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Hard Work vs. Smart Work


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We all know that hard work is important. If you’re an athlete, then you are especially familiar with this idea. You’ve probably been pushed and prodded by every coach you’ve ever had to give it all you’ve got. Nowhere is this message drilled in more than on the football field. If you’ve ever played football, then you know what it’s like to be pushed hard in practice.

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Benefits of Hard Work

We can gain a lot from working hard. We can learn to believe in ourselves. It’s important to see that if you keep after something you can see positive results. There’s a certain confidence that comes from working all week to get ready for a game and showing what you’ve got when everyone is watching. And if you come through and play well, there’s a sense of achievement that is hard to come by through other means.

What are You Getting out of It?

But at some point, we do have to ask ourselves what we are getting out of all this hard work. The assumption on the football field is that all the hard work done in practice is worth it if you have success on Sunday. And more than that, there is the underlying idea that working hard is in itself fundamentally good. But is this mentality really healthy?

Having success on the field can give you a lot of confidence. The physical nature of the sport makes each success or failure that much greater. An offensive linemen uses his whole body to engage the opposing player in order to protect the quarterback. If he fails to do so, it feels especially personal because he was so involved in the play. On the flipside, because you have to put so much into every play, doing your job right can be extremely gratifying. But you still have to ask yourself the question: are you getting what you want out of it?

It’s hard to admit to yourself that you don’t really enjoy playing something everyone tells you is worthwhile. It’s possible that putting in the work and seeing results during games can make you happy. But sometimes it’s not that simple. That is the supposed formula: hard work translates into success which translates into being happy. Hard work can be a great thing for you personally, but it has to produce the results you actually want. It can be difficult to be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for, but the sooner you can do it the better.

Smart Work

Once we get away from the idea that hard work is inherently good no matter what it is, we can begin to explore what we should be focusing on. Our coaches pushed us hard and tried to make us tough. The main tactic for accomplishing this was to put us through hell in practice. In doing this, they weeded out the weaker kids, and the stronger ones got stronger.

But there could be more to coaching strategy than this. The correct drills for the correct amount of time is what every player needs. Endlessly hitting bags to make kids tougher is not all that effective in improving their skills. It may make them angry, and perhaps they can use this anger on the field. Perhaps this is a goal of some coaches as well. But anger only takes you so far. A good team has strategic workouts and practices to bring out the best in each player. If you love your sport, then you should love working hard to get better. But if the hard work feels like a chore then maybe it’s time to look for something new to focus your energy on.

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