A lot of athletes are only meeting the demands of their practices. Doing the bare minimum, and not much beyond it. But the way we see it, if you’re going to be a water polo athlete, then you might as well be the best one you can be. You need to be your best self. Because of that, we’re going to focus on the life-changing concept of investing in yourself and how it applies to competitors.
A great example we can pull from the real world is a professional basketball player, LeBron James. As a world-class athlete, James understands that a huge part of investing in himself is investing in his body’s overall health. According to Business Insider, he spends 1.5 million dollars a year on exercise (trainers, equipment, etc.) and diet (nutritionists and personal chefs). Dang. That’s a lot of cheddar!
Do you think that anyone makes LeBron James do all of this extra work on top of his demanding practices? We’re willing to bet that he chooses to do so. And even though he’d still be an elite athlete without all the extra work (not to mention 1.5 million dollars richer every year), he also knows that these extra efforts will bring him to that next level he’s striving for.
Do you think it’s working? You tell us. He’s a four-time NBA champion as of right now.
Now, we know that almost nobody has that kind of money lying around. But the principle still applies to everyone – regardless of income or athletic ability. Investing in yourself means making additional sacrifices that go beyond the bare minimum with the expectation of seeing a greater return. It means consistently doing things of your own free will that are strictly for your benefit and will positively compound to your betterment. And there are a variety of ways you can do it.
Here are five ways you can invest in yourself.
1. Work harder at practice
Ask yourself when you’re practicing: Am I really giving 100% of my effort? Or am I just going through the motions? Because you will play exactly how you practice. If you just go through the motions at practice, then what are you conditioning your mind and body to do during the big game?
A lot of us like to look at accomplished athletes and fantasize about what it would be like to be in their shoes. Mostly because we assume that life would be less difficult.. and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to be admired on a large-scale? That’s because all we see are the glorious moments on the big stage. We don’t see the consistent hard training that goes on behind the scenes. Does anybody believe that these accomplished athletes are just going through the motions at practice? Do we think that level of talent is just an unfair lottery system that some people are given, and others are not?
It’s an irrefutable law that you have to push your body’s limits if you want to see improvement. And it would be silly to assume that going through the motions at the practice can yield the same results as pushing yourself 100% daily.
2. Find extra time for practice – in or out of the pool
Remember that nothing is stopping you from developing your body in your own free time. Perhaps you can find some extra pool time for some extra work on your technique or conditioning. Maybe that means hitting the weights, doing some yoga, or jogging. Whether it’s extra time in the pool or out of the pool, your extra efforts will show up and you will be a much better athlete overall.
3. Expose yourself to high-level competition
Another way you can invest in yourself is by giving yourself something to strive for. And that’s exactly what happens when you expose yourself to high-level competition. That can happen in many ways. You can purchase tickets to watch some high-level USA Water Polo tournaments such as the National League, the Masters’ Nationals, or the U.S. Open. You could see an NCAA game and watch some of the top teams in the country compete. There’s also a lot of footage on YouTube of professional games in European and Australian leagues.
This is also why our club hosts water polo clinics which often feature current and former water polo athletes who have competed at a very high level. Heading to our water polo clinics is another great way to expose yourself to a higher level of water polo. In many ways, that exposure is just as valuable as the skills you learn from the clinic itself.
4. Sharpen up your diet
It’s easy to just have the “see-food” diet as an athlete. Young competitors burn lots of calories and their metabolism’s capabilities seem limitless. But getting a little bit of structure in your diet will come with results of their own. There are lots of diets out there and some are stricter than others, but a standard healthy diet consists of vegetables, fruit, lean meats (such as chicken or fish), and grains. It involves limiting processed foods and sugars and drinking plenty of water. Just a little bit of structure in your diet will yield amazing results.
5. Study your own game film
Game film is a great way to invest in yourself. It gives you an “honest look in the mirror” at where your game is currently at and enables them to both recognize their strengths and make accurate notes of what they need to improve on.
All of these examples qualify as investing in yourself. Always remember that the work you put in when nobody is watching is far more important than the work you put in when everyone is watching. That extra work you put in when nobody is watching will showcase itself in the big game moments when everybody is watching. We have an example of this exact principle that comes from the swimming world. It’s an Under Armour commercial made for Michael Phelps while he was training for his final Olympics in the Rio 2016 games.
There’s a saying that goes as follows: “Hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.” What does this teach us? It teaches that the single greatest variable that determines a competitor’s success in their sport is their work ethic. And that work ethic is how willing you are to invest in yourself in and out of the pool.
Image courtesy of Pixabay