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I've coached beginning to world-class runners for decades
Some people have much more innate ability than others, for sure. God hands us all different gifts and ability levels.
The larger the pool of people you coach, the greater the
chance through probability that you find people with incredible innate or what
some people call natural abilities.
Your chances of finding those with innate ability increase dramatically through the athletic probability of sheer numbers.
You also find people who have less innate ability but get just as much and sometimes more out of the gifts they've been given.
The champion grabs the headlines, but the person with less innate talent sometimes works just as hard or exceeds the champion's work ethic.
Coaching and athletics success is not just measured by how many champions you coach with off-the-charts natural ability; the more significant measure is how many people you help reach their God-given potential who don't have off-the-charts innate ability.
What Is The Definition Of A Champion?
To me, a champion is someone who learns to give all they have with the gifts God blessed them with, whether a sub-four-minute-miler or a ten-minute miler who worked just as hard as anyone to get their best time.
That last sentence reflects what I often talk about. Reaching your God-given potential physically and mentally entails giving everything you've got with the gifts you've been given.
Kids and young men and women who learn to work hard to squeeze out every ounce of their potential succeed as much as the four-time state champion in life post-high school.
I am taking nothing away from the four-time state champion in this example. They deserve all the accolades they receive when they put the work in to accomplish their goals.
However, what's most important on many levels is learning the traits of a champion through good and meaningful athletic programs.
Also, the catchphrase, "Hard work beats talent, when talent does not work hard, is so true and applies to what I am discussing in this post. I've seen this phrase play out over and over again in my life.
Sometimes, champions are crowned not because of their natural ability but because they worked much harder and smarter and put in the time to be the best than their off-the-charts talented counterpart.
Regardless of innate ability, the person who learns grit, perseverance, hard work, and overcoming physical or mental limitations and gives their all to individual and team goals while young generally does well in their post-athletic career.
The less physically gifted athlete develops the same traits as the more visible champion if their parents, coaches, teachers, and mentors around them teach and show them that it is not just the outcome of performance that matters but also the effort of their performance that matters within their natural ability.
You don't have to be a state champion to succeed in life, but you must make the same or, in some cases, even more effort to develop the traits commonly used to describe champions and championship teams.
In summary, natural talent differs in each person, and not all effort is the same.
Learn to give everything you've got with the gifts you've been given when you are young, and you'll learn one of the most important lessons you can use over a lifetime.
As my college coach, Marshall Clark, told me decades ago, "Sacrifice and self-discipline are more than mere words to a champion; they are a way of life if you want to succeed at distance running or any other important goal. "
Coach Clark was right. His words never led me astray.