more prevalent than we probably realize. Changing a layer’s mentality and behavior is not very easy once they reach a certain point. 

Listen carefully, becoming good at paintball doesn’t happen “naturally” or overnight. 

If I have said it once, I have said it 1 million times.  The mind is the weapon…

And the body is the ammunition.

Jacob Searight is an excellent example of brains and physicality

If you are constantly feeding your brain with good data and taking care of yourself physically, you are more prone to succeed in something that requires you to think while being physical… say something like paintball. 

I have talked about motivation a lot here at Zen but I have come to believe that this is only part of the equation… and it is the weakest part.  The strongest part of the equation is discipline.  When you can develop the right habits that lead to improvement, no matter how repetitive or routine it may seem, but you stick with it, that is discipline, and it will lead you to where you want to be. I get it, discipline can be tough for some.  There are, often, internal and external factors that make things difficult for some. Sure. We all struggle with SOMETHING.  But I wouldn’t look at it as a personal failure. At least, not always. We will all have setbacks.  But if you do encounter a set back or worse, several, then I would suggest changing your approach to becoming more disciplined. I would try to create discipline in myself through “smaller wins”. Build to it, with smaller more manageable goals. Then build upon those. See, it isn’t you who are necessarily failing to be disciplined… it is your tactics, your strategy to said goal. Make sense?

I have found that the key to creating a lasting habit is to ensure I “like” it. I have to enjoy something about it. What benefit and enjoyment do I or will I get from this new habit and make that my focus. And I need to make sure that the benefit encompasses the whole process, otherwise I have all but ensured failure. Wanting to do something and actually doing it are not the same. Wanting to succeed at something and continuing to do the things required for that want are not the same thing. Wanting alone will not create the habit much less allow for it to endure.

Bruce Lee taught, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”

The brain learns best through small, repeated measures set in the right environment.

How many of you are familiar with the S.A.I.D. or “SAID” Principle?  It is an Acronym for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands”.  I stumbled across it recently during some research in sports psychology.  The concept is very simple.  It essentially teaches that to improve in a specific sport, you should practice the specific skills and “moves” used in that sport.  But in its more complex version, it is all about adaptation!  Adaptation does not and will not happen in a vacuum.  Adaptation occurs in a response to a specific stimulus or demand imposed by the environment.  I know, this is getting deep.  But this is what I tried to explain to Matty Marshall about teams becoming more academic… why they are becoming more competitive.  Why the Canes were so successful our Pro Rookie season. I just didn’t articulate it well.       

As a coach, I need to leverage my assets (players) to the best of their abilities.  But I also need to create continuous improvement in them and ensure that it is obtained regularly.  How do I do this?  When I have said in the past that my role as a coach is to put my players in positions to succeed, that means playing them in a role that meets their skill set to a specific layout.  And from there, I begin the individualization of their training!

If one wants to replicate success in PAINTBALL, then coaches must train their players beyond the fundamentals and physicality of the sport.  They must be taught the game.  That includes the tactical and the strategic for each and every layout within the parameters of TEAM while emphasizing their individual strengths and abilities… We have to train the brain! 

Most coaches are caught up in execution and not the WHY we do the execution.  They want to teach “when you see this, you do this.” If A then B paintball (a good concept).  This is a speed factor, an efficiency creator… but it is only half of the potential for making great players.  However, the more we teach, explain, understand the concept behind the why, that process of learning will get faster each time, with each layout.  Their own cognition will take over and their individual understanding will assert itself leading to even greater efficiency and use of time.

Asking and understanding why.

Too many coaches simply teach the fundamental aspects of our sports without emphasizing why.  Sure, a lot of it is self-explanatory.  And don’t get me wrong, the foundation of our sport is certainly important.  But too many take this as the only concept required.  Anyone can pick up a clipboard, call a line with your 5 most talented guys, and ask them to win.  That is not coaching.  That is managing. Great job PB manager.  But what are you doing to continue their growth, to make them elite?  Think about it, if that were the way, there would be a lot more elite players in each division.  But there isn’t… so, in my opinion, it is about the individualized attention and growth plan that must be discovered and then implemented.

Do I know how to do this every time with every player?  Absolutely not.  This is something that will require a lot of trial and error.  And something I started personally about 6 years ago and I am still navigating.

I am a firm believer in training as a TEAM but affirming and supporting that effort with individualized concepts.  None of this is a science.  But we can all be scientists by experimenting and studying results.

