The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses. It is won behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
The greatest contrast between summer and fall in our lives is structure. Other than the baseball schedule, this past summer our lives were structure free. Our days were filled with late breakfasts, backyard whiffle ball, and reading novels, and then- once baseball ended- back to back trips that brought us home late the night before school started.
With the school year comes structure, and routine.
The routine can be a drag. Homework, sports, instrument practice… It’s all practice. Playing the same pieces on the piano for one boy, working through the scales every day on the cello for the other, running through the same drills at soccer and baseball, hours of homework… It reminds me of the back of their favorite T-shirt:
In October, I see a shift in attitude. They accept the routine, and it becomes less work. They fight less against having to practice, and focus better on each part of what they have to do. Some of it comes easily. Much of it is hard work. Often it takes longer than they anticipate, and they get aggravated trying balance their responsibilities with their desired free.
Last fall, at the same point in the transition struggle, we saw this Tom Brady ad for Under Armor:
The commercial emphasizes the mundane drills Brady does every single day, with the tagline, “You are the sum of all your training.” When the boys complained about the practice ahead of them one afternoon, we showed them the video. To excel at anything takes practice, and practice is hard work. It can be boring. It can be frustrating, especially when you want to watch TV or your friends are calling you to play Minecraft.
A subtle message in the Under Armor video is the 199 on Tom Brady’s jersey. In 2000, he was the 199th overall draft pick in the NFL… 198 guys were chosen before Tom Brady. The sum of Brady’s training has put him at the top, well ahead of those other 198 draft picks.
Hard work and practice pay off. The more you practice, the more skilled you become, the more likely you are to have ideas of how to do something differently, or how to make what you’re doing even better. The more familiar you are with a subject, the easier it becomes to be more creative and to innovate within it.
So yes, homework is a drag. Sitting at the table for over an hour as they try to get a few sentences written, or a few math problems finished, or listening to the same music pieces over and over can be exhausting at the end of the day.
But this is how they develop a work ethic, how they take responsibility for their efforts and learn that how they choose to spend their time every single day matters. If they learn to be persistent, to put in an effort- even if it isn’t always their best effort- they will see the results, and will know how to tackle challenges in the future. One day, they might be 199. If they learn how to work hard now, they will know that they have the ability to apply that work ethic, that it is fully within their power to beat those odds and become number one- not through luck or fortune or circumstances, but through their efforts and determination. And that is how they will turn their dreams into reality.