motivation and successTrainingUncategorized

GRIT… The Real “X” Factor for Sport Performance and Life Success

Secrets of Sports Performance and Personal Training

Reflecting back on this past summer about the sports performance and personal training at Umberger Performance, some situations leave me feeling really good about the effort and progress made by some of my athletes and other situations leave me with a bad taste in my mouth.  Don’t get me wrong, all of the athletes that work on their sports performance training with us are very good kids.  I can confidently say that they will all be successful.  They have good parents that push them in the right direction.  I can’t really judge/blame the parents for not pushing them in regards to sports performance training because they never trained when they were younger.  “It’s just not what we did”.   Even former professionals from 20 years ago didn’t train other than maybe lineman in football.  Most athletes used camp to get into shape.  They didn’t spend the summer working with a sports performance trainer.   We live in a different world now.  With the exorbinant salaries in professional sports the desire to become a professional is greater than ever.

Who REALLY Wants to Improve Through Sports Performance and Personal Training?

I frequently get frustrated with my athletes who say they “want it” but refuse to put the time in.  Being a division one athlete is a full time job.  Some can get by on put athletic ability or genetics but few can become  professionals without hard work.  I think that the Olympics are a better testimate to this than anything else.  Michael Phelps didn’t train after the 2008 Olympics for 2 years.  Why?  He was burnt out.  He trained 8+ hours a day, 7 days a week for 8 straight years.  He was able to take the time off and get back to form within two years because #1 he is the greatest swimmmer in the world and #2 next to not having webbed feet/hands, he’s physically perfect to swim.

This about sums it up….

Everyone can do the good days. It’s the bad days when you step away from your opposition. For me that is sitting in my bed with the alarm going off at 5:30 am. continually hitting the snooze button, with the rain and sleet lashing against the window thinking “I’ve got to go out in that”. But that is the chance to get those eight one-hundredths of a second advantage. They don’t come around too often, those opportunities to step ahead”

Steve Williams.
4 x World Champion
2 x Olympic Champion

Craig Adams
sports performance training die hard, Craig Adams of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I often have deep conversations with Craig Adams of the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Why?  He’s my age(which is rare around here) and he’s a smart, well read guy.  Being a Harvard graduate doesn’t hurt either. Craig has played almost 12 season in the NHL and he’s won two Stanley Cups.  He always steps his game up when it matter most, the playoffs.   I’m always asking questions and trying to “find out if it works” or how it “feels”.  What’s going right and maybe wrong and how we can adjust or fix the issue.  (RJ Umberger and I would always have those conversations.  They are harder to have with him having two young daughters and living in Columbus, OH.)  Craig comes from a very successful family.  Despite their financial success, Craig was on his own financially in college.  Mom and daddy didn’t pay for his training. His sports performance trainer would charge upwards of $500 a week.   He invest the time working for him to pay off the tab.   When Craig returned to college for the school year, he didn’t have any money.  His teammates spent the summer working for investment banks and had $5,000 in the bank and were partying their faces off.  Craig spent the summer receiving personal training and becoming a better hockey player like the guys across town at Boston College and Boston University.  As Craig said, “There’s time for the internships and the job experience.  I was there to get better as a hockey player and earn a world class education. If the opportunity for me to play hockey after college wasn’t looking good, then I would’ve spend that time invensting in career experience.”     It wasn’t like he spent the summer being a beach bum.  He spent it sports performance training and actually working at the sports performance training facility/rink.  Trivia question/answer for you.  Craig was actually the Hartford Whalers Organization’s last NHL draft pick, ever.

Here’s the link if you don’t have flash players


This video hits the nail on the head.  Grit was first put into words by a researcher at University of Pennsylvania when she studied cadets at West Point.  The most success candidates who bloomed into the most successful officers all had this unspoken quality.   They termed it “grit”.

Entitlement doesn’t equate to training hard and improving performance

In working with a lot of ice hockey athletes, I’ve seen some very interesting things unfold.  On the many U-18 AAA Ice Hockey Club teams in Pittsburgh, there are about 20 players per team.  Of those players about 5(maybe) athletes from each team dry land train. Actually there might be ten players that train across all of the teams.   That includes in season and out.  The kid that goes to his “trainer” twice a week in the offseason doesn’t count.  That’s a joke.  Here’s the entitlement… EVERYONE of those kids expects to play junior hockey.  Realistically they can play because there are way to many junior hockey leagues which has deluted the competition.  Ironically or realistically, 1-3 in the entire age group in Pittsburgh will play D1 hockey.  “If the coach didn’t pick my son, I’m going to start my own team.” is the mentality.   EVERYONE of these players thinks that they have a pretty good shot at playing college hockey. What happened to, “work harder son and earn it next year.”  Or the parent realizing the commitment level of their child and having them play AA hockey where they belong.  There isn’t anything wrong with that.  The child would learn the same life lessons which are invaluable and the parent could save $5,000.     If one of the “non training- non hard workers” makes to college because of his natural ability he won’t see any playing time because the other players are that much better.  If is so gifted that he doesn’t have to work hard, then he’ll play in college.  The “pipe dream” will end eventually and the athlete will have wasted his talent.  “I had a solid career in the AHL.  I played 5 games or so in the NHL. I made some good money.”  Sorry, I see that as a failure to your “gift” and yourself if you never really worked to maximize your “gift”.  You could’ve cumulatively made over $3 million in your career.  Instead you have $20,000 in the bank and have to decide what you HAVE TO DO to pay the bills the rest of your life.  Not necessarily what you would love to do to supplement your income after your hockey career.  Welcome to the world of the “working class” with the rest of us.  These athletes exist in every town, in every sport.  My frustration is that so many athletes aren’t giving it everything that they have.  They aren’t even close.  I don’t know if the parents don’t understand what I’m talking about in this blog post(which is fine) or that they don’t want their kids to fail and experience disappointment.   It’s not about love or caring.  It’s about being a parent not a “best friend” to your child.  Be a friend after college.  I understand the challenge with this.  This will probably be the greatest challenge in my life(next to marriage).   Sometimes the greatest love as a parent is standing back and letting them get up, dust themselves off, and get back on the “horse”.  I have failed so much in my life that if documented, it would exceed the tax code.  My parents were always there but not ever willing to do it for me or to make excuses.  They forced me to learn and grow.

A quick story about sports performance training and hockey leading to being a better man….

One of my athletes Nick Schultz made a hard decision to not play junior hockey.  He decided to be a student and use his 4.3+ GPA at Villanova. He’s playing club hockey.  There’s a chance that he could’ve had a great junior career and wound up playing at a hockey a D1 school.  Even then, how much playing time would he have gotten?  Instead, he’s getting one hell of an education at Villanova and having a great hockey experience.  In their first few games, he has scored 2 goals.  Not bad for a rookie.  I talked to his father about it the other day and he could not be any prouder of his son.  I could feel his smile through the phone.  He wasn’t smiling because of the goals, trust me.   Isn’t that what it’s about?  Sport isn’t about making millions.  Sport is about teaching life lessons.  About teaching a young athlete to get back up after getting knock on their butt.  It’s about teaching them team work.  It’s about teaching them that they earn wins and losses before, during, and after practice.

Are you born with grit? Is it developed in us as we grow?   I don’t know.  I have talked with my friend James Smith who went through Navy SEALs BUD/S two times about this topic in the past.  He’s helped prepare many SEAL Team 6 and other elite operators.

“BUD/S didn’t make anyone a SEAL.  It only tested them to determine if they have what it takes to become a Navy SEAL and execute the duties associated with being a SEAL Operator.”

James Smith