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Monday, February 15, 2010

Taking The "Im" Out of Impossible: A Matter of Connecting The "Dots"

It is in giving several inspirational presentations to high school athletes, and programs, that I have had the distinct opportunity to truly reflect on what allows a select few athletes to achieve greatness through adversity. This “special” ingredient is something that most certainly comes from within, permitting a competitor or a team to reach beyond normal limitations. It is also a major focal point in my speaking engagements.

All of us, at one time or another, have seen or heard of athletes who accomplish what looks from the outside to be impossible. You know, that unachievable goal that just can’t happen…….yet, these special athletes somehow find a way of “beating the odds.” Films like Rudy, Miracle, Hoosiers, Remember The Titans and others, all depict true stories of those who have not only taken on challenges like this but have succeeded in the process. They all found a way to beat the odds.
So the question then becomes, “What creates the opportunity to make the impossible, well, possible?” I mean, what is the difference between those who “do” and those who “don’t?” It is this question that I spend my time answering for the athletes, coaches, and parents who attend my presentations.

What it is that these select few all seem to have in common, what any athlete (or athletes) will need in order to accomplish something of this magnitude – to reach their potential, is a deep sense of determination and an unbending and unbreakable inner will. The kind of inner will and determination that brings with it an immeasurable amount of effort and commitment.

However, as I continue thinking more deeply about this idea of inner will and determination, and examine closely the stories I tell my audiences, I begin to wonder if this was all that is necessary in order to “beat the odds.” It was after a more thorough evaluation, most especially with my own personal story through adversity, where I came to the conclusion that there are other pieces needing attention.

You see, even with an inner will and determination at the level of which I describe above, one still needs to follow through by applying it to “something.” They need to “connect all the dots.” And these connected dots……..they center on the when, how, and what the athlete actually does during the process or practice phase of their training.


Whether high school athlete, college athlete, or beyond, all have a lot on their plates. There is school work and/or job responsibilities, friends, relationships (in addition to other social activities) that are not only a part of life but very important to the success and development of a well- rounded individual. And this is all aside from the training, and sometimes, extra training, an athlete must put in to accomplish “beating the odds.”

So how is it that these successful athletes are able to do all this and still accomplish what they want? Well, it is all in the perspective they take and how they set priorities. I mean, how important is it? If it ranks high in importance, then priorities tend to become more automatic and fall into place. My experience as a high school athlete taught me that.

Setting proper priorities is all about the “right” perspective; it is an important part of the learning process for any athlete accepting the challenge of achieving excellence through adversity. It is an integral part of overcoming obstacles.

Sure there will be sacrifices based on the choices the athlete must make, and some individuals may not always be in agreement with them. However, true friends, the ones they really can count on, will most certainly understand and be supportive in their endeavors.


This can be a little troublesome to completely understand because it is so situationally dependent. It is very possible that an athlete may not be able to get their training needs met, based on the goals they have set, in the normal practice time allotted. They may actually need to do “more,” on their own, if they are going to truly “beat the odds.” If the coach, or program, does not make this part of an athlete’s practice plan, then the athlete will need to shoulder this responsibility themselves.

Inspiration is great, but without the “how,” there is no plan. This “how” centers on breaking down an athlete’s sport, position, and skills into their principal parts so that weaknesses and strengths (what they do well and what they need work on) can easily be identified.

From here a mental plan is developed that incorporates ways to take one’s strengths to the level of mastery and turn one’s weakness into strengths. This is no easy task; however, it is a key component of how one’s potential is reached, and how obstacles are surpassed.

It is in making the proper choices here that creates the opportunity to develop the “what” the athlete will actually be doing.


And herein lies the final key to success, the last dot or connection within the process. It is the final step from inspiration to completion of the task.

Once priorities are set and time is allotted, and one’s strengths and weakness are identified and a plan is in place, then specific goals and objectives are decided on and completed. These, what I call “mini-goals,” include all the skills and/or strategies specific to the sport the athlete participates in.

And athletes who are trying to “beat the odds,” the ones trying to accomplish the “impossible,” relentlessly and passionately pursue these “mini-goals” trying to execute them a little bit better each and every day. They are relentless in this pursuit, taking each piece of the puzzle and polishing it up to a level of excellence rarely seen.

It is in looking at their process of improvement, by seeing each little step up that hill as a major accomplishment (even though they may still be far from their ultimate potential) as being an essential piece to real success. Each step they take, and each increase in expectation, gets them a little bit closer, each and every day, to what they ultimately want to accomplish.

Going through the motions is simply not an option for these athletes. And they are not only effective in using this format to accomplish what they want but are also efficient in the process, not wasting time or losing focus on the task at hand.

Yes, an unbending and unbreakable inner will and deep sense of determination are essential ingredients for those athletes wanting to achieve the impossible. However, applying these inner characteristics to the when, how, and what pieces of the puzzle are indispensable parts necessary to complete the process for one who wants to truly beat the odds.

Originally a headline article on ParentHOOD: Expert Advice for Sports Parents at


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