Every champion the world has ever seen has one similar quality: they are not like everybody else. I’m not talking about their physical ability or strategic approach, but the fact that they are willing to go to the extremes, do things and act in ways that other people aren’t willing to do in order to be successful. The greatest hindrance to success in throwing that I see in high school and collegiate throwers is that they want to fit into every single social norm and also be a great thrower. Unfortunately you won’t be able to reach the highest level of your ability with one foot in each world. You either have to go all into the throwing, with all of its quirks, repetitiveness, intensity, and meticulousness, with an unrelenting drive to be the best, or you will be forever on the outside looking in. Letting what other people think of you impact the way you train is the first step towards failure. The truth is that the same people who judge your methods will envy your success.
Probably the best attribute that I had as an athlete is that I wanted to be good more than other people wanted to be good. I understood that hard work equaled success, and I took the full weight of that responsibility on myself, and never put any expectation on my coaches, parents, friends, or teammates to make it happen for me. It was my quest, and I wanted to conquer it through my own power. I attribute these quality solely to my upbringing and my parents. I am competitive because I have a brother 6 years older than me, and I tried to keep up with him and his friends in any sport they did. I understood self responsibility because my parents never complained about their bosses or other people for their problems. I knew how to work hard because my parents made me work on the farm and get a job to buy the things I wanted. The important thing to note is there were certainly times when I was lazy and didn’t do all the things I should have done, but at that same time I was aware that those decisions were impacting how good I could be and the responsibility was my own.
I knew I had to make sacrifices to be the best I could be, and during college some of those sacrifices were social, like skipping out on hanging out with friends or acting like a madman while training. I trained by myself everyday, and would get into a zone that pretty much made me oblivious to anyone in the vicinity. I would yell on my throws, talk to myself, repeat my cues out loud over and over again, and usually look pissed the entire session. Meanwhile people would be casually walking or jogging on the path by the creek right next to the circle. Now obviously you don’t have to act like a lunatic like me to be successful, but the important part is that you don’t let other people’s thoughts or reactions impact your method of training. I also drank very rarely in college, and turned down opportunities to drink with my friends. On the occasions that I did drink more, I felt an immediate impact on my training sessions and deemed it not worth sacrificing my goals over. I valued my friends, but I also valued my training and had to learn where to draw the line.
There are two main aspects of social pressure that I see affecting high school and collegiate throwers.
The first one is insecurity as a person, and although this is usually resolved as an athlete matures, it is good to be able to recognize it. The easiest example of insecurity is when a thrower tosses a disc into the net. They nervously laugh a little, look around as they pick up the disc, and then are a trainwreck on the rest of their throws. Whereas most experienced throwers can easily shake off a throw into the net, the root of the problem is a lack of self confidence in the face of failure. A throwers level of self confidence will determine how they regroup after any bad throw or bad meet. If they are worried people won’t think they are as good as they put off, or if they are afraid of repeating the poor performance, it is an indication of poor self confidence. The same is true if an athlete is changing their approach in a meet from practice for no reason other than they are on the stage now. They yelled in practice but won’t yell in a meet. They do a short and specific warm up in practice but a long drawn out warm up in a meet. Some (mainly guys) will do the opposite, being laid back and focused in practice, but obnoxious and loud at meets. The key is that no matter how you act or what you do and think at meet time or at practice, that it is not determined by a front you put off or a fear of what people will think of you, but solely on what will get you to throw the farthest.
Acceptance is probably one of the greatest drivers of human behavior out there. I am no psychologist, but by trying to get to the root of my own drive and by observing other people, I have drawn a number of conclusions about how acceptance can impact training and performance. Right off the bat I’ll say that having the desire to be accepted is not a bad thing, and I believe is a critical part of the human psyche that forms communities and friendships. The problem for throwers is when the group that they are desiring acceptance from does not align with their goals as an athlete. Is that group your friends that you have known since high school? Is it your parents and family? Is it a certain image put off by social media? Or is it just some idea of how you should live your life derived from a culmination of your experiences and values? Valuing acceptance from a group that does not align with your throwing goals means that you will feel social pressure to do things that could inhibit your training. Again, it is not a bad thing value those groups, but you need to be able to recognize where your path vears from theirs. If your friends are going out partying, you need to decide whether that aligns with your goals as an athlete or not.
The easiest way to deal with this issue is to find a group of people with the same goals as you. For high school seniors that means observing the culture of the college you are visiting to see how serious they are about training. For post-collegiate athletes it means finding a training location that has an intense, focused, and motivational training environment. One of the greatest quotes I know is “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” by Jim Rohn. Finding a place to train with people that not only have like minded goals, but are also better than you will keep your training on track and force you to rise to their level. If you find yourself locked in a training location with people who don’t care about training, you either have to be the change that you are looking for, or realize that you are on your own and have to find your motivation completely internally.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a thrower, student, businessman, spouse, or employee, people are average because they do the same things they see other people doing and aren’t willing to go the extra mile, standing out in the process, to become the greatest person they can be. Don’t care what other people care about you. If you want to be the best thrower you can be, you have to want to be good more than anyone else, while putting the weight of that responsibility on your own actions and mindset.
- Trevor Stutzman