Prepare like a Warrior

There are millions (probably more) of inspirational quotes out there. I used to pay attention to them but am honestly pretty jaded on quotes by now. Getting your inspiration from a quote, even if it moves you, will only move you for so long.

For lack of a better term, I’m an athlete.  I am also very cynical, especially (about fad diets and workouts) but it extends into training, any training, and how often someone tries to improve some aspect of themselves.

I am a busy guy and pretty easily self motivated. I also like my down time drinking a beer and watching TV so I get both sides of it but over this last winter, I have found a new notch on my balance beam so to speak as I practiced daily for an upcoming action shooting competition. Besides working a full time job, plus having a family to attend to – including a house and all that comes with maintaining that, I have two project cars I’m working on, a multitude of gun projects, I work out a couple times a week, find time to write, and still have enough down time to think I should be doing something else besides sitting on my butt.

I am also a fan of college basketball and last year tracked the rise of a Canadian kid named Kelly Olynyk. Kelly started as a very good prospect, a shooting guard in his first couple years of high school who then had a ridiculous 7 inch growth spurt in one summer that sent him towering to 6′ 10; and his growing wasn’t done.

Now in competitive Division 1 basketball, if you are close to 7 feet tall, you don’t just float on the perimeter and shoot jump shots like the shorter version of Kelly did. On a full ride scholarship he went to the private, mid major Gonzaga University but didn’t see much playing time when he kept on shying away from an under the basket style of play that a 7 footer needs to have. The real issue was, he was uncomfortable, it was a completely different environment and different game for him. I saw one interview where Olynyk described how during a game in his first year, his coach told him to “go in and just shoot some jump-hooks over people.” Kelly had never tried a jump-hook type of shot in his entire life.

After two underwhelming seasons, Olynyk decided to take a year off (referred to as a red shirt year) where he was still on the team but didn’t play in games. Red shirting is usually something done by an incoming freshmen or a player who suffers an injury, so for a healthy junior to red shirt was quite rare all on its own.

To say that Kelly Olynyk used his “year off” better than just about anyone in college basketball has ever used one is almost an understatement. He transformed his body and his mind into something even he didn’t know was possible. He underwent a regimen of weight and agility training to gain the muscle needed to grind it out under the basket. He and his trainer designed innovative coordination drills to develop his relatively still new big body to react as fast as his mind was telling it to. He tracked in game statistics for analysis to better understand the game of basketball itself and where he fit into it, and the list goes on and on to also include a masters degree in business administration after finishing his bachelors degree in accounting.

After his red shirt year of training, Olynyk came back and stunned the college basketball world. This 21 year old kid went from a replaceable ho-hum tall guy with a good outside shot to the 13th draft pick in the NBA… in one year.

That type of success story simply cannot be duplicated, but it can be emulated.

ESPN did a (video) story on Gonzaga and Kelly at the end of his year back in action and a piece of it has stuck with me. At the end of the video there is a clip of the team coming together after practice. Their coach asks “Who’s got it?” and for a second you’re wondering “got what?” Then Kelly’s voice speaks up and they pray together. Kelly thanks the lord for letting them all come together to play the game that they love – which I liked, then asked for help in continuing to prepare like champions.

Prepare like a champion; that was probably when I went “all in” on this young Canadian star. He was already a good person; A great ambassador, very mature and well spoken… a leader. He was also a basically self-made-through-hard-work basketball phenom, but to understand what it takes to prepare like a champion, like a warrior, AND follow through, that is a rare thing in my experience.

Finally, now at the end of Kelly’s first NBA season (where he did quite well overall) a small blurb article was published here on WordPress talking about his training. In that, we got to hear yet another piece of the puzzle that made me really sit up and think.

“…confidence was the most impressive thing to watch.  It came from going to bed every night, asking himself the question, “Did I do everything in my power to get better?”  If the answer was no, before he went to bed he would push himself to workout to exhaustion.”

That is preparing like a warrior. I am busy and work hard in many aspects of my life but if that is preparing like a warrior, then I have a long way to go.

References: – scroll to the 2 minute mark to hear the team prayer


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