I guess my whole point is, as a coach, we need to look at our players in a much more holistic manner.  Their diet, their workouts, their READING, their home life, ALL OF IT… instead of just the one size fits all approach to practice in our sport. They will be better for it, you will be better for it, and the team will be better for it. Who knows, you might be surprised and start winning at a lot more than paintball.

Be Water My Friends,

Zen

You Get What You “Pay” for…

If there is one thing I have learned over the years, paintball players, specifically tournament paintball players, are cheap.  Oh, not in the traditional sense mind you, no I mean in the unrealistic cynical nihilistic ridiculous sense.  They’re so cheap, they won’t pay attention.

“Welcome to Paintball Cheapskates Anonymous.  Would anyone like to start?” “I’ll go. I’d like to say I’m not a PB Cheapskate.  I’m just here for the free coffee.”

I had a couple of interesting conversations over the last few trips to the field. One conversation was about team practice, and the last about team dynamics.  Now, none of the fine gentlemen I was speaking with are cheap mind you; both are upstanding young men.  But the essence of our conversation boiled down to what I feel was a perception of value.

No, this will not discuss the current state of tournament ball.  Instead, let’s talk about the context of cost vs value from the sophomoric cheapskate perspective of your standard PBplayer (genus Cheapskatis Paintaballi).

Advice is usually free but not all of it is worth something

First and foremost, let’s start with something that perplexes me… those paintball teams that show up for practice and then spend the first hour or two on physical fitness/cardio training.  What a complete and utter waste. If you are training seriously for paintball on a competitive level, please stop wasting valuable field time on cardio training. It COSTS you time and the VALUE of it is diminished. 

Why?

Simple – you should be handling that aspect of your training on your own time and not at the expense of limited field time training as a team.  Much like a race car, you should be “tuned up” to perform at your highest capability.  Race car drivers do not tune the car during the race.  No, the car is tuned and tweaked prior and the driver expects/knows it will perform as long as they do their job.  Team practice should be saved and allotted for working on team dynamics, highlighting strengths, and exposing weaknesses.  Not individual gas tanks.  If you show up at one of my practices having not put in the time to address the physical requirements of this game, I will recognize it, I will call you on it, and I will expect you to remedy it on YOUR OWN TIME.  Don’t waste my or your teammates time on the field coming up short.  It’s disrespectful.  Bring yourself straight so we can all focus on the important stuff. 

This does NOT pertain to “warm ups” – running a couple of laps and stretching is valuable as it is meant to avoid injury.  Hopefully I don’t have to explain the difference.

Okay – that’s out of the way – let’s get into it.

Not cheap but worth every penny.

There are many people who think that cost and value are the same thing.  They are not.

Let’s define.

  • Cost is the total amount spent on “the inputs” to create something such as labor, capital, materials, etc.  Simply put, it’s anything that adds to the producers’ expense to create the “something”.
  • Value is more difficult to measure.  It would be the benefit derived by the purchaser or user of the “something”. In other words, it is a perception by the customer. 

We should probably go ahead and define one other aspect of this equation as it pertains to our discussion, price:

  • Price is the amount charged by the producer/seller, in exchange for their “something”, which includes their cost and profit.

That’s about as simplistic as we can put it.  You economists out there, feel free to correct me. Not all of these definitions will come into play in this blog.  You’re welcome.  Now go read a book.

And this is where we get into the meat of the subject… recognizing value.

Having equipment that works and performs is incredibly valuable

As bona fide and proven cheapos, paintballers need to find value in efficiency.

I just physically felt all of your collective eyes roll…

Just listen for a minute.

Jumping to the first of the conversations I mentioned; a young man I’ve known a bit was out there with his team.  He was recounting me with his struggles to keep things moving in a positive direction.  Now, he spoke about motivation which, if you want my thoughts on keeping a team motivated, read these:

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2018/09/17/whos-with-me/

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2018/02/12/cerebral-zeal/

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2017/04/21/only-you-can-prevent-forest-fires/

But his main concern was the financial aspects of competing nationally.

