Dear Athlete
Posted by H. Schumaker on Jan 16, 2020

Dear Athlete

I do not know how we reached July already but BOOM! Here we are! I had my first beach day - which was amazing - and have settled into the routine of summer. We're catching up on physicals, everyone's back account is growing

15 Rules To Play By

I do not know how we reached mid July already but BOOM!  Here we are!  I had my first beach day - which was amazing - and have settled into the routine of summer.  We’re catching up on physicals, dentist appointments, everyone’s bank account is growing (except mine) and we have figured out some sort of choreographed family dance that is working…fingers crossed it stays that way!

We are also starting to get ready to go back to school.  Ugh.  I know.  Believe it or not, the preparation for fall sports is underway in this house.  Work-outs, speed and agility training, metabolic conditioning, early mornings and late nights, we go through protein powder and bananas and milk in record time.  I’ve got one that is coming into her junior year as an Assistant Captain for their highly competitive club ice hockey league, one that is achieving a dream of playing college football and my big-little bulldozing into his junior year of high school with thoughts of college football recruiting heavy on his noggin and his heart.

And it made me pause.

And have some gratitude for what they have.  And say a prayer that some day they will look back and have that same gratitude.

See, sports weren’t a big deal in my house growing up.  I had an older sister that was gorgeous, a younger brother that was the baby of the family and I was the awkward one.  Long legs, big teeth, loved to read, always in my own way.  When I got into cross country and track, it was an after school activity and not that my parents didn’t care - girls doing sports was just not the norm in our house.  I did well.  But what could I have done?  With more passion.  With more guidance.  With more knowledge.  With more grit.

To all the athletes out there, the ones that are waiting for the opportunities to come knocking on their door, the athletes that are breaking down brick walls, those athletes with sore backs and tired bodies getting up at 4:00 am because it’s the only time they can hit the gym, the ones that are sacrificing time with their friends to better themselves, that choose the chicken and broccoli over the pepperoni pizza, the ones that 'lead' by laying blame on teammates rather than showing leadership by saying, “We will get them next time.”  I’m no superstar but man, I wish there are things I’d done different.  Take from this what you will but know that I wrote this one for you.

15 Rules For Every Athlete

Leaders line up last

Nelson Mandela once quoted “Lead from the back and let others believe they are in front.”  In fact, this quote is on the wall in my Jax’s bedroom.  Being a leader is not stepping out in front to be the first one to shake hands and celebrate the victory.  A leader quietly retreats to the back of the line and allows the team to lead the way.  It was a lesson my oldest learned from a coach at the age of 10.  And to this day - you will always find all three Schu’s at the end of the line.

Dream big, think small

I believe in the necessity of remembering you are a small fish in a big pond.  There is always going to be someone out there bigger.  Stronger.  Hungrier.  It’s when you get too big for your britches, thinking you’re a superstar, that you lose your edge.  Or become complacent.  Think you have all the answers and that you don't have to put in all the time and effort and grind because you are ALL THAT.  You aren't.  Trust me on that.  Just keep swimming, Nemo. Just keep swimming.

Earn respect, not a reputation

This is so key and there is a vast difference between the two.  Work to earn respect.  Be known not as the person that can run the puck from end to end but that as the teammate that will always look to make the pass.  The athlete that knows the playbook inside and out.  The leader that you will find in the weight room, grinding on a summer afternoon instead of playing Xbox.  A reputation you can earn over a couple of bad decisions and it takes months to lose.  Respect is a long term investment and those respected athletes - they inspire their team to move mountains.

Early is on time

My Rob has coached for many years.  And practice started at 6:00 pm.  And as the years went by, the boys would show up at 6:00 pm and then at 5:45 pm and by the time the athletes hit 8th grade, 90% of the boys were at practice warming up and ready to go by 5:30 pm.  A half hour before practice started.  On time is late and early is on time.

Respect the refs

Some calls are going to go your way.  Some aren’t.  But you don’t open up your mouth and argue.  Ever.  And at the end of every game, you take a few moments and run over and shake the hands of the refs.  You are a reflection of the name on the front of your jersey and a reflection of the name on the back of your jersey.  And good calls or not, the refs are deserving of your respect.

Be the first to arrive and the last to leave

Be the first athelete at practice and be the last athlete to leave.  Every chance you get.

Garbage in, garbage out, good in, good out

Nutrition plays a major factor in your athletic output.  There are exceptions to every rule but eventually it catches up with everyone.  You have to fuel your body the right way.  Protein, veggies, good carbs.  You can’t fuel up on processed food and soft drinks day in and day out and expect to perform at the level you’re capable of.  You may eat a bag of peanut butter cups and have the game of your life every now and again but trust me - that’s short lived and an anomaly.

Give it 24 hours

I am a hothead.  My Rob is a hothead.  Shocker that we have a household of hot tamales.  Sports are passionate and there are bound to be instances that send you from zero to sixty in seconds flat.  Give it 24 hours.  Cool down and simmer your jets before you open your mouth or make rash decisions.  A good nights sleep and a full belly does wonders for changing perspective.

Don't play the blame game

Lord help my children if I hear them play the blame game.  Teammates make mistakes.  YOU make mistakes.  Show me an athlete that never messed up.  It doesn’t exist.  Don’t be that teammate that points out what others did wrong.  Be the teammate that inspires others to want to be better.  Give more.  Dig deeper.

Ask someone to film and then watch.

No, this isn’t about a highlight reel.  This is about learning the mechanics of a team.  Of a sport.  There is so much value in film - learning what works and what doesn’t.  It’s not about saying, “Oh that’s where so and so missed the tackle.”  Knowledge is power and we learn far more from our failures than our successes.  Film is an extremely valuable learning tool that I wish more teams took advantage of.

Check your ego at the door

You aren’t perfect.  You aren’t going to be.  And there is always going to be that person on every team that is going to let you know that you aren’t perfect.  And our first reaction as humans is to turn around and point a finger where they aren’t perfect either.  Or to go home and cry.  Or both.  Let it go.  Check your ego at the door and brush that stuff off and be real with your bad self.  You’ll have magnificent days and not so much.  Both are necessary. And don't EVER be that finger pointer.

Toughness over talent

Talented athletes are a dime a dozen.  And that’s the truth.  Tough athletes, athletes that can endure the mental and physical and emotional rigors of the game, that play to the whistle - they are the athletes that go on to do great things.  Remember that whole small fish big pond?  Yeah, talent only gets you so far.  Those days you can’t run one more sprint, do one more rep, last five more seconds?  Do the sprint.  Give that last rep and take every breath in your body to give those final five seconds.  And that leads me to my next.

Champions are made in the offseason

Anyone can jump on the bandwagon a week before pre-season starts.  Try to squeeze three months of work into a few short days at the gym, a couple of long runs.  Doesn’t work that way.  Champions put in the work during the offseason.  Hit the gym when they’d rather be hitting the pillow.  Sweat dripping, muscles aching, Id-rather-be-anywhere-but-here-but-im-here hot summer days.  If you’re going to walk the walk then you best talk the talk.  Put your time in when you don’t want to.

Embrace the grind

Embrace the grind.  Embrace the sore and the sacrifice.  Don’t whine about it.  Don’t look for a pat on the back.  Do what you want to do to prepare because that is what a smart athlete does.  That is what an accountable teammate gives to their team.  Grind it out.

Have gratitude

There are countless kids, individuals, people that can’t do what you can do.  That have physical limitations, family situations, any number of roadblocks that make your possible impossible for them.  Have gratitude for what you can do, for the simple gift of being able to work your body and accomplish great things.  Because there are too many to count that don’t have that option.

Athletes Old School

I wish that I had greater wisdom as a young athlete.  That I had done more to embrace the grind.  That I had truly tapped into my competitive spirit.  But wisdom is wasted on the youth and I would like to think that despite coming in last all the time during Rounds at the gym I am at the very least respected for my grit and my determination and my unwillingness to quit.

The oldest boy has evolved in four years of high school.  Encompassing so much of his dad and those principles, that honor and integrity of ‘Mission, Men, Me’.  He has some work ahead of him for sure.  He is going to be a minnow in a churning ocean of sharks and whales and all kinds of smart kids that can play football too.  And he is going to have to start back at square one as a college freshman and earn respect.  And he will.  He is his father’s son.

And the big little - he’s gotta figure out a way to take that passion and harness it into physical force.  His big heart gets in the way of big hits and he has to have a short memory and let it go.  And believe in himself and trust his instincts.  That athlete of mine is one that a team can be built around, one that will inspire them to do great things.  He just needs to realize it.

And the girl child.  She has got to check her feelings at the door.  She has some incredible women athlete mentors in her life and she has to turn a blind eye to the meow’s and realize that she is leading by example by just doing her job.  Out work, out skate, out hustle, out say good things to every player.  And they’ll rise around her.

And I have a nephew that is dipping his big 15 year old toe into the high school pond. And he's a tremendous athlete that is about to jump into a great big ocean full of other tremendous talented athletes. My hope is that he serves himself up a big portion of humble pie and walks through the doors of my old high school with the realization that he now starts all over from the very bottom. And that his talent is not going to take him as far as having mental toughness, grit, heart and a desire to learn will.  Earn their respect, Cayden. It's in you.

To the athletes out there - no matter the age.  Be accountable.  Are you part of the success or part of the problem?  Are you bringing the best version of yourself to the table?  Are you an uplifter or a finger pointer?  Embrace the grind.  Fuel your bodies.  Take advantage of the opportunities you’re presented with because they are just that - OPPORTUNITIES!  Earn respect by respecting the process, your teammates, the coaches, the game.  Ask someone to film and look for what you did right and what you can improve on.  There is tremendous value in honesty with yourself.

And remember at the end of the day you are not just a representation of the name on the front of your jersey but also the name on the back.

Make sure you walk off your field of play proud of representing both.