Talent Matters

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I was chatting with one of our high-school athletes yesterday when I asked how his (baseball) season had been going so far. We had a miserable winter here in Massachusetts and for a lot of our athletes they’re still practicing indoors.

This athlete, however, goes to a school that had the opportunity of traveling down to Florida recently so they were able to get their cleats dirty and see some green grass for a change.

“We played okay,” he said. “Our team, though, is having a hard time. We have a bunch of guys who just don’t “get it” and have hard time with the team concept.”

“How so?,” I asked.

He then went on to tell me how one teammate, during a game, in the dugout, took out his phone and started using Facetime.

My jaw dropped.

He then told another story where, with the team back up North, another teammate decided he was too cold to cheer and support the rest of the guys and took off for an inning to go hang out in his car to warm-up.

Again, I was flabbergasted.

If I or any of my teammates even thought about doing something like that back when I played in high school and college we would have at best been taken out of the game and suspended, or at worst been given a soap blanket party Full Metal Jacket style.

It just wouldn’t have happened.

Sadly, in both scenarios above, each athlete is headed to a respectable Division I program and I suspect each one feels they’re above the rules and/or have an overwhelming sense of entitlement.

It’s a case where both feel their talent is enough to be successful….despite the woeful lack of respect and social filter.

Here’s another example.

A good friend of mine opened a gym in downtown Boston a few months ago. It’s his dream, it’s kicking his ass, but he’s loving every second of it. I finally made it down there earlier this week to check it out and to get a quick lift in.

In between sets he told me how, a few weeks prior, he was contacted by a local organization asking if he’d be willing to allow a group of their personal training students to stop by and observe for a few hours.

Everything was set up so that the students would come by and watch as he and one of his other coaches were training clients. As my buddy noted, “something like 10-12 students came in, all in their early 20s, and they were pretty obnoxious and loud which pissed me off because it was distracting. All but one were talking to one another, texting, and not really paying attention.”

At the end, the group coordinator wrangled all of them together for the opportunity to ask my friend any questions they may have had.

“How do you make money?”

“How do I start my own gym?’

“Blah blah blah…How do I not do any of the work, but have what you have?

I told him that if I were in his shoes at that point I would have 1) probably Sparta kicked one of them in the chest and 2) picked someone randomly to show me and the entire group how to coach someone through a squat pattern.

My guess is that the result would have been worse than the infamous Miss South Carolina “Where is America on the Map” answer…..

Maybe I’m coming across as nothing more than an old, ornery strength coach who’s next order of business is to shake my fist and yell at people to get of my damn lawn.

I don’t know.

I’d like to think I’m just shelling out a dose of tough love and perspective.

A few weekends ago I was at my alma mater (SUNY Cortland, in central New York) as part of the Annual Strength & Conditioning Symposium. At the end of the day all the presenters were brought to the front of the room as part of a Q&A panel.

Giving credit where it’s due: I was impressed with the attendees, and praised everyone who attended for being more proactive in their learning and continuing education. The fact that they were there and chose to do so, on a Saturday, spoke volumes.

One theme kept popping up though, subtly, time and time again as students were asking their questions. Something to the effect of:

“How did you become so successful?”

“What do I need to do to get to where you’re at in your career?”

Opposite of the examples above – with the baseball players – I do feel the students in this case knew that “putting in the work” was part of the equation and that none of them had illusions of landing a gig which them training professional athletes on Day #1. All because they got an A- in Kinesiology or because they read SuperTraining once.

Many asked about blogs and websites and Social Media. All of which are pertinent, important questions to ask. We live in an ever growing digital age now, and all of those things matter and play a role – to a lesser or higher degree, depending on the person – in the development and growth of one’s fitness career.

But here’s the thing, and it’s something that Nick Tumminello stressed…..

Talent Still Matters

Or maybe a better way to put it: BUILDING talent matters.

It’s not the only thing that matters, of course. But it’s still pretty damn important. You just don’t want to be an uppity, entitled, brat with no work ethic like the examples above.

Far too often – at least nowadays – new trainers and coaches place too much weight on how many Twitter followers they have, YouTube views a certain video gets1, or how many “Likes” a certain article gets.

Some even brag about how many books they’ve read. Which is awesome.

But that doesn’t mean anything.

That’s like me bragging about how I read The Science of Hitting by Ted Williams 47 times cover to cover.

Unless I actually go out and do it, hit a baseball hundreds of times a day, day after day after day, for years on end, to the point where my hands start bleeding, I’ll never come close to sniffing Ted Williams’ ability……much less the Mendoza Line.

Ted Williams had talent, but he also worked his tail off.

You can read about the intricacies of breaking down the deadlift all you want, but unless you actually 1) deadlift yourself 2) deadlift appreciable weight 3) and coach other people through it, I don’t give a shit how many books you read.

It takes TALENT (and hard work) to become a good coach.

It takes TALENT (and hard work) to become a good writer.

It takes TALENT (and hard work) to hit a baseball.

It takes TALENT (and hard work) to get through an entire season of Downton Abbey. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Talent doesn’t happen without work ethic. The two go hand in hand.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. Psssst, your mom probably counts for half your views

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