I once did a high-level breakdown of costs for divisional x-ball teams competing in the NXL. (I think I did this in 2017 for two friends who were working with Tom Cole at the time to understand the hurdles of divisional teams).  Based off prices back then, I took an average of several factors:

  • Entry fee
  • Paint cost for 2 two-day layout practices
  • Travel cost for team of 7 (based off 2017 Bureau of Transportation Statistics to the 5 event cities)
  • Lodging costs (based off an average 3 night stay minimum of 2 rooms)
  • Paint cost through prelims (4 matches with low, medium, and high consumption then averaged)

What I came up with for a Division 2 or Semi Pro team competing in a single NXL event was approximately $9,300-12,800.  For Division 3 and 4 those numbers weren’t much different landing between $9,000-$12,500 (almost identical really).  Remember, this is X-ball, not 5 man or race 2 and based off a team of 7…

That comes out to anywhere between $45k to $64k for a divisional team to compete in an entire season.  At least, it did back then.  I’m not saying these numbers are too antiquated to no longer be accurate but there are certainly ways to save.

All that to say is, what value would his team get out of the National circuit?  Not everyone can afford this type of financial commitment.  So, what did they hope to gain from the expense?  Could they compete and find VALUE in the more affordable regional events that offer similar experiences for a reduced PRICE?  Is it worth the team’s COST to prepare?

These are all questions teams must ask themselves.  Whenever this discussion is brought up, it sometimes enters the realm of Prizes (for the crackhead paintballers, not to be confused with the cheap paintballers).  This is a completely different conversation.  I will sum that up real quick: If you value a tournament because of the prizes, you’re a goob.  The chances of winning a paintball event are low… what happens if the prize packages do meet your requirement, you compete, and lose?  What value did you achieve/gain again? It was worth spending all that money because of the opportunity of potentially getting your investment back… Brilliant!

Moving on…

Finally, the other conversation was about a captains’ specific concern about one of his players.  The player in question was a very talented player, a force multiplier on the field.  But he was also a proven jackass… his personality was what I like to call “toxic”. The negative Nancy in question felt he knew everything, pointed fingers at other players for his own failures, and just plain rubbed people the wrong way.  Now, without going into the psychology of why that player is acting that way, and the psychology of how teammates should handle a debbie downer, let’s look at it from a COST vs VALUE perspective.

He’s not worth it.  The end.

Now – as recognizable cheap-o-matic machines, let me finish this month off with a really basic and simple principle all the el cheapo bargain basement pbplayer’s should embrace…

Low paint drills.

Take that bag or two of paint you have left over from a practice or rec day or what have you, take care of it (keep it in a dry, temp controlled area, and rotate/roll it around it every other day) and leverage this common asset to your advantage.  Any drill you run can be a low paint drill.  Whether it is snap shooting (one ball check in slowly emphasizing accuracy and body positioning in bunker), laning (first ball accuracy off the box on a static target), run and gun, (one ball, no ramping, changing speeds, while moving targeting a static target), gun transitioning on target, etc.  The list goes on!

All of this can maintain muscle memory, even if you are a dime-store cut rate player.

Is it making sense now?  Those who want it will do it.  Those who don’t will make an excuse.

Be water my friends

To Be or Not to Be…What was the question?


I want to start this month off with a “thank you”. I have received several great messages and ideas as of late from many of you and they are all greatly appreciated. This whole Zen thing started as a rough idea and has turned into something I never imagined. So thank you! FYI – look for an “audio” version coming soon! A lot of my friends tell me they enjoy reading the blog but that, sometimes, it can be a chore, especially with my longer pieces. I had intended to start the audio portion this month but, you know how it goes, things happen.
So, this month’s topic… Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a rather fascinating phenomenon. I watched several young men and women attend a paintball try out for a team that is trying to create a program. No, this will not necessarily be a “how to” on try-outs. This will be more of a cautionary tale I guess. If you want to understand my perspective on the “How” and “why” of tryouts, check out these previous blogs posts:

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2020/01/17/potential-people/

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2019/01/13/i-spy/

https://zenandtheartofpaintball.com/2019/02/08/ontogenesis/

Now, understand, running a program is a different animal than just having a team. It requires much more time, energy, and effort to be done well. That being said, and without going into too much detail, let’s establish some context. Here are my thoughts on the matter right, wrong, or indifferent:

Try-outs – fun times

A TEAM is a group of individuals that, together, have a singular identity or are associated together in an activity with a goal.
A PROGRAM would be more than one team, usually sharing the same identity but separated by divisions, or skill level, and managed under a coordinated system to have mutual benefits and meet mutual goals.

*Zen note – I also use the term “Camp”. This is a team that isn’t quite a program but has elements of a program or is moving in that direction.

