In competitive athletics, raw numbers like height, weight, max bench press, and timed 40’s help scouts understand your athletic potential. However, there is a reason that scouts and coaches want to meet you and see you perform on film before offering a scholarship. They want to find out what intangible assets you can bring to the program. Above all else, coaches want to find out if you have a work ethic. Are you committed to excellence, or will you quit at the first sign of hardship?

Actual work ethic is an intangible athletic asset that yields tangible results. It determines how far you will go to win, even when there is no one to witness your struggle for victory. No fans. No coaches. No scouts. No glory to be won. When you willingly crawl into that dark place, away from the safety of adoring fans, and test yourself. Your goals and your work ethic are the only comforts that you carry into this crucible of pain. Here, you cannot hide behind perceived work ethic. Coaches and fans often misinterpret an athlete’s distorted facial expressions, gallons of sweat, guttural grunts, and gasps for air as signs of a work ethic. Actual work ethic is traditionally much harder to witness, and more painful for the athlete to forge.

Below are 5 intangible qualities that an athlete must posses in order to become great. These qualities do not exist on their own, they require constant honing through self-evaluation. Only with a prodigious work ethic can an athlete master these intangibles.

Honesty.  Be brutally honest with yourself. Why are you doing this? Is it to achieve greatness, or do you merely do it for the social benefits that often accompany the athletic life? How much are you truly willing to sacrifice for the development of yourself and for the betterment of your team? How much time, how much sleep? What comforts will you forgo to achieve your collegiate aspirations? Be brutally honest with yourself. If you lie to yourself, you are also lying to your teammates and coaches. They trust you to strive for greatness. Be worthy of that trust.

Command. Command your reality. Not happy with your current lot in life? Perhaps you’re too slow, getting lower grades than you’d like, overweight, or not playing on the team you want. Change it. Being honest with yourself is the first step, as you will quickly diagnose weaknesses and areas in your life that need improvement. The next step is taking action. Whatever fear holds you back, you must have the fortitude to look deep within your own soul and face that fear. Maximize your potential, don’t settle for being a fraction of the athlete you could be.

Leadership. There two types of athletes: shepherds and sheep. Sheep are individuals. They wander about on their own with separate goals, vulnerable to predators like doubt and hardship. Shepherds are leaders; they join the individuals together into a team. Just as a herd does not easily fall victim to lurking predators, so too are teams better suited to succeed through adversity. Be the shepherd. Lead your team. Believe in yourself enough to place the fate of your teammates and the outcome of their dreams on your shoulders. Train through the discomfort, study instead of sleep, sleep instead of party, and lead by example. Leadership is contagious, empowering, and influential. Nobody is born a perfect leader, but we can all choose to improve our leadership every day. Set goals, and promise yourself that you will never stop chasing them. You will inspire others to follow by your determination and unrelenting commitment.

Empowerment. Leadership is worthless if you don’t also seek to bring out the best in those who follow you. It is your duty as a leader, teammate, and friend to spread your work ethic to those who lack your confidence. Empower others to believe in themselves and their dreams. Get to know your teammates on more than a superficial level. Find out what drives them and what holds them back; share their joy in success and empathize with them in defeat. Empower them everyday by feeding their confidence and starving their fear. By empowering your teammates you will forge stout bonds with them. These bonds are the backbone to all conceivable success in life, family, friendship, and sport. Strong team unity is what inspires athletes to push themselves farther than they ever thought possible, and thus to achieve great success. Success is chemistry. Embrace it.

Authenticity. So you say that you’re a hard working, empowering, honest leader with a command over your own reality. Are you willing to put your reputation on the line and prove it? Show us the data. They say you’re a great athlete, an outstanding student, and the hardest worker on the field. Show us how many team championships you’ve won. Show us your grades in your most undesirable subject. Prove to us that you are working as hard as you can possibly work. At Stadium Performance we provide you an opportunity to prove it to yourself, your coaches, your parents, and us – every day you train. There is no escape from the data at our training center. Utilizing First Beat technology, we record your every breath, step, jump, set, rep, and heartbeat during workouts. We know your VO2 max, lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, aerobic threshold, and max heart rate. Your facial expressions, sweat volume, grunts, and gasps for air don’t carry much value to us. Your numbers do. The truth is in the data, and it reveals who is putting out and who is merely hiding behind their perceived work ethic. How authentic do you want to be?

In conclusion, what will make you a truly great athlete is your relationship with failure. Mediocre athletes fear failure, and try to avoid it at all costs. During workouts, the average athletes get close to their perceived limits and then throttle back, afraid of what they might discover. Will they miss that next rep, trip on that last all-out sprint, or pass out from exertion? The mediocre are too timid to find out. Truly great athletes live for these moments of uncertainty. They not only want to find out what they are made of, they need to find out. Make no mistake, as an athlete you will fail – sometimes miserably. But out of this failure comes tremendous opportunity for change. So you missed the last rep, or lost the last sprint. Those failures now become your new goals. The desire to destroy those benchmarks now consumes you until you conquer them. This is how you grow physically, mentally, and athletically. Every failure turns into an opportunity to sharpen your edge, to become a more lethal player. The next time you find yourself at your limit, tempted to throttle back and just get by, remember this: there are two types of pain, the temporary pain of discipline, and the permanent pain of regret. Which pain will you choose?

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