Setting: Student-athlete's first college athletics meeting. First, congratulations. You’ve made it to this university and to Division 1 Baseball. That’s a win. You are here because you have the ability to play at this level. It’s now time to change the way some of you see success. Many in this room have been fooled to this point by a "SportsCenter Culture.” Education has been about validation, the next rung on the ladder, a shiny job or moment that brings neighbors and friends to their feet. It’s been about highlights and how you feel. This road to empty comes from a belief that self-esteem creates lasting success. Begin with a harsh statement that becomes empowering when your mind, rather than emotion, tackles it. “I don’t care how you feel. I care how you act.” Go to your Epicenter to get better now.
Productive Choices and Happiness
An Epicenter is the central point of something, typically unpleasant. Baseball will be that difficult, central part of your life. It will not let validation become your education. The game recognizes the ill-equipped mind as less consistent, and the prepared more steady. The friend that got 75% to USC, the one who will be a broker one day, isn’t necessarily happier than the walk-on at an Arizona junior college. If neon lights and SportsCenter culture leaves self-esteem your aim, you will miss the point of this meeting. The relationship is between your responsibility to make productive choices and your happiness, no matter the circumstances.
From here, realize that well-intentioned people have at times trained your mind to fail. You have also been disciplined and prepared by people who care about you. The message matters, not the curt tone. Pitching lessons and Twitter likes intoxicate. Specialists and accommodations stunt growth when accomplishment is “ranked and rated". It’s time to demand that you are the driver and the giver. SportsCenter plays 3 times per night in the living room. There is an epicenter in every decision, from first pitch to last.
You know what I’m going to tell you. Simple, boring choices are what baseball asks you to master. While you’re in this meeting, hear the bell of responsibility. You’ve earned not only more work, but a tougher fight with yourself. Enjoy it. After the 2:00 a.m. bus returns to campus, pick up the cups and plates from the late night meal. After cleaning the aisles, sleep a little and answer the 8:00 a.m. class call. That small win will come from the same skill set that allows you to foul off a good slider in a two-strike count. Pushing yourself to “answer the bell” when it seems to not matter leads to wins when you think it does. It’s not on the SportCenter Top 10 that tells you this. When it’s not ideal, keep the deal you’ve made with yourself and this team. Give your best effort.
Hunger Comes from the Center, Not the Sport
Follow great people and leaders by the Epicenter example. This takes imagination first, then action. Where are the videos of the Michael Jordan, taking jump shots in cold, dark gymnasiums during the depths of the off-season? Who saw Peyton Manning study a playbook while his bank account screamed “play” and his body said “rest”? It’s not what he studied. It is the level of intention he still studies those funny commercial scripts with. Did Bill Gates sit alone in a primitive computer lab learning to program at the age of 16 so he could eventually drive an industry? Even when no one is watching you training and playing baseball, the hunger comes from the epicenter, not the sport.