Now, over the years, I have run or assisted in many paintball try-outs. In this case, I was simply an observer. I enjoy watching paintball. You can learn a lot from watching games at all levels. I also enjoy meeting, watching, and learning about the latest crop of newcomers, visiting and catching up with familiar faces and old friends, as well as just being around the sport. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to observe how others do things.

I’m always looking for ways to learn, find ideas and efficiencies, to improve myself, my own methods and processes, so that I can share with others. I try to expose myself to other people’s ideas and approaches as often as possible. You can also learn what NOT to do. And this is every bit as important as it’s opposite.

*Zen note – I believe we should constantly challenge ourselves, evolve, and grow. If you aren’t doing so, there is a high probability you’ll become stagnant and eventually fade. I like to encourage this in others (challenging themselves). Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on God’s earth is in a continuous state of evolution. Whether it is improving or adapting or changing. None of us were put here to grow stagnant. I would never tell you, ‘Today is the best I will ever be.’ I can no longer grow or improve. No, we need to continuously pursue improvement.

Showing what you got

Anyway, back to the try out – Personally, I’m very particular when I run these things. I like structure. I always have a process worked out to help me find what I am looking for. Everything is pre-planned to lead me to my goal. This can be broken down further depending on which team, program, or camp, I am doing this for but let’s not get off topic (or should we?)

Whether it is a specific layout chosen to play to specific skill sets or “position” (this is relative), specific drills to measure strengths and opportunities within the skill sets, an agenda/schedule, name it… all of it should be thought out and pre-planned so that we can keep things efficient and use everyone’s time wisely. Something some people hedge on is the rudimentary “introductory speech”. I find these important and not just because it sets the mood or tone for the day (important BTW). More importantly, it should manage expectations – let them know what to expect and why. You should tell them what you are specifically looking for, why, what they should expect to experience, and what will happen afterwards. Hopefully you can do this in a way where everyone understands. At the end, you should ask if there are any questions so you can ensure you have successfully communicated the goal(s). In some instances, some questions you get may tell you a little (or a lot) about the player asking the question …but I digress.

Getting after it in the snake

So, there I am watching, taking it all in, occasionally engaging those putting on the try out, talking with players, you know… being annoying. They are circled up starting to stretch, about 20 guys and gals and then a gentleman I’ve never seen or met before (not uncommon) steps to the center of the circle. He introduces himself and gives a little background. This is the “coach”. Everything seemed perfectly normal for a divisional try out. He wanted everyone to know who he was (good), where he is from (OK – good), why he is there (Nice – good), and that he is “big *&%$ swingin’ (wait…) and what he said goes (hold on…), he was in charge and you may not like it but you would get over it (huh?), and they were all “gonna learn today!” (Whiskey Tango Hotel). Coach Machiavelli much?

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
“Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.”
-Machiavelli

Don’t get me wrong, far be it from me to downplay the importance of masculine, confident, swaggery bad-assedness of an Alpha male. I think we need more of these today more than ever. But this wasn’t that really… this was ego. And there IS a difference. At least, that’s what my instinct told me. It didn’t seem genuine much less earned. Does that make sense?

Then the two day try out began.


What is your opinion… Should you coach during a try out? Some would argue that doing so would show the potential team members a coach’s style. I would argue giving a pointer here or there is fine but that, for the most part, I want to see how the player thinks, how they play, see them in that raw element without influence. See their “flow” so to speak. If I give a player insight into how I expect them to play, then they will (possibly) begin doing what they think I want to see. Do you think coaching a hopeful pick up will give you an honest and accurate assessment of their true playing? Maybe. Personally, I am of the mind to watch and learn. I like to ask questions after I see something go wrong for a player or even when they go right. “Hey chief – what was your thought process on that move? What was your idea when you called so and so over to look this way?” Explain there is no right or wrong answer… you want their honest reasoning. This will give insight into what level they are thinking on. If it’s a two day try-out, maybe you save the coaching for day 2…

Drills, Drills, and more drills

What if your coaching style is “aggressive”? What if the coach is yelling a lot and pointing out nothing but mistakes (in his mind)? This is what the young coach explained to me later (you know me, I have to engage) This translated to him essentially being impatient. And aren’t’ we all at times? I know I am. He wanted to make an impact. He later copped to this and recognized it which led me to like him. Takes a real man to admit it and be that honest with yourself. He will go far and will, most assuredly be a successful coach in the future.
Everyone has an opinion and a way to do things. However, I believe you catch more bees with honey than vinegar. So, if I am at a try out for a divisional paintball team, I don’t want General Patton standing over me beating me into submission for a try-out. No, I am there to show what I bring to the table and you are there to see if it’s what you need. Ego must be left at the door. Bear in mind… that’s my opinion. But it’s worked so far.

