Athletics—football in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring and summer—provided the competition with opponents and the camaraderie with teammates that I enjoyed as a teenager. What I did not like about competitive athletics, however, was the conditioning—repetitive calisthenics, endless drills, and habitually running.
A word that I came to dread in each of these running experiences was “Again.” Meaning we would run, all out to the point of exhaustion, thinking that was the last one only to hear our coach say “Again.”
Perhaps, you have forgotten that experience in your own life or maybe you have never had the pleasure. In the movie Miracle regarding the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team’s triumphant victory over the Soviet Union, Coach Herb Brooks handpicked a group of undisciplined kids and trained them to play like they had never played before. He broke them to make them. Following a tie with the Norwegian National team, Herb Brooks made his players stay on the ice and sprint “suicides.” He made them do it over and over, repeating the word “Again.”
I had a coach like Herb Brooks when I went off to college to play tennis. I was recruited to play at Martin College, Pulaski, Tennessee. Pulaski is an idyllic county seat town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Coach Johnny Jackson was determined that what we lacked in skill was made in conditioning. Every practice was concluded with running. Coach Jackson would have us run sprints, then run the lines of a tennis court, and to top it off, Coach Jackson mapped out a one-mile route for us to run through the streets of the college, into the neighborhood finishing with a steep hill that we affectionately called “Killer Hill.” The hill was about a quarter of a mile that appeared straight up. Some of the players could not make it all the way up without stopping to catch their breath and rest their aching legs.
Coach Jackson would often say, “If we get into a third and decisive set with our opponents, we will not lose because we were out of shape.”
Sometimes to foster his point, after running the mile concluding up killer hill, we would hear that gut-wrenching word—“Again.”
Coach Jackson’s tactics reminded me of Tom Landry’s definition of a coach. The former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys said, “The job of a coach is to make players do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”
As other coaches have said, “No pain, no gain.”
Similarly, to become what we want often requires doing things that we don’t want to do, in order to achieve what we’ve always wanted to be.
Welcome discipline. It’s the way to becoming the best you can be.