I’ve been going through a jag where I’ve been listening to a lot of sports radio on ESPN. I used to enjoy waking up to "Mike & Mike" in the Morning, until "Bloomberg Surveillance," and the financial world, largely (and rather rudely) absconded with my pleasure listening. However, more recently I’ve indulged.
I particularly appreciate "The Herd with Colin Cowherd.” I think I revel in his show mostly because I tend to agree with much of what Cowherd says. It also helps that from what I can discern, we are of similar age and probably at similar stages in our lives.
Several weeks ago, Cowherd mentioned an article in The Huffington Post written by Leigh Steinberg. The article was entitled, "How Can Two Tiny States Dominate in College Football?”
In the interesting albeit short piece, Steinberg highlights that Alabama was college Football’s National Champion in 2009, 2011, and 2012, while Auburn won the National Championship in 2010. This suggests, for a four year period, teams from the relatively small state of Alabama (in terms of population), were the best college football teams in the country.1
"If the final four to qualify for this season's playoff championship were selected today, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Mississippi would be three of the four contenders. This week's AP Top 25 ranked 5-0 Auburn #2, 5-0 Mississippi St #3, and 5-0 Mississippi at #4. In addition, Alabama is #7 at 4-1. Furthermore, if these teams did not have to play each other every season, they might all go undefeated.”1
These programs boast outstanding coaches and support staff, state of the art facilities, and incredible boosters. Notwithstanding these attributes, Steinberg postulates that higher rates of poverty, particularly in Alabama and Mississippi, have elevated football to the ticket out of economic deprivation.
Poverty may be the source of additional motivation for young athletes to take their training seriously and “dedicate their lives to the sport and play as if there is no tomorrow.”
Motivation in a Two-Car Garage
Tuesday evening has become leg training night for my two sons. They both play baseball at a high level and I train them with my toys from elitefts in our garage (i.e. “Beast Texas”).
After completing a set of squats, during which he’d exerted more effort than I’d ever witnessed from him previously, my oldest son flopped on a spare bench.
Wiping his brow with his t-shirt, he looked at me in earnest and asked, “Why is my strength increasing so much faster than ever before?”
“It is?” I asked. I knew he was making progress, but I was unaware we’d hit an unprecedented rate.
“Muscle has memory, so if you’ve been here before (in terms of overall offseason strength), it’s easier for your body to get back to that level than when your body is hitting new plateaus.”
“I’ve never been this strong before,” he responded.
"Do you really want to know what is going on?” I asked rhetorically.
“Your younger brother is performing his last squat set prior to your last squat set. I’ve set it so that both of you are on a similar training program, which requires knocking-off as many reps as possible on that last set (AMRAP).
"For the last six weeks, despite using significantly higher weight, you’ve managed to match your younger brother in terms of reps on that last set. Many of these final squat sets have required you to exert more effort than you’ve ever needed to in order to complete those reps. You’re body wants to quit and a couple of times I actually thought you were going to black-out, but you’ve not allowed yourself to re-rack the bar unless you’ve at least matched your brother.
“Last week, I thought you were done at six reps and you somehow managed to knock-off ten because your brother knocked-off ten.
“Your little brothers AMRAP set as provided you an additional source of MOTIVATION."
It’s sibling rivalry taken to an anabolic level!
Such (fatherly) programming genius.
“It’s hard to get up at 6am and do your roadwork when you’re wearing silk pajamas.” – Marvelous Marvin Hagler, undisputed World Middleweight Champ from 1980-87
I’ll never forget that Hagler quote. It can be challenging to find that intrinsic motivation once you’ve made it. Athletes in poverty stricken regions of the country are using sports as their "way out.” For some (the vast minority) it proves massively successful.
Motivation is a powerful construct that often drives our behavior. In powerlifting, I’ve been motivated by both a strong desire for success on the platform, as well as a fear of failure. In training young athletes, I am motivated to help them perform on the field because I enjoy watching them excel. While the sources of motivation can be varied, the extreme power of motivation is without dispute.
Worthwhile endeavors/goals often require great sacrifice and dedication. Our motivation is the catalyst, which allows us to endure the discomfort of training.
Some find it intrinsically; others find it extrinsically. Recently my son re-discovered his training motivation while doing work in a small two-car garage in Texas because he was not quite ready to allow his younger brother to surpass his efforts without a fight.
He was willing to train as if there were no tomorrow – lock out or pass out.
Rediscover your motivation if you’ve allowed it to become dormant. Utilize the resulting drive to achieve success in any of your endeavors.
1. Steinberg, L. (2014, October 13). How Can Two Tiny States Dominate in College Football? Retrieved October 17, 2014.