Watchful eyes

Managing expectations can be difficult… thinking of everything isn’t easy. But it is a little easier with a little preparation (well in advance – not day before under the guise of delusion of how it will play out). BTW – it’s worth mentioning that it‘s also okay to make changes to the plan on the fly as long as the changes are creating efficiency and moving you towards the goal without undue stress on the players.
A few hours into the try out, I decided to walk around and interview several of the players to get their thoughts on things. Just how they thought things were going. Some were okay with it all because, well, they recognized it for what it was… bloviating. Didn’t bother them because they were there to show their stuff (action), make the team, (goal), and advance their paintball career that way (strategic). But most of them led with unflattering comments about the ” lack of organization (as in organizing/herding cats) and, well, unflattering things about the coach. In other words, the potential program organizers had already lost a good many of the potential good players from the pool.

Why? How did it happen and where did it go wrong?

I can only provide my opinion from an outside observer’s perspective, but I have a good feeling I wouldn’t be too far off. I don’t think the organizers of the try out really knew what they wanted to do. Let me be clear, this is not a slight against the team/organization. Expanding your team into a Program is a Herculean task (that means it isn’t easy). But you must have a plan. I don’t think there was much of a plan past the warmup and first drill or two. Introduce the variable of a coach (ego and all) who didn’t really appear to know what he was there to do and you now have a recipe for things to go wrong.

Put the seasoned guys in there against the new guys. See what’s what

The English writer Samuel Johnson once wrote that, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” He also said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.”

Wham-o.

Look folks, if you are going to put yourself in a leadership position, especially in paintball, you first need to gain the respect and trust from those you are attempting to lead. There is a myriad of ways to do this. BUT… If you have never met me, have no idea of who I am, but step to me and tell me you are the boss now and to follow your lead… expect my inside voice to say, “Sure. After we establish what qualifies you to coach me.” At this particular try-out, there were several players I was familiar with who had played at a D2 or higher level. The coach had not competed past D4. Now I am not saying that a coach must have a pedigree. Absolutely not! That’s a completely different topic BTW. But if I am going to win you over or gain your trust, I need to start from somewhere… telling a bona fide D2 player he “did it all wrong” and yelling at him about “what were you thinking” when we just met… and I come to find out you hadn’t played past D4 or won anything in that division…perhaps podded for a pro team a few times… well… kick rocks. Think it through next time. Be a Boy-scout (well, not the new ones… the old ones). Be prepared.


Be water my friends.

Resolutions – (Paintball Style)

2020 is officially behind us. For some, last year wasn’t that bad… for others it will be forever embedded in their hearts and not necessarily in a good way. If it taught you anything, I hope it was to look out for your friends and family.

Hopefully 2021 will hold more promise for all of us. I, for one, cannot tell anyone how to make that happen… but I may have some small insight from a paintball team perspective. But first, a quick story…

This past world cup, a friend of mine called. He was playing with a new team for Cup and they had voted him to be the “player/coach.” He was looking for advice. He realized it was last minute and I could tell he was reserved about even calling. I empathized because, well, I had been there. So I told him two specific things:

  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake
  • Own it when you do
Big Show time

He did well, taking a throw together team to Sunday. I gave him that advice because I wanted him to understand that if he did make a mistake, it wasn’t the end of the world, and two, if he did, suck it up and move on. See, he was going to make mistakes… But he was gaining real world experience. He was learning. When we make mistakes, yes, there is failure but hopefully we are trying new things, learning, living, pushing ourselves, changing, growing. We’re stepping out of that comfort zone and experiencing things that will hopefully make us better and ultimately teach us who we are.

And just like that we are entering a new year, a new season, with all the experiences of the previous year. How many of you learned from your mistakes? How many of you will actively participate in making your experiences better? Like I said recently, the new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. What will yours say?

Here are Zen’s top 10 pieces of advice for writing this years’ “Book” (in no particular order):

  1. If you are going to learn the “hard-way” then actually learn. Don’t rationalize or make excuses. Recognize the lesson that was taught. If you or your team make a jump in divisions and get your rumps handed to you, what did you learn? No, it wasn’t the refs are “stricter” at that level, the other teams are better at cheating, or any other plethora of excuses some will use to explain away their failure. Don’t be ashamed of your division! Go win in it. If you truly are better than your APPA shows, then prove it by dominating the division and progress accordingly. There is no shame in this and it is the right way to go.

“It is what we know already that often prevents us from learning.” –Claude Bernard

  1. There is always going to be someone better than you. Whether it is snap shooting, run n gun, laning, speed, making reads, reaction time, coaching… they exist and you will meet them on the field. And it may just be that one time in that one match at that one event. But it will happen.
    And you need to get over it.
    I promise, if you believe you are special and the next Ollie Lang or Dynasty, your ego is in for a rude awakening. You will be humbled and many people will enjoy it when it happens, especially if you are a braggart. However, to those of you who genuinely wish to be good and are aspiring for that level of performance (those who let their game speak, not their mouth), know that almost every skill set I mentioned can be improved upon. You are in control of how far you take it, how far it goes.

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” –Albert Einstein

It wasn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it
  1. There is a lot more to being successful in paintball than just practicing hard. Working hard is not enough. You need to work smart too. If you want to be recognized then you need to be more than good or competent. You need to noticeably excel. This means you need to work harder and smarter than everyone else around you. A solid work ethic and brains? That’s the ticket. They shouldn’t be mutually exclusive because if they are, that is what will be noticeable.

4. Paintball is expensive and not just financially. It takes a commodity that many take for granted and don’t always understand its worth. It takes time. So if you’re looking to be competitive on the national level but you don’t have the money or the time, then you are better off not playing paintball. Just kickin’ it for fun? By all means, it is a great occasional recreational sport. But to be competitive, you better have the time and the money. If not, you don’t have an understanding of what all is required to succeed at that level and in that environment.

5. Create good habits. Winning is a habit. What that means is, you have to have developed the appropriate habits that LEAD to winning. Good habits will lead to good things just as bad habits will lead to bad things. Choose wisely because habits will make or break you. Work the drills everyone hates, run that extra mile, do that extra push up, get their early every time… develop a habit of doing the right thing and I promise you will see progress quicker than those who don’t.

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” – Bruce Lee

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The dumbest question is the one NOT asked. This is part of learning. Be curious, take in how others approach the game. Watch what they do, how they do it, and ask why they do it. But be wary. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t. You will be surprised at the amount of people who are willing to help. And just as dumbfounded by those who think they can.

7. You are owed NOTHING. This is a pet peeve of mine. When I encounter those who have the attitude that they deserve something for nothing, it is difficult for me to not call them out. If you step on my field, you will earn everything. I have learned that people that get things easily or that receive things they don’t deserve are usually lousy human beings or rather, good examples of how not to be. Don’t be the one who feels you are owed or entitled to something others put in hard work for. If you are one of these people who gets their feelings hurt easily or puts how you “feel” in front of betterment, keep walking. I have no time for you panzies.

You can be competitors on the field and friends off of it

8. Know where you stand. Whether it is with your teammates, your coach, heck, any relationship, understand where you land in the scheme of things. Avoid unnecessary drama and if you can’t, snuff it out quickly and decisively. Lose that stuff fast. Understanding your place in an organization is important. It won’t always be what you want it to be. Hey, maybe it’s you.

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” –Confucius

9. You are replaceable. So make yourself irreplaceable. Bring something worth having. Better yet, bring several things that are not only worth having but needed. When you are a teammate before an individual, when you bring positivity tempered with logic and data, when you build after taking apart, when you are the example, the rest will fall into place. Your actions and effort should speak volumes. Be loud in action.

10. Be physically fit. The sport has evolved and requires a semblance of athletic ability so make it happen. Plus, good physical fitness lends itself to good mental capabilities. Both your mind and your body should be in peak condition (and not just for our sport). They shouldn’t be separate entities. Physical fitness is the foundation for mental fitness. If you have the gas tank, then you can keep the mental clarity and make good in-game decisions.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Genuine

I will leave you with this one final thought. You probably know who your supporters are, the ones who believe in you and who want the best for you… the genuine ones. But you may not always know who your detractors are (go back and read #8). Remember, the better you get and the further you progress, there will be those who want you to fail. Success will create new challenges, new opportunities, and yes, even new enemies. Don’t give them room to stay at the “inn”. Not everyone loves a winner. Let them sit in their envious hate and rot.

In other words, be hard to kill both on the field (literally) and off of it (metaphorically).

Here’s to 2021!

Be water my friends.