February 28, 2017
I've only been a student-athlete at Purdue for three and a half years, but it has felt like a lifetime. As a team, we've gone through cycles of seniors, a coaching change, bad seasons, culture issues, you name it. After seeing absolutely everything that could possibly go wrong, I like to think I've learned some lessons about how to identify problems and deal with them quickly.
I've found that no matter the situation, no matter the problem, it comes down to one simple thing: fear of failure. No matter what the impediment to success is, whether that be negative people, poor competition performance, or issues with self-esteem, not being willing to take the chance of failing is detrimental. With failure comes learning, and that's the only way to move forward. Here are a few examples:
It's always easy to be a good, positive leader when your team is doing well. But when your team is not performing up to standard, it's much more difficult to motivate yourself (and others) to continue trying. In soccer, some of our best performances come from us taking chances in the attack - taking on defenders, playing a somewhat risky ball that, if it works, will definitely beat your opponent. Taking risky chances comes with confidence, and when your team hasn't been showing up or has just continually lost, it's hard to muster the courage to do it. It's so much more comfortable to play safe, be accepting of loss, because it ends up hurting a lot less when it happens. But that doesn't make an exceptional team. An exceptional team, a championship team, takes those chances even when it's hard. Even when it might not work. Because what do you have to lose? Probably nothing, but you also have the potential to win a tough game and change the momentum of your season. It comes down to having the courage to take the chance - you might lose sometimes, but you also have a much better chance of winning too.
If there are negative contributors to your team culture, being afraid or reluctant to have the hard conversation with them will never resolve the problem. Is there a guarantee that what you say gets through? No. Is there a guarantee that you can maintain a friendship outside of your sport afterward? Absolutely not. But having that conversation at least makes them aware of your concerns, and shows that you are willing to do what's necessary to move your team forward. It's tough to sit down and confront a friend about their decisions, but it takes courage to put the team first. Leaders understand that the greater good of the collective group is much more important than maintaining one single friendship, and will go out of their way to do the tough things so the team can thrive.
Self-esteem can be seen the same way. Sometimes, you feel like you're not contributing very much to your team. It happens to most of us at some point or another. But there are two options: you can give in to it, and feel sorry for yourself and continue not to perform, waiting around for next season to come around, or you can take hold of the situation. Fake it `til you make it right? It takes a little courage to continue going out to practices and competition with the mindset of controlling what you can control. You may not be the absolute best on your team. Your mistakes may have consequences. But you can control how hard you work. Are you hanging your head after something goes wrong? Or are you immediately working to fix it and move forward? You can't always change how much time you get, or how skilled you are, but you can control effort in any situation. Effort doesn't require self-esteem, it only requires will.
In any of these situations, courage is the main word. It takes courage to do the hard things. But getting through those tough situations is what takes a team from good to great. Make the effort, even when you don't want to. Even if you're team is not supporting you, continue doing it. It will spread, and soon enough, you'll have an entire team of motivated, confident people that can get the job done.
All it takes is facing failure, and knowing you are strong enough to conquer it.
- Erika Yohn, Soccer
February 14, 2017
Sometimes a quote or an inspiring life story or article is not needed to inspire, motivate or grab the attention of an athlete. Simply considering the daily tasks and responsibilities of our job as a student-athlete can be sufficient to inspire positive change and encourage personal reflection on our athletic and academic careers. From a personal standpoint, the women's volleyball team just started week six of offseason workouts, meaning only two weeks remain before full 20-hour weeks start with team practice. It seems that offseason flies by in comparison to competition season in the fall. It is often said that teams and championship runs are created in the offseason. Being in my fourth and final offseason of my athletic career, I can fully attest to this statement. What fans and other teams don't witness during the offseason is what we do on a daily basis in the weight room and gym. The time and effort one gives to the offseason is as important, and possibly even more, than the time and effort sacrificed during competition season. The grinding lifts and intense conditioning may hurt today, but pain now is most definitely worth the future feelings of success.
