A LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN ALHLETE

Dear  ………

I am a big believer in the benefit of athletics. However, after visiting with you, I am shocked to learn about your attitude towards school.

You say you’re banking on a pro career and don’t feel the need for education. I say your chances of making the pros are about good as my dad’s chances of growing his hair back. “A youngster gambling his future on a pro contact is like a worker buying a single Irish Sweepstakes ticket and then quitting his job in anticipation of his winnings”. Senator Bill Bradley, a former NBA star, said that. Studies have shown that only one out of every one hundred high school athletes will play Division I college spots, and the chances of a will play Division I college spots, and that chances of high school player making the pros are one in ten s thousand.

Of the hundreds of college athletes I played with in college who hoped to make the pros, I can think of only a handful who made it. On the other hand, I can think of many who wasted their minds in the name of sports, and who were then thrown into the workforce without a chance or a clue.
I’ll never forget the time one of my teammate delivered a psyche-up speech to our team the night before we played a rival university. Having neglected his education and having never learned to express himself, all he could do was uncork a barrage of vulgarities that could have cut down a forest. In a matter of three minutes it seemed he managed to use the f-word as a noun, a verb, an adjective, a pronoun, a conjunction, and a dangling participle. I left that meeting thinking, “Man, get a brain!”

Open your eyes! Your education is the key to unlocking your future.
You say you don’t like school. I say, what does that have to do with it? Does anything good in life come easy? Do you like working out every day? Does a medical student enjoy studying for four years? Since when does liking something determine whether or not you should do it? Sometimes you just have to discipline yourself to do things you don’t feel like doing because of what you hope to gain from it.

You say that you try to sit down and study but can’t because your mind begins to wander. I say that unless you learn to control your mind you won’t amount to squat. The discipline of the mind is much higher form of discipline than that of the body. It is one thing to train your body to perform at peak levels; it is quite another to control your thoughts, to concentrate for sustained periods, to synthesize, and to think creatively and analytically.

At times saying “I try” is a lame excuse. Imagine how absurd it would sound if I asked you, “Are you going to eat today or are you going to try to eat?” Just discipline yourself to do the thing.

You say you can get by without studying, that by cramming and finding ways to beat the system you can pull out passing grades. I say you reap what you sow. Can the farmer cram? Can he forget to plant his crops in the spring, loaf all summer long, and then work real hard in full to bring in harvest? Can you improve your bench press by lifting weights once in a while? Your brain is no different than your bicep. To improve the strength, speed, and endurance of your mind, you, must work it out. There are no shortcuts. Don’t expect to show up one day in the Land of Oz and have the Wizard hand you a brain.
Imagine five sets of hands. One set belongs to a concert pianist who can enthral audiences with beautiful renditions of the classics. Another to an eye surgeon who can restore lost vision through the microscopic surgery. Another to a professional golfer who consistently makes the clutch shot under pressure. Another to a blind man who can read tiny raised markings on a page at incredible speeds. Another to an artist who can carve beautiful sculptures that inspire the soul. On the surface, the hands may all look the same, but behind each set are years and years of sacrifice, discipline, and perseverance. These people paid a price! Do you think they crammed? Did they beat the system?

One of my biggest regrets in life is that instead of reading 100 novels during high school, I read cliff Notes summaries. In contrast, I have a friend who during his teen years must have read hundreds of books. His brain can bench-press over four hundred pounds. Why, I would cut off one….. no, two toes for such a brain.

If you don’t pay the price you will earn a degree but fail to get an education. And there is a big difference between the two. Some of our best thinkers were degreeless, self-educated men and women. How did they do it? They read. It’s only the single greatness habit you could ever develop. Yet few do it regularly. And many stop reading and learning when they finish school. That spells brain atrophy. Education must be a lifelong pursuit. The person who doesn’t read is no better off than the person who can’t.

You say you live for today and don’t think about the future. I say the major difference between you and your dog is that you think about tomorrow and he can’t. Don’t make long-term career decision based on short-term emotions, like the student who chooses his or her major based on the shortest registration line. Develop a future orientation; make decisions with the end in mind. To have a good job tomorrow, you must do your homework tonight.

Proverb sums up the whole matter: “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; she is thy life.”
You seem to be saying don’t need a brain. I say get one.
I hope I haven’t offended you. I mean well. It’s just that ten years now, I don’t want you to find yourself singing, as did friend the scarecrow:
I would not be just a nothing’,
My head all full of stuffin’,
…..If I only had a brain.

Think about it,
SEAN

From the book, THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE TEENS

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