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  • Colin Jonov

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Athletics at 17 That I Now Know at 27

  1. Stop with the comparison.

Comparison is natural, and it’s bound to happen. However, we don’t need to compare every single aspect of our lives with those around us. When you’re young and aspire to play high-level collegiate athletics, your insecurities often shine through more than they should. Anytime another athlete picks up an accolade, gains recognition, or receives a scholarship offer, the immediate response is jealousy. Instead of focusing on improving ourselves daily, we get caught in this rabbit hole of justifying why we are better and the system is rigged against us. Three things are true: 1. Every system is flawed. 2. Other players actually earn things too. 3. You need to get better. Channel your perception from external to internal. The earlier you can do that, the sooner you’ll see not only your performance take off but your well-being as well.

2. Have some f*cking fun but work your tail off.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the nonsense of worrying about recruiting and external recognition. When we are young, we are like dogs looking for constant reassurance for our abilities and performances. Even more so, we let the element of recruiting steal our joy of the game. We stare at our phones anxiously waiting for a text, email, or DM back from a coach we reached out to. Forget all of it. Sports have such a short timeline in our lives. Have some freaking fun, man. We started playing sports because they were fun. Always keep that the main focus and have a blast at every practice and game. Also, if you are serious about playing at the collegiate level, work your butt off. Sports are more fun when you work hard anyways. Commit to doing the things that’ll make you a better athlete and do them over and over again. If we have fun and work hard, then everything else will take care of itself.

3. If you’re serious about it, get used to being lonely.

This is a big one. We have a natural propensity to want to fit in and go along with the crowd. We have such a strong desire to be liked that we will go against our beliefs to have a friend group. The truth is, if you are serious about playing, it’s going to be lonely sometimes. The scale of this is different for everyone, but for most athletes clawing for every opportunity to play at an elite level, you are going to feel lonely. You’ll skip going to underage drinking parties because that’s not something you do. People will call you crazy because they can’t understand your goals, as their own insecurities prevent them from seeing your vision. However, there’s so much power in independence. True confidence will come from your time alone. Truthfully, this is where most of your growth will occur.

4. You don’t need 30 different technique coaches. Train your mind and body.

I witnessed this growing up. I watched my brother live it. Now, I see it more than ever. Everyone has like five or more sport-specific trainers. I mean, holy cow. Listen, I get it, certain sports need sport-specific training, but at the end of the day, do we really need a pitching coach, hitting coach, velocity coach, 40-yard dash coach, long-distance drive coach, chipping coach, and whoever else we want to hire as some type of super niche specialist in sport? No, we don’t. It really comes down to two things: training your mind and training your body. Pretty much everything you need you can get from a personal trainer and a mindset coach. Now, don’t misunderstand me, there’s a benefit to having sport-specific training, especially in highly skilled sports. However, that being said, what you do in the weight room and with your mindset will get you much further than anything else.

5. Be more mature than everyone else but never lose the little kid in you.

Be mature young men and women. Be polite and kind. Have good manners. Stick up for the little guys and girls who can’t do so for themselves. Treat adults and authority with respect. Don’t make dumb decisions that could get you into serious trouble. Be the person everyone else’s parents want their kids to marry. At the same time, always keep that little kid energy alive and well. Smile and laugh at silly things. Enjoy hanging out with friends. Do the little things that bring you a ton of joy. P.S. The Lion King is still my favorite movie, and it always will be.

6. Be a leader. The world doesn’t need anymore followers.

This is a hard one as a kid because we are still learning so much about what leadership is. Heck, most adults still have no clue. In a nutshell, leadership is about being the hardest worker in the room, not the loudest talker. Lead with action and sometimes use words to inspire teammates. Be the first one to practice and the last one to leave (it’s cliché, I know, but it’s true). When the coach is talking, shut up and look them in the eyes. Show genuine care for your teammates. Put your arm around them and encourage them in both good and bad times. Find out about your teammates’ and coaches’ interests outside of sport. Do these things and you’ll naturally earn the respect of others, but most importantly, of yourself. Oh, and a major point here: I don’t care what your role is on a team, these steps are applicable whether you’ll never get in a game or if you are the star player.

7. Challenge yourself. Don’t settle for easy wins.

I’d rather lose to a superior opponent and learn something than win against an inferior opponent and learn nothing. Nothing beneficial comes from intentionally beating up on competition lesser than you. Confidence doesn’t come from “wins”; that’s a misnomer. Confidence comes from overcoming challenges over and over again. Got beaten? Get back up, learn the why behind the loss, work your butt off to correct it, saddle back up, and get after it again. Don’t seek out easy challenges; you’ll find yourself stuck with a litany of confidence and belief issues when you finally start facing tougher competition. To be the best, you have to beat the best.

8. Do things that make you uncomfortable.

Most adults need this step too. Coaches often say, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” and it’s one of the most powerful things young people can do. Similar to challenging oneself, kids need to start pushing back against fears and concerns as early in their lives as they can. Start fighting insecurities, instantly. Hate public speaking? Go and speak in public. Dislike putting in extra training? Go and put in extra training. Hate taking the last shot? Take the last shot. The point is, in the world of athletics, when we feel a “resistance” to something that we know we need to do, we have to lean into that discomfort and do it anyway. When we do that, we are constantly building our resilience and tenacity muscles. Yes, these are mental muscles, and they exist. Most importantly, they need to be trained too.

9. It’s not the coaches fault you’re not playing. It’s your own.

Man, I wish I would’ve put this one higher. In general, our society lacks accountability. It’s always someone else’s fault we aren’t where we want to be. There’s always some excuse. Be accountable. Take extreme ownership. When you blame others, you give them power over you. When you blame yourself you own the power to change your circumstance. Become so good your coach has no choice but to play you. Become so good that every school wants to offer you a scholarship. Own every step of your journey. Believe it or not, you control it.

10. Your injuries, scars, and failures will set you up for something greater.

Lastly, every injury, loss, or battle we go through sets us up for something greater. In those moments, it feels catastrophic, as if the world is ending. However, having been injured and lost enough times, I can tell you that adversity is there to make us better. The caveat is you have to make the conscious choice to keep pushing through. Life and sports are cyclical. There will always be bad times. The best part, though? The best times are always right around the corner. Learning how to navigate the peaks and valleys gracefully is the biggest challenge for anyone at any age. However, have the perspective to know that bad times are temporary. You are strong enough to persevere through them, I promise you.

To Building Fortitude forever and always.

Best Regards,

Colin Jonov, Founder & CEO Athletic Fortitude

P.S. Want to share your experiences or challenges with us? Reply to this newsletter or connect with me on social media @ColkyJonov10. I’m here to support you on your journey!

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