In terms of time and effort, whether it be in the offseason or inseason, we must ask ourselves as athletes and reflect on the idea of whether we are giving everything that we possibly can today. How we feel and operate today may be different than how we feel and operate tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. However, what we have been trained to do as athletes is to configure a way to give all of ourselves to the team and to the challenges that lie ahead no matter the circumstances. Getting out of our comfort zone and pushing ourselves and our teammates to another level physically, mentally and emotionally should be a goal that we all strive for on a daily basis. For the first time in our career here at Purdue, the volleyball team was faced with the challenge of running every stair in Mackey Arena last week. As this initially seemed like a daunting task, we immediately knew we would be out of our comfort zone. However, it is moments like this that build character and create opportunities for personal and team growth. Our comfort zone is a safe zone. We need to reflect on our daily actions and ask ourselves the question, "Are we giving everything that we can and are we constantly challenging ourselves?" Asking ourselves this question will keep us accountable and continually push us to new heights, especially in offseason training. Competing is the time to show-off the impeccable commitment and effort we have put in when no one was watching. Be sure to stop and ask yourself if you are doing everything in your power to make your teammates and yourself better than you were yesterday. If we do that, then success will be within our reach.
- Ashley Evans, Volleyball
November 15, 2016
Embracing the journey.
It is incredibly common among people, especially athletes, to focus on end results, goals, destinations and future accomplishments rather than journey that guides them there.
We are all culprits of having such a narrow mindset and viewpoint that disregards the daily grind and small victories that build up to something remarkable. The question of why we do what we do gets lost in endless thoughts of what should be accomplished, how talented we should be as a team, or how others view our abilities.
Unfortunately, many quickly learn the simple fact after the termination of their career that the championships and final rankings are what matter the least. What matters the most and what reveals true character and dedication are the journey and daily routine that we find ourselves in and it this journey that ultimately helps us reach our goals.
Take a few minutes and read this letter from Ray Allen, a recently retired NBA star, which he writes to his 13-year-old-self. He makes it very clear that the victories are not what defines us, but rather it is the work and effort we put into our career. He brilliantly writes, "The championships are almost secondary to the feeling you'll get from waking up every morning and putting in the work. The championships ... are just the culmination. Your winding path to those moments ... is where you will find happiness ... Life is about the journey, not the destination. And that journey will change you as a person."
Ray's childhood was full of ups and downs, countless new beginnings and enormous doubt from spectators that he would never make it in the big leagues. Despite the unending negativity and skepticism of his abilities and future career, he soon realized that nothing worth having is every easy to obtain and ignoring the doubters and focusing on the daily grind is what brought him success. Embrace the highs, the lows and everything in between. It is not about winning, a label or an award, but rather "it's about getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching ... embark on the lonely pursuit of greatness."
Embrace the journey and never stop working.
- Ashley Evans, Volleyball
November 2, 2016
This video offers innovative insight about leadership. The speaker, Simon Sinek, draws what he calls the "Golden Circle." This circle is structured by three words: why, how and what. He goes on to talk about how this circle is what separates the good leaders from the bad. He argues this for the rest of the video, paying close attention to the "why." He argues that the most successful leaders and organizations around the world pay very close attention to the "why." He begins to use "why" and "purpose" interchangeably - explaining that people are more likely to follow those who communicate their purpose, rather than trying to sell leadership as a product. For example, he brings up Apple. We all know what they sell, and we know that they make excellent products, but why do we buy from Apple? Why do we buy cell phones from a computer company? Because we believe that Apple has purpose. We believe that they have purpose, that their products were made for us, not just for a profit. Think about it ... the company Samsung also sells tablets. But would you buy a tablet from them before you purchased an iPad?
This can be applied to us as student-athletes. This video shows how powerful purpose can be. Purpose can give you the power to be a better you and even lead your team. Sometimes we lose sight of our purpose - we have all been there at one point. There are times when you are complacent and comfortable. Times when you forget what you came to Purdue to do. Do not lose sight of this. If you are already a leader on your team, try to use the "Golden Circle" to better your leadership. If you are a budding leader, this is the formula to use. Understand that your purpose is not something to take for granted, or you will forget it. Purpose is a skill, not a given. Watch this video, and listen and apply what this man is saying. You deserve it and so does your team.
- Kaylah Hampton, Softball
October 17, 2016
We all know how to spot good leadership. Those people really just seem to know how to get everyone to work toward the same goal. They know just how to push people along, without causing conflict.
