When it comes to being great, some people are gifted and blessed while others must work at it to be great. It’s one thing to have talent, but it’s sad when people waste that God given talent. During my athletic career, I have seen some very high-level athletes that never took advantage of the talent they were blessed with. Why is this? Is it a lack of self-confidence or is it that no one ever showed faith in them as a player or as a person? Could it be a lack of determination or competitive fire that all great players possess? Even though this article is not related to fishing, today I’ll give you my experience and perspective on not what makes a great athlete, but what makes an athlete great..…..when nobody is watching.
Years ago, there was a youngster from East Texas who was a talented athlete especially in baseball. But talent alone only goes so far. It must be groomed and nurtured. As a kid living in the country, this young boy was always looking for ways to improve his baseball skills and be the best. Daily he would retreat to his backyard and spend hours throwing a rubber baseball off a big fallen tree to work on his fielding skills like one-hoppers that baseball players often get when playing the game. He worked on making backhanded plays and fielding every ball with great technique. He did this daily…….when nobody was watching.
Then one day he was looking for a way to improve on his hitting. So, he took an old blanket his mom offered and hung it on a clothesline out behind his house. (This is how people used to dry their laundry before everyone got automated driers.) Putting his creativity to work, he took an old Folger’s coffee can and cut a three-foot piece of PVC pipe and cemented it into the coffee can. Then he found an old piece of radiator hose (that was very flexible) and slid it over the top of the PVC pipe. BAM!!! There it was….the perfect batting tee. He would hit for hours off this tee so he could become a better hitter. He hit so much that he wore the covers off the balls he was hitting into that blanket…….. all when nobody was watching.
Today, batting tees are available at pretty much any sporting goods store. But back in the early 1970’s, no one had even heard of a batting tee! But this young man used his creativity and designed his own batting tee in order to become a better hitter. Through this extra work he accomplished so much and developed his baseball skills when nobody was watching that he landed a scholarship which eventually led to him being drafted in the 1983 major league baseball draft.
Another great example of doing more than what was required would be a former high school teammate and friend of his by the name of Maury Buford. If this name sounds a little familiar it should, as he was an outstanding punter in the NFL for over 8 eight years during the 1980’s and 90’s. He was the punter for the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears, one of the greatest teams in NFL history. Now as a youngster growing up, Maury discovered at a very early age that he had a talent for punting a football. He spent hours on a sandlot working on developing his punting skills. He went on to become an All-American at Texas Tech and had a great NFL career. Maury’s dedication and work ethic was on another level and allowed him to accomplished great things ……when nobody was watching.
This is how athletes become great, doing the little things and putting in the EXTRA time to develop their skills. A lot of kids today do not understand this concept and they think that the time they spend at their scheduled two-hour practice time is enough to be a great player. But great players are different. They realize that if you want to be great, you must put in the extra time away from regular practice. So remember, if you want to be great at anything like golf, tennis, basketball or tournament fishing, it’s the extra time you put in when nobody is watching that makes you great.
Till next time, if you have any comments about this or any other articles I’ve written, go to my Facebook page and give your feedback. I really appreciate all of you that take the time to read my articles. I hope in some small way you gain either knowledge or comfort in what you read.