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WHY SOME DON’T/DIDN’T MAKE THE GRADE, INCLUDING ME

August 28th, 2019

Having worked in professional sports my entire adult life – first as an athlete and now as an agent – I am fortunate to have witnessed so many magical stories of elite athletes reaching their potentials with great careers in the big leagues. What I’m realizing now, is that along the way I learned many valuable lessons by seeing greatly talented athletes fail…and I was one of them. My trajectory took me through NCAA hockey, then to the pros, but the advice I can give applies to any route you decide to take. I will enumerate my top 20 nuggets of advice – some that I followed, others that I should have followed, and others that likely would not have mattered in the long run. So, here is my always expanding “How to Not Not Make it” list:

  1. Never be outworked, this is one of the only variables that you can control 100%, so take care of it. No shortcuts, no cheating, no short sets or drills…
  2. Blaming others and making excuses will make you a loser. Look in the mirror everyday and be accountable. It’s not your parents’ fault, your coach’s fault, your teacher’s fault, your (insert scapegoat name)’s fault if you failed and you didn’t prepare properly, it’s your own.
  3. RESPECT and listen to your body, whether you need rest, better nutrition, less stress, etc. I wish I knew more about this as a young athlete and knew the foods that my body did not process well. That extra beer, soda, dessert that you had last night could affect your performance at an inopportune time, be aware of that.
  4. RESPECT your parents, coaches, teachers, the opposite sex, your own health, your teammates, your trainers, and this list could go on and on. Respect means acknowledging others and their needs, and wants, not letting them walk all over you or being in awe of them. Feel free to challenge people and help them make you better. On the other side of this coin, parents need to let go and let you become autonomous young people who can make decisions and live with them.
  5. You know that guy/girl on every team that has the best zingers and one-liners? That’s probably not you, so don’t try to be him/her or you will just annoy the whole team. If you happen to be that person, know your place. Also, that teammate doling out “can’t miss” stock market advice, please don’t listen to him!!
  6. You know that guy/girl on the team who is a natural born leader? That may not be you but learn from him/her so that one day that can be you. There is no room for jealousy. Learn from each other and accept your role, so that you can expand that role with strong performances and leadership.
  7. Be a good veteran, and never be a bully! Remember you were once a rookie with butterflies in your stomach.
  8. Rookies – earn your stripes! Don’t be the first guy off the bus running to get your hotel room key. Help unload the equipment and do your job. Also, you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Rookie season is the best season to keep that in mind.
  9. Find that inner confidence early. As you move up levels, there is less and less communication. Many coaches and managers use this to weed out the weak. Their job is not to tell you how great you are, but to extract your potential to its fullest. There is no time for confidence building at the top level. Body language is the biggest indicator of all emotions and killer of many careers. Keep it in check.
  10. Trust the process and trust the route you choose. I have seen more success from athletes who have a clear path and focus. Don’t chase levels above yours when you are not ready because of ego, that spells disaster.
  11. Focus on what you can control, the rest is white noise. Today, we are at our worst when it comes to this. Social media is driven by FOMO and envy, and that spills over to the sports community. If your focus is on your improvement and not others, I promise, you will achieve your potential.
  12. Cut off all toxic relationships, ASAP. Whether it’s a girlfriend, boyfriend, family member, or just friend, there is no room in your life for negativity, jealousy, or drama. Negative people drain your energy while positive people help feed it, remember that.
  13. Appreciate every day that you get to play a sport at a top level, sometimes even as a living, but remember it’s a sport, have fun! If playing your sport doesn’t put a smile on your face, it will soon feel like a burden, so make sure you enjoy it and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  14. If you suffer from nervousness, anxiety, psychological struggles, discuss it with those you trust and try to manage them. Anxiety, for example, will always be there for some of us. Try to channel that energy in a positive manner, and if you can’t, seek help, we all have our struggles, it’s okay.
  15. There will always be someone better than you that comes along. Use that to drive you, not scare you. The best of the best usually work the hardest at their craft.
  16. Adversity is a step up and forward, always. Don’t be afraid of failing, because you always learn a lesson never to be forgotten. Parents, please let your kids fail occasionally, its crucial to their growth and development.
  17. When you lose, graciously say very little, when you win, say even less. Humble teammates are so much easier to support when they go through tough times.
  18. Go in with eyes wide open… Pro sports is a difficult world that churns out bodies left and right. Understand and accept that it’s a business because you will be sorely disappointed, if you don’t. Find a way to extract enjoyment and life lessons from it and you will be pleasantly surprised.
  19. Give back and pay it forward… Help younger players, sign autographs, have a conversation with a young fan, you could alter their life in a positive manner. We all owe it to the game, no exceptions.
  20. Be the best human being you can be! Being the best you can be at your sport is a challenge, but trying to be the best YOU every day, is an even bigger one. Use the lessons you learn from your sport to achieve that goal.

I hope you find these helpful! After 45 years, I’m still learning from all of you…

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