Before SP athlete Niki young joins the women’s soccer team at Harvard this fall, she has some words of wisdom she has gained through four valuable years as a three-sport athlete at Milton Academy.
Centuries ago, millions of individuals immigrated to America to live out “The American Dream”. They hoped that in this land of opportunity, their labor, sweat, and sacrifices would ultimately result in financial stability. Those who worked hard would succeed, making a better life for future generations. Yet hundreds of years later, American society is losing touch with its defining principles.
These days, society forsakes hard work for quick fixes and easy shortcuts. Contemporary society values products, treatments, and miracle cures that circumvent effort and discipline. Athletes achieve a few years’ worth of strength gains in a matter of months by abusing steroids. Overweight individuals opt for liposuction instead of investing in a gym membership and a healthy diet. Teenagers ask the hard questions behind a cell phone screen to avoid face-to-face confrontation. Students skim through Sparknotes instead of their forty page reading assignment. Everybody wants results but nobody wants to put in the time and energy necessary to achieve them.
This denigration of hard work manifests itself in the way we judge one another. Amongst the adolescent population, those who try “too” hard are mocked and scorned. Teens are content to skate by, doing the bare minimum and disparaging their hard working peers with terms like “hardo”. I’ll never understand what is so appealing about fitting in and being content with mediocrity. As an individual who takes pride in my self-motivation, the negative connotation associated with this modern name-calling drives me crazy. Since when did it become uncool to try hard in practice? They say that practice makes perfect, but if we half-ass practice, what kind of perfection are we going to achieve?
Clearly, practice does not make perfect. Rather, practice makes permanent. As athletes, we are what we repeatedly do. Do we make a habit of sprinting through the finish line, or do we coast in the final yards? Do we fight for every ground-ball, loose puck, and fumble – or do we sit back and watch our teammates struggle for them? These habits forged in practice, repeated over time, stay with us and define our careers. Perfection, be it a championship victory or a record setting season, is merely a by-product of great habits molded through practice.
There are many who deride my quest for perfection, who call me a hardo and laugh at my efforts. Fortunately, there are also those who embrace my goals and do everything they can to help me achieve them. At Stadium Performance, for example, I am constantly pushed to my physical limits by a coaching staff that has no time for excuses or mediocrity. A high tech monitor strapped to my chest projects a dozen vital statistics across the gym TV’s in real time, allowing the Stadium strength coaches to keep me accountable for every second of our training session. Slack off for even a moment, and the coaches will call me on it. After an hour of sled runs, pull-ups, slide-boards, and box jumps, I experience an indescribable feeling of euphoria. The satisfaction of having worked as hard as possible is worth the sweat, burn, and soreness.
So, yes, maybe I am a “hardo”. I do get to practice first and I often find extra time to practice on my own. I give 100% every repetition and every drill. My legs get sore and my lungs get sore but I’ll find time to hit the gym after. I am proud of my work ethic, and everyone out there who consistently puts his or her best effort forward should be, too. There will always be those who resent your self-discipline and determination. Just remember, their mocking laughter masks the cold realization that they will never come close to achieving your level of success. Don’t let them slow you down.