And we all know how to spot people that are just the opposite. They are pushovers, want attention, cause drama and are usually not team-oriented. They taint the team culture.
If you find yourself to be the latter more times than not, how do you change your attitude to become a better leader?
1. Leaders give constructive criticism, instead of just telling everyone to "be better."
We've all heard it before. That one annoying teammate that just screams "play better!" when they're frustrated with everyone else. It isn't productive, and it doesn't actually make anyone do anything better. Leaders instead use those frustrations as a way to solve the problem - they look at the weaknesses of their team and encourage them to make small changes at their next opportunity so they can be successful.
2. Leaders are accountable for their faults, and respond to them in a positive way.
None of us is perfect. Everyone on your team will make mistakes every single day. If a leader is having a bad day, they acknowledge that they can do more to benefit the team, and are able to control their internal frustrations enough to stay positive for everyone else. They encourage others, even when their teammates are doing better than they are.
3. Leaders put the team first, always.
No matter what, the team comes first in the eyes of a leader. Even when tough decisions need to be made, they look at the good of the team over the good of themselves or another individual. All of their actions line up with the goals of the team, no matter what they personally think of coaches or team rules.
4. Leaders know how to follow.
Sometimes, it's OK to let someone else take over. Leaders value the opinions of their teammates and coaches, and know when to relinquish power to someone that can help the team as a whole.
5. And finally, leaders get it done.
The reality of athletics is that people are more willing to follow a leader that is successful in competition. Leaders that do all the right things to improve their abilities set an example for teammates, and show everyone that doing things the right way pays off. They are dependable on the field or court, and build the confidence of everyone around them.
Next time you get frustrated, think about what you're saying before it comes out of your mouth. Be the leader that pushes your team forward, so you all can be successful.
- Erika Yohn, Soccer
September 12, 2016
"There is no 'I' in team."
We have all heard this saying before. The last time you probably heard it was when you were in the beginning stages of your sport. It is a common lesson that we learn as young athletes. But, did you really hear it? Do you really know that there is no "I" in team? Because there is a trend, a trend of athletes who are selfish rather than selfless. Do not be the athlete who more concerned with how well they do, if they play and other factors of this nature. Be the athlete who always asks, "What can I do to help my team win?" Be the athlete who leads without being led, who is the first to the field and the last to leave. Be the athlete who when you are long gone, the people who played with you will say, "Yeah, he/she was a champion." It may sound cliché, but it holds to be very true.
That being said, it is important that we take a step back and look at the bigger picture. If we want to be champions, we must observe champions and emulate them. We cannot be concerned with the "I" instead of the team. We must play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. The link above is a speech given by the coach of the USA hockey team from the movie "Miracle." The boys just finished playing a game where they all played selfishly, they did not play for the greater good of the team. What is amazing about this speech is that at the beginning, each boy called on identifies himself, he mentions his school. But, at the end, one of them yells that he plays for the United States of America.
- Kaylah Hampton, Softball
August 29, 2016
National champion as a student-athlete ... 10-time national champion as a coach ... Six-time NCAA College Basketball Coach of the Year ... member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a coach, the first person to ever receive both accolades.
We are incredibly fortunate to be able to call this individual one of our own as an Indiana native and a home-grown Boilermaker: John Wooden, most famously known as "Coach." Ask any coach, of any sport, at any level within the college realm about coaches that have impacted the world of sport, and John Wooden's name is undoubtedly bound to be mentioned. Of everything that Coach Wooden accomplished during his lifetime, most remember him for his ability to teach and encourage either directly from the sideline as the head coach of the UCLA men's basketball program for 40 years or through written words via quotes regarding success, winning and becoming the best form of ourselves. Despite his unending accolades and astonishing resume, Coach stresses in this TED talk from 2001 that it is not the rewards or the number of victories that define success, but rather it is the personal growth as individuals that should be measured as success and "winning."
The key part from this talk is when Coach constructs his own personal definition of "success" after coming to realize that striving to be better than those around you or measuring success on the number of points scored in a game are the flawed motivators and unreliable check marks by which athletes and students typically use to determine how "successful" they are at a task. Contrary to this universally accepted interpretation of success, he defined success as a "peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you're capable." As student-athletes at such a rigorous, challenging and world-renowned university, both athletically and academically, we are inevitably notorious for comparing ourselves on a daily basis with the student sitting next to us in class or with a teammate lifting weights on the platform one spot over. It is human nature to relentlessly compare and measure until we seem to be on top or be one step ahead. For many, success and winning are one in the same, but the real winners see success as overcoming personal obstacles and becoming just a tad better than they were yesterday, rather than being faster or stronger than their teammate or competitor.
As we enter the 2016-17 school year, every athlete should strive to view success as bettering his or her personal best every day instead of focusing on the number of goals scored or how a competitor is doing. This new perspective will foster a healthier, stronger and clearer mindset and approach to our daily job as a student and as an athlete. If we are better than we were yesterday as individuals, our success and quantitative "winning" as a team, department and university will take care of itself.
-Ashley Evans, Volleyball
August 15, 2016
To be an athlete is to devote your life to the continual process of improvement. No matter the sport, the phrase "practice makes perfect" holds true. But what we must realize is that there's another part to that saying - *perfect* practice makes perfect.
There is an integral difference between conscious, deliberate effort and going through the motions. We all have days when we want to just get through the workout, to just survive practice and make it to the end. But that's where the danger lies - unfocused practice can lead to anything from bad habits to injury to just plain laziness. It should be our goal as leaders to impart the importance of "deliberate practice" to our teammates. To show and share how putting in that effort even when you don't want to is what can take you the extra mile.
The definition of discipline is doing what you have to do, even if you don't want to do so. Yes, practice isn't always the most fun and exciting thing, but to be committed to improvement and being a better athlete is to accept the difficulty in discipline. We're all here for a good time, of course, but who doesn't want to win a championship? Focused practice builds a foundation brick-by-brick, and it shows when it's most important - in the moment when it matters. At the second before the buzzer, that throw or kick or catch, or at match point or on the 18th green, it counts and in the end, it can be the difference.
For anyone who likes podcasts and wants to hear more on this subject, a series called "Hidden Brain" by NPR had an episode about "grit" with a segment on how much effort matters in practice and how it can affect progress and long-term goals. It's definitely worth a listen, and you can do so here.
- August Kim, Golf
August 1, 2016
Being a student-athlete can be hard. There are a lot of expectations to live up to, and we train year round to make sure we do our best. A lot of people would say that we sacrifice everyday to be successful. I think the word sacrifice has a negative connotation. It implies that we have given up all these great things to be student-athletes. Sure, we miss a lot of parties, and we have to wake up early for practices sometimes, but I don't think I have really sacrificed anything. We have all been given an opportunity. We get to represent our school. We get to play the sports we love. We get to perform on a stage that so many people would dream to be on. Being a student-athlete shouldn't be about what you give up or "sacrifice," but rather it should be about the investment we all have made to do what we love.
With a new year coming, many of us have been training all summer to stay in shape and make sure that our 2016-17 seasons are as good as possible. We have invested time and effort to get where we need to be to be ready. On top of being physically strong and ready, we also need to make sure we are mentally prepared. We need to think of the words we use to describe the process we have to be our best. Ask yourself if you are making a sacrifice to be a student-athlete or if you are making an investment on something you love that you know is worth it.
- Claire Albertz, Soccer
July 11, 2016
Being part of the BAC, we constantly are talking about how we can become better leaders for our teams. We go over various handouts that explicitly detail how a leader should approach tough situations and how they should hold themselves to higher expectations. This TED talk allows us to look at leadership in a different way. Dr. Laura Sicola of Vocal Impact Productions explains that leadership has a whole lot to do with the way we say things. She brings up some interesting points in this video, such as a historical and seminal study that observed feelings and attitudes resulting from the consistency or inconsistency in verbal and nonverbal messaging cues. This study found that when they asked people to evaluate speakers as far as whether or not they thought the speaker sounded sincere, 38 percent of that evaluation was based on the tonality of the speaker's voice. Only 7 percent of those decisions were based on the words the speaker used. Dr. Sicola then goes on to break this down further, going so far as offering strategies on how to say your name in a different and more powerful tone. This is a very interesting video as it offers a great look at leadership and one facet of it that we may not think of regularly.
- Kaylah Hampton, Softball