Share this story with your friends:

Master the Things That Take No Talent Part 2 of 2

Last week we talked about doing the things that take no talent to do but doing these simple things make big differences in the development of athletes.   We discussed mastering getting off the grid or putting our phones down, being better with nutrition, getting enough sleep, focusing on breathing, and not skipping simple hygiene issues.  Today we have five more to Master

I think coaches and athletes who are committed to their craft often mirror following scenario. We look for the next best exercise or method that will give us an edge over our competition. While I think it is necessary to consistently add items for possible implementation, I do feel it should not be at the expense of ignoring the easily accessible low hanging fruit. Mike McCoy the former head coach of the San Diego Chargers often instructed his players to Master the things that take no talent.  He basically wanted his players to do all the little things and if they did, all the big things would take care of themselves.  He was referring to showing up early, paying attention to sleep and recovery, proper nutrition, studying the game and film, etc.

The intent of this article is to provide suggestions for the student-athlete to implement, but almost all people can find value.   I encourage all readers to not take what is stated in this article at face value.   Whether you agree or disagree with the content, continue researching on your own!


It is essential for athletes to believe in their training, train smart and hard, and also do what is necessary away from the training environment to maximize what they have been given athletically.  In my experience, it is often what is done away from practice and competition that is the limiting factor in an athlete reaching his or her potential.

Athletic Homework 

A prevalent belief amongst many in regards to training is more is better.  On the surface, it makes sense, but my experience has shown otherwise.  I have seen numerous athletes ruin their season because they did more than was asked.  Going to see personal trainers after practice.  Working out with parents after practice. Doing more running and lifting after running and lifting at practice.  Many people fail to understand two items when it comes to extra training:

  • Everything has a cost.  The additional time spent training cuts into recovery time. This means the athlete will not be as good as they could be during the next training session.
  • The workout done after a practice often contradicts what was done in practice.  For example, say a sprinter does a maximum intensity workout (like 5 x 30 meters with 5-minute rest between reps).  He or she walks away from practice feeling great, but thinks more can be done because the workout did not pose an aerobic challenge.  So, the athlete goes home and runs four miles at a moderate pace.  The problem is the athlete is sending mixed messages to his or her body.  Instead of being able to focus on recovering from the maximum intensity workout, the body is now faced with recovering from a maximum and a sub-maximum workout.  Instead of being able to do a great job recovering from one, the body will do an average job recovering from both.

1. The above situation deals with a very common misconception in training. Feeling

tired at the end of a workout IS NOT a requirement of a quality training session.  The 5 x 30 meter workout at maximum effort is a significant challenge to the nervous system.   That is the system the coach is having the athlete train.  Working the aerobic system afterwards confuses the body and destroys the benefits that could be obtained from the first workout.

It may sound like I do not believe in outworking the opponent, but nothing could be further from the truth.  While training, be in the moment and give the best possible effort you can in everything that is asked of you.  If you feel the need to do extra outside of practice, first focus on taking extra time to address the content in this article.  If that is not enough, talk to your coach about exercises/drills you can do at home that mesh with what was done during training.


Reflection is a powerful tool that can increase the chance of achieving optimal progress.   Keep a training log.  Write down not only what you did, but what went well and what you can improve upon.   Then dig deeper and ask why a session went well or did not.  Ask yourself if you are taking care of the items discussed in this article. Looking backwards helps us move forward on the correct path.  Legendary coach Vern Gambetta feels that reflecting over a day's workout is worth another workout.[3]  So for those who are obsessed with doing more work, reflection is a healthy option.


Like reflection, visualization is another option for low-impact athletic homework. Projecting a mental vision is difficult for many people, but like anything else, if concentrated effort is put forth, substantial gains can be made.

Renowned track and field coach Harry Marra told a story about decathlete Brian

Brophy.  Six weeks out from the World Championship qualifying meet in 1995, Brophy set a personal best in the high jump by jumping 6-10 .  However, during the jump he sprained a ligament in his foot.  Over the next six weeks, Brophy was not allowed to high jump.   At the national qualifying meet, Brophy high jumped 6-10 , just shy of his personal record!   When Marra asked him how he was able to do this without having practiced over the last six weeks, Brophy said that every night before he went to bed, he visualized a great high jump.  Here are some visualization tips: 

  • Make it a part of your daily routine. The morning is a great time to do it because your mind is clear, making it easier to project an image.
  • Visualize having success! If negative thoughts creep in, identify them as negative and not helpful to your overall goal and then refocus on having success.
  • A little every day is better than one long session per week. You can combine diaphragmatic breathing sessions with visualizing.
  • Try to get all of your senses involved. Do not just focus on what you see.  Determine what you hear, feel, smell, and taste.
  • Vary your perspective. View your performance from not only your own perspective, but also from an outsider's.

Numerous studies have shown that brain activity is the same when a person thinks about an activity when compared to when the person is actually performing the activity.   Visualization can help strengthen and create new pathways in the brain.  A word of caution:  Since visualizing releases chemicals into your body that can make you more alert, be careful if you are doing it as part of your night-time routine.  The chemicals released could make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Time Management and Academics

Academics are a clear priority for the student-athlete.   They can have a negative impact on athletic performance because of the stress they can create.  Be sure to take action to minimize that stress.   Procrastination is often a huge issue.

Do your best to get ahead whenever possible.  This often means prioritizing academics over social events.  A common issue amongst athletes is they try to match the social agenda of a student who is not an athlete.  The problem is there are 24 hours in a day for both.  If two hours is devoted to a sport, the student-athlete is operating on a 22 hour day.  It is hard to keep pace on a condensed time schedule, and attempting to do so can carry over to deficits not only in academics, but in sleep and training.


Above all else, respect yourself as well as everyone and everything you encounter. Lack of respect often leads to drama. Drama leads to issues. Issues can jeopardize your ability to train with your team (school/parent discipline). Besides this, nobody wants to be around someone who is a jerk. People who lack respect not only hold themselves back, but also those around them. 


There are many ways to go about addressing the content mentioned.  Focus on one or two items, try to be better in each area, or anything in-between.  What you will probably find is that being good or bad in one will be connected to being good or bad in others.

**Remember to 

  • Always plan ahead for what you are going to eat 
  • Obtain adequate amounts of protein 
  • Work on Flexibility 
  • Supplement your diet with Vitamin D, fish oil and a multi-vitamin 

Let me know if I can help.  Email me at 

God Bless, 

Alan Tyson
Physical Therapist, Athletic Trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist