Category: Mental Preparation

Selective Excellence

Here is another guest blog from Nick Magnifico. Nick is currently serving as the head baseball and softball coach at Lexington High School. 

Having spent the last three years coaching high school athletics, I have had the opportunity to work with some extremely gifted students, not only on the field/court/mat, but also in the classroom.  I had found that the students that succeed in the classroom are often the students who succeed in their athletic endeavors as well.  Is this because God reached down when they were born and decided they were going to be the most talented and the smartest?  I doubt it.  I believe that these kids are more successful because they do not believe in the idea of selective excellence.

Selective excellence is this idea that you can turn on the ability to be great whenever you want.  That you can slack off when you feel like it and still expect to be excellent when the time comes.  I believe that this could not be further from the truth.  I believe in order to meet your true potential in any one thing, you have to TRY and be excellent in everything that you do.  One of my favorite quotes of all time is as follows, “You are what you repeatedly do, excellence therefore, is not an act but a habit”. –Aristotle

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I believe that this is not only discussing one singular activity, but everything that you do.  I believe that if you are an extremely hard worker in the wrestling room, or on the basketball court, but you slack off in practice or skip classes, you are not allowing yourself to meet your maximum potential.  Those same irresponsible, less-than-excellent traits will eventually maneuver their way into other activities in your life.

Growing up in Lexington and now coaching here, you can look back at past baseball teams we have had and their is a direct correlation between team GPA and Wins and Losses.  Once again, why is this?  In my opinion, just like the quote says, it is because humans are creatures of habit.  If we make a habit out of getting straight A’s and being successful in the classroom, then we will make a habit out of finding success on the athletic field.  However, the only way you can make things a habit is by constant repetition.  Not repetition just during the activity you are striving to be great at, but by repetition in everything that you do.

I remember listening to my grandfather tell me a story about when he and my great grandfather were building a deck.  They had completed the deck (it was very large) when they realized that the third board they laid was a quarter of an inch off.  Instead of looking for the easy way out and trying to patch it or find a quick fix, they peeled the entire deck up to reset the board, and refinish the deck.  This is because he wanted to make sure that the deck was perfect.  He told me that in order to be proud of anything he does, he has to make sure can do it to the best of his abilities.  My grandfather told me that this was the single most important thing he ever learned from his father.  My grandfather graduated valedictorian from his high school, played division one football and has become a very successful businessman.  He directly attributes his success to the fact that he was taught at a young age to do everything that he does to the best of his abilities.

I believe that at the foundation of any great success, if the fact that you have trained yourself to pour maximal effort into everything that you do, so when it is time to be excellent, you have made it a habit.

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The Will to Choose:Volition Spectrum

Everybody has a choice in how they approach doing life. The power to choose your approach and mindset can be defined as volition. Volition can be defined as the will to choose. Volition is not just an act, but it is also a mindset. Everyone has the will to choose what they want to do; whether it is their career choice, beliefs, and in the performance world their choices in becoming physically better.  While I was an undergraduate student, the Volition Spectrum was brought to light by Dr. Dan Gerdes (sport psychologist). The Volition Spectrum is taking a course of action in how you approach choosing to do something. It is not defining an action, but defining how you go about taking action. Before moving forward, see the Volition Spectrum illustration below.

When you consider people whom are very successful, which part of the spectrum do they live? The answer is pretty simple. I don’t think Bill Gates had an “I’ll Try” approach to innovation or even Lance Armstrong stringing together his run of Tour de’ France victories said, “I’ll try”.

I am lucky enough to work in a facility with professional baseball players. It’s safe to say that the common goal of these guys is to make it to the big leagues. In order to do that, every part of their life has to be in place, you just don’t fall into a big league roster because you tried. Choosing to believe in your training and having an “I will” mentality that applies to all the pieces will only lead to an extremely high level of confidence and preparation. Again, volition is not just an action, but a way that you attack those actions.

As a former high school coach, I found that athletes had a hard time getting out of their comfort zones in choosing how they approach doing life. Without a statistical reference, it is safe to say that a majority of Americans live in the “I’ll try” or “I can” portion of the spectrum; a tough cycle to break. The toughest part of coaching is getting athletes to buy into attacking their actions with an “I will” mentality. My elementary school used to use the saying,” The I can, and I will school.” Why wouldn’t it be the “I will school”. Using an “I can” approach leaves doubt about finishing your action.

Obviously, there are books that have been written about sport psychology, but people tend to over think the way they approach doing things. If you haven’t seen Will Smith’s motivational video, he simplifies volition into a simple statement. “There is no plan B, as plan B distracts you from plan A.” Will Smith has an “I will” mentality and can be seen from his successes. Life is short and there is no room for marginal effort. If you want to attack a dream or a goal, consider the volition spectrum.