Alan Stein Jr. is an author, basketball performance coach, and motivational speaker. The following is an open letter he penned with his advice for IMG Academy’s student-athletes.
I chose my profession as a sports coach and motivational speaker because I love to encourage and motivate athletes to reach their full potential. A large part of my job is to analyze what makes an athlete successful.
I have practiced the philosophies and habits that lead to successful sports performance and would like to share how these can be used toward your academic goals and achievement. You have earned an amazing opportunity and now you need to take advantage of it by applying that same motivation and drive to the classroom. You can be as successful in education as you are on the field, court, track, or course.
Sitting still and staying focused on a lecture by a teacher or professor is not easy at times. Let’s be honest. While we respect and need our educators, the process can be tedious. When you’re struggling to translate or solve a problem in algebra, chemistry, or trig, or trying to interpret Shakespeare, you can apply the same techniques as you would in sports.
Malcolm Gladwell is famous for the 10,000-hour rule from his book Outliers. Gladwell explains that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. He based this theory on the noted successes of those who have spent an average of those cumulative hours in any given field. Many student athletes are coached using this philosophy.
Remembering the Basics
Know your strengths. Think about what you have excelled in within each subject. Have you been praised for your writing, for your math skills, or for your ability to remember small details? Identify your strong points and then practice them regularly- this is your foundation and you must keep it strong to continue achieving.
As a sports coach I would make sure you’re on top of your strength and conditioning routine, your diet is on track, that you’re doing your reps. Those are the same habits that should apply to the classroom. Build your brain’s muscle memory and “practice” your subject matter each day the same you do with your athletics. How do you get an edge?
Focusing on Right Now
This moment is all about execution. Try a process focus (technique and tactics) rather than the outcome focus. You will likely perform better because you are paying attention to the things that help you perform better. Mindfulness is your goal- a mental state you can achieve by focusing your awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s like doing that last pushup or contemplating that long putt. You focus on the now.
Overcoming Fear of Failure
The fear of failing can absolutely take over, whether on the court or in the classroom. Anxiety can be paralyzing. Ask yourself these questions to help combat it:
• Identify your fear- where is it coming from? Is it real?
• Are you unprepared? Preparation gives you control.
• What are you telling yourself? Is it positive or negative?
• Are you okay with leaving your comfort zone? You kind of have to be if you want to keep moving forward.
According to a recent study conducted by the Arts & Science Group of Baltimore for The Association of Boarding Schools, (TABS), today’s boarding school students succeed at significantly higher rates than private day and public school students, especially in college and adult life. The study also found that students are more likely to earn an advanced degree and achieve faster career advancement. You’ve already set yourself up for success by being accepted into one of the best boarding schools in the US for athletes! Make sure you use this time to develop the habits today that are on par with your dreams for tomorrow!
Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 83 (2013) 1054 – 1058
Gladwell, Malcom (2008) Outliers