A typical national-caliber elite ice skater begins her career at age 7. She trains on a daily basis with an exacting and demanding coach, often in the pre-dawn hours before school and then again long after the sun sets. She averages between 5 and 6 hours of practice per day. For the first 2 or so years of her training, she works on no more than 3 or 4 moves, total. She works to exhaustion, every practice, and toils on the precise, minute details that constitute greatness at her craft. At approximate age 10, she advances to an even more advanced regimen, often boosting daily practice to a total of 7 to 8 hours or more. She adds complex spins and twists and jumps to her repertoire, and spends an average of 18 months working on each, single, adaptation or move. By the age of 14, after half a lifetime of fanatical devotion, she is ready for international competition at its highest level. Her level of dedication is off the chart, far beyond the comprehension of any normal recreational athlete.
If an ice skater can devote this much time, focus, effort and energy toward achieving excellence, is there any reason why any aspiring athlete should ever complain about practicing for 2 or 3 hours, total, during a given week? If an ice skater can practice 50 hours each week, because it is a requirement for success in her field of endeavor, why can't every athlete commit to just 5% of her weekly commitment, or a paltry 2.5 hours?
If the athlete is unwilling or unable, because of higher priority commitments, to invest this minimal time in order to improve, then he forever forfeits any right to complain or lament how "unfair" life is or how he was "denied a shot at glory" or how "a coach held me back." Become as ruthless as the skater, and leave mediocrity behind. If you care about being the best you can be, excuses such as "it takes too much time," "I don't feel like it," and "it's too boring" do not exist. Be as dedicated as a skater, and become great.
Playing a sport means competition, in several different aspects. The primary competition is always internal, between you and the limits of your potential. In this sense, your opponent is superfluous and exists only as a source to elicit greater effort and more success, from you. However, human nature in the form of competitiveness does not exist in a vacuum, and the external opponent cannot be ignored forever. When this happens, and the focus switches to your opponent as either a single entity and/or as an overall component of a team, most competitors experience a surge of primal energy and a pronounced burst of motivation.
For instance, in basketball, most often you are matched with an opponent whom you guard, and who guards you. Every play, at its essence, boils down to who is better, in that moment, within the framework of the team and the limitations of the game (the occurrences outside your control). I.e., did you fool him with a fake and get open, even if you did not receive a pass? Did you deny him the ball and force his team to look elsewhere? Did you anticipate a shot and secure an inside position as the ball was in the air, even though there was no rebound? Did you out-hustle him downcourt? Did you congratulate a teammate while he sulked and pouted? There are many ways to compete, on every play - turn every nuance into a competition, and be victorious!
Legendary champion chess competitor Bobby Fischer spent a lifetime searching for the ultimate competition. He was once asked what he liked most about chess. A usual, typical answer from a peer often invoked the conventional, internal view of 'it challenges my mind.' Fischer answered with an external motivator, as visceral an answer as you can find: "The look on my opponent's face when he knows it's over and there's nothing he can do about it."
When the competition shifts to your external opponent, strive to get "The Look" on his face.
There is a misconception that only a tall basketball player can be a great rebounder. The conventional thought is, 'taller equals a higher jump and a longer reach which equates to more rebounds.' This false line of reasoning leads the unmotivated player to lessen his effort. "Why try? I'm not as tall; I can't get the rebound." In fact, many of the greatest rebounders in the history of basketball were relatively short - they succeeded through superior positioning, exceptional effort, extraordinary anticipation, and a rabid appetite for possession of the ball. There was a will, and they found the way.
Without addressing the fallacy of 'height means greater jumping ability,' the reality is that a majority of rebounds are garnered beneath the height of the rim, rather than above the rim. Because of this fact, height, to a certain extent, becomes a non-factor. The great rebounder recognizes that space is best created by widening his base, i.e., assuming a strong, poised, athletic crouch and using his posterior and hips to move his opponent farther away from the path of a rebound. A higher jump, and/or a height advantage, is negated by distance. This is what it means to "block out."
Get lower and wider than your opponent. Use this position of strength to clear out space. Stay wide, and forget about whether you're tall, or not. Width equals space equals rebounds equals success.
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A great, general tool for baseball/softball and hitting is a heavy baseball. The standard baseball weighs 5 ounces. Hitting a ball that is heavier, by even a few ounces, is a large difference by percentage, and yields significant results. Imagine a 20% increase, to a 6 ounce baseball: become accustomed to hitting that, and the regulation ball feels light by comparison, and flies faster and farther when hit, all things being equal.
There are multiple commercial heavy baseball products. A remarkable product is the Total Control heavy ball, available in 2 sizes/weights, each in a distinctive canary yellow color. The smaller-diameter TCB Ball is the same approximate diameter as a regulation baseball, and weighs almost 3 times as much. The added weight requires the commitment and intent to drive through the baseball with a powerful follow-through. The Atomic Ball is larger in diameter, beyond the dimensions of a softball, and weighs 6 times as much as a conventional baseball. This mammoth ball requires a precise strike, or else the weight is displaced and the ball fails to fly.
The true selling-point of either Total Control heavy ball is the pliable nature/material. The ball compresses upon impact, and sinks into the bat much like a circular sandbag or beanbag. The rebound, or trampoline effect, is eliminated and the batter is forced to, in essence, 'catch' the ball on his bat and 'throw' the ball into the field. A long, continual swing into and all the way through the ball is required in order to hit the ball farther than several feet. Then, upon subsequent hitting of a regulation baseball or softball, the regulation ball feels like a lightweight tennis ball or Super Ball.
Use a Total Control ball and see/feel/learn the value of a strong, long follow-through. Get stronger, hit longer. Get Total Control, and be in total control.
Watch a basketball game, at any level. Notice how the best and most successful offensive player receives a pass. Compared to their less successful peers, the standout player most often catches the pass in a knees bent, hips down, body poised and ready-to-explode 'athletic ready' position. This ability to gather the ball and immediately, without re-positioning or changing stance or adjusting posture, make an offensive move, shot or pass, is the key to being quick and decisive.
Never catch the ball in an upright position. Because, in order to move after you catch the ball, you must first bend the knees and load the hips. The subsequent delay, from tall to small, is too much. A good defender, who is already in position, will out-quick you every time. The remedy: catch the ball low, and either stay low or move/shoot high, as part of a single, transitional motion. Low to high. Small to tall.
Preparation is the key. Never allow your posture to be surprised or unprepared. If you are ready, you will succeed.