Bruce Parker's Article: It Takes More Than Just Talent


International speaker Bruce Brown believes the definition of an athlete does not rest solely on being born with physical gifts. A coach for 35 years, Brown spent time with students Wednesday morning outlining what it takes to be a true athlete.

He talked about going to a college to recruit a young man for his college basketball program. The young man was just finishing grade 11, was 6’7” and averaged 27 points a game. The young man could do it all and passed all the physical tests.

Brown said coaches are looking for a combination of not only ability but character to form good teams.

After talking to the coach, Brown went to the school and observed a practice from the balcony. He noticed the young man was the last person to come out of the dressing room…

….and did not actively take part in drills. On top of this, he also did not listen attentively to the coach.

The individual’s lack of effort in practice was something that did not impress Brown and he chose to leave immediately rather than staying another day to watch the player in a game situation.

Brown told students he did not care if this person was 7’9” and scored 100 points a game. He did not want this individual anywhere near his players.

“I love my guys. I have got great workers, I have got real leaders, I got real athletes, I got people committed to team. I didn’t want that guy anywhere near my guys. He is what I call a selective participant.”

Brown went on to outline things coaches look for to help teams get better.

Brown said he would never recruit a young person that does not practice hard or is disrespectful in front of their family in anyway.

The last thing a college coach does in recruiting is go on a home visit. Brown said give him a player who can’t wait to introduce his mom and dad or is doing the dishes. They know what it is like to be part of a team.

Brown was speaking in Michigan recently at a school with 4,000 kids. He was sitting in the front row waiting when individuals who looked like football players walked in. Instead of going to the back, they sat up front and right next to him. Brown asked one player if they had good coaches and the response was no, we have great coaches.

“I thought man, nice tribute coach. I ended up spending three extra hours just to wait and watch them practice.”

He then went on to give descriptions on what a great teammate looks like and what a real athlete looks like. There is a line that separates a good athletes from a non athlete even though people in both categories play sports.

A teachable spirit (coachable) is a character trait that an athlete will have.

An athlete has learned somewhere along the line how to take correction as a compliment. Athletes being corrected look directly at the person who is speaking in order to learn something.

They don’t say thanks with their voice but with their body language.

“You need to start worrying when coaches stop correcting you because what they are really saying is I don’t think he can get any better.”

A non-athlete will feel he or she is being picked on every time they get corrected.

“If your whole team has a teachable spirit and can take correction as a compliment, you have so much improvement you can make, it is unbelievable.”

Accountability for an athlete is reliability for the work that has to get done.

“You know you have arrived at accountability when people don’t have to watch you.”

He asked the students if they get a great workout when coaches are not present.

“You don’t need to have somebody watching to know you are going to give your best.”

Brown then discussed mental toughness and said there isn’t a college athlete he knows that doesn’t want to be mentally tough.

A mentally tough athlete can stay positive, enthusiastic and confident no matter what, he said. Nothing can break his or her spirit.

Mentally tough people like to practice hard every single day and do not have ups and downs in a season. They are always there.

With mentally weak people, every little bump in the road throws them off. They get discouraged very easily and stay discouraged longer than they should.

Brown then gave students a test they could use to determine mental toughness.

“How quickly do you personally recover from a mistake?”

All games and practices are is mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. That is how you learn.

“If you are an athlete, you get over them faster than your game requires.”

This article by Bruce Parker appeared on Brooks Alberta Sports News.

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