Tom Petty famously sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.”
In sports, however, training is the hardest part.
Whether it is football players battling the scorching Central Texas sun during fall two-a-days, when temperatures can still easily top triple digits, or the softball team putting in a long session on the diamond, practice is brutal. Training is different, though, and can often be even more grueling.
Practices are structured times, when coaches help players hone skills and perfect philosophies. Training is the work someone puts in to become stronger, faster, leaner and more explosive, among other things. In essence, it is working out, and even for those playing team sports, this is an individual experience, requiring inner drive, motivation and self-accountability.
For high school kids, the hours spent training must be torturous at times.
They play games ending late in the evening before routinely taking lengthy bus rides home, only to awake early in the morning for their first-period class.
On top of that, they have practices to endure, school work to attend to and some have the additional responsibility of a part-time job. Then, the truly dedicated find time to train.
These are the kids jogging in front of your house after the sun goes down, and doing pushups and sit ups when they wake up and before bed.
They are the ones using makeshift gym equipment in their garages and those who eat healthy, monitoring their fluid and caloric intake to make certain their bodies will perform at a high level when the occasion arises.
Training is critical in allowing athletes to reach their physical peak, but it is also when a person’s character emerges.
It is natural for anybody to want to take it easy when the opportunity presents itself, especially when burdened with a hectic schedule, but finding the will to want to improve separates athletes from players.
It is hard enough as an adult to commit myself to being physically fit. Often, I undergo an internal war as one side of my brain tells me to go on a long run and the other begs me to remain prone on the couch.
Once a vacation, holiday or weekend rolls around, the urge to become a human slug only intensifies, so I am continually amazed by high school athletes who use their free time to prepare themselves for a upcoming goal.
Spring break is the quintessential opportunity for young people to get away from school altogether. It is time to be lazy before making the final push toward summer vacation or possibly graduation.
But not everyone views it as such. For example, some members of Gatesville’s girls golf team spent their spring break traveling to Lubbock and Austin, where they played the regional and state courses in preparation for a potential postseason run.
That is the epitome of training: Sacrificing free time to become better for oneself and, by extension, a team.
It takes an added devotion to sweat buckets all alone or to skip the fast-food restaurant for a salad at home or to forgo a weekend with friends to attend hitting camp on the other side of the state, but people do it because it eases their mind. It allows them to rest, knowing they did everything possible to put themselves in a position to succeed.
And when there are no doubts, there can be no regrets.
Training might be the hardest part, but it is also the